13:58 PM

First Exhibition in New Modern and Contemporary Galleries Champions Artists Connected to Philadelphia

May 7–August 22, 2021

For artists who live, work, or spend time in our city, Philadelphia is a vibrant place where they can build creative networks that extend across the country and, in some instances, around the world. New Grit: Art & Philly Now will take the pulse of the city’s contemporary art scene through a close look at 25 artists whose work represents a wide range of perspectives. Inaugurating a new set of galleries that have been created during the soon-to-be completed renovation of the museum’s landmark Main Building through the Core Project phase of the Facilities Master Plan, New Grit embodies the museum’s commitment to the artists and artistic culture of this remarkable city. At a time marked by transformation and change within the city and by profound cultural shifts across the globe, it will examine in new and striking ways how artists tackle the complexities of being and belonging, connectedness and community in our 21st-century world. Invoking a term with close ties to Philadelphia—where grit has come to signify the deeply rooted resilience and bold sprit of this ever-changing city—the exhibition articulates a new chapter in the story of the city being told by artists of today.

This exhibition in the new Daniel W. Dietrich II Galleries will present the expansive vision of artists who are engaged in diverse practices and use many different media such as ceramics, glass, installation, painting, photography, sculpture, fiber, and video. Comprising eight new galleries and the adjacent corridor space, New Grit will also include five new commissions. As the exhibition was planned over a multi-year period and finalized during the trials and transformations of 2020, it will reflect on the recent past through works that amplify some of the most urgent issues of our time. These include Black Lives Matter, immigration, incarceration, and re-entry. With additional works that explore memory, depict street scenes, and enact social and cultural exchange, the exhibition will explore a range of compelling narratives that speak to our sociopolitical context.

This will be the first exhibition in the new range of galleries comprising 10,000-square-feet that will be used primarily for the presentation of modern and contemporary art. They are scheduled to be unveiled in May 2021. New Grit will also offer a compelling dialogue with a new installation in another suite of new galleries that will be dedicated to the display of 18th- and 19th-century American art from the museum’s collection. Given the prominent role that this city played in the development of American art during this period, a key focus will be on art produced in Philadelphia at that time. An important component of Frank Gehry’s design for the museum’s Core Project, these galleries will represent the most significant expansion of exhibition space in the museum’s Main Building since 1928.

The works presented in New Grit will offer interdisciplinary and intergenerational perspectives on the spatial, social, and political dimensions of place. Evoking ideas of infinity, of history and time, a section called Cosmos will feature works by Howardena Pindell (b. 1943, Philadelphia), Jane Irish (b. 1955, Pittsfield, Massachusetts), and Mi-Kyoung Lee (b. 1970, Geoje City, South Korea). Another section, Crossing Boundaries, will focus on selfhood, incarceration and imagining freedom, and ruminations on the status of confederate monuments, featuring works by Jesse Krimes (b. 1982, Lancaster, Pennsylvania), Roberto Lugo (b. 1981, Philadelphia), and Wilmer Wilson IV (b. 1989, Richmond, Virginia). In Encounter & Exchange, Mohamed Bourouissa (b. 1978, Blida, Algeria), Kukuli Velarde (b. 1962, Lima, Peru), and Daniel Traub (b. 1971, Philadelphia) will examine both the immediate context and international dimensions of cultural encounters through images of the street: its passersby, processions, and urban cowboys. Another grouping will include a new commission by David Hartt (b. 1967, Montreal, Canada) and a collaborative installation of works by Eileen Neff (b. 1945, Philadelphia) and Micah Danges (b. 1979, Morgantown, West Virginia). This section, (Un)Natural Histories, will blur the real and the artificial with works that examine historical narratives and bring both abstraction and traditional landscape imagery to bear on depictions of the natural world. In The Epic & the Everyday, Tiona Nekkia McClodden (b. 1981, Blytheville, Arkansas), Jonathan Lyndon Chase (b. 1989, Philadelphia), and Ken Lum (b. 1956, Vancouver, Canada), offer works that chronicle the emotional and experiential depths of biography and daily life, both real and fictionalized.

Animation, the virtual, and the surreal will collide in Imagined Worlds, gathering paintings, works in stained glass, and digital renderings by, respectively, Hiro Sakaguchi (b. 1965, Nagano, Japan), Judith Schaechter (b. 1961, Gainesville, Florida), and Tim Portlock (b. 1969, Chicago). The narratives in the section of the exhibition titled Memory & Belonging will explore how personal histories contend with social, familial, and political conditions of acceptance and connection. A five-channel video installation by Sharon Hayes (b. 1970, Baltimore), paintings by Becky Suss (b. 1980, Philadelphia), and a commissioned lightbox and video installation by Michelle Angela Ortiz (b. 1978, Philadelphia) will be featured in this gallery.

A gallery called Inside Out will pair works by two artists investigating analogous messages related to overindulgence, consumption, and memory, yet situate the spectator at opposite spatial perspectives. A commission by Doug Bucci (b. 1971, Philadelphia)—his largest realized work to date—will place us within a sterile interior that simultaneously reflects on the artist’s childhood hospital stay, his lifelong struggle with diabetes, and 18th-century dining rituals. Conjoining this installation will be a suite of brightly colored windows made of vinyl siding and neon by Alex Da Corte (b. 1980, Camden, New Jersey) whose imagery touch on the familiar and macabre.

Finally, two of the five commissioned works will be presented in the exhibition’s Movement section: a mural by Odili Donald Odita (b. 1966, Enugu, Nigeria) and an interactive dance performance by Nichole Canuso (b. 1973, Philadelphia). Extending along the light-filled hallway which connects these new galleries to the new Forum, Odita’s wall painting will unfold in a procession of color, taking as its point of departure the recent Black Lives Matter protests that converged on the museum’s steps. Canuso’s project will take four participants at a time along a choreographed route through the exhibition itself, in which stories and cues heard in headphones will bring them into view of dancers throughout the space (Specific dates and ticket information for this performance will be announced closer to the exhibition opening).

Organized by a cross-departmental curatorial team—the first of its kind for a large-scale contemporary project at the museum—the exhibition will take the new gallery spaces as an opportunity to reimagine curatorial work in the form of collaboration and a blending of expertise. Informed by a lively and productive exchange between curators specializing in photography, craft, contemporary art, design, and textiles, this interdisciplinary exhibition will amplify the range and interconnectedness of Philadelphia as a creative crossroads.

“Philly is not just a physical place. As a catalyst for creativity, it offers a network for artists, and a hub of contemporary arts that extends its influence from here to abroad,” said Erica Battle, the John Alchin and Hal Marryatt Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, who led the interdisciplinary team of curators as they engaged artists working in, around, and in relation to Philadelphia.

“An artist of Philadelphia is an artist of an inter-connected world; we wanted to expand upon definitions of the ‘local’ to encompass both veterans of the scene and artists from elsewhere who cite the city’s energy as a creative influence. New Grit affirms that our city has been, and will continue to be, a site for the exchange of ideas, civic engagement, and boundless imagination. It is truly a critical time to support artists of our city, and to amplify Philly itself as a source of resilience and inspiration.”

New Grit: Art & Philly Now Curatorial Team

Elisabeth Agro, Nancy M. McNeil Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts; Peter Barberie, Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center; Erica F. Battle, John Alchin and Hal Marryatt Associate Curator of Contemporary Art (Team Lead); Dilys Blum, Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles; Kathryn B. Hiesinger, J. Mahlon Buck, Jr. Family Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700; with curatorial assistance by Tally de Orellana, former Daniel W. Dietrich II Fellow in Contemporary Art, and Charlotte Lowrey, Coordinator of Curatorial Initiatives, Contemporary Art. The exhibition benefited from the research contributions by Michelle Millar Fisher, former Louis C. Madeira IV Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts and Emily Schreiner, former Zoë and Dean Pappas Curator of Education, Public Programs.

About the Artists

Artist biographies and an image bank of artist headshots is available here. To request an image, contact the Press Office.


New Grit: Art & Philly Now has been made possible with support from John Alchin and Hal Marryatt and through the museum’s endowment, with the Daniel W. Dietrich II Fund for Excellence in Contemporary Art, the Laura and William C. Buck Endowment for Exhibitions, the Lois G. and Julian A. Brodsky Installation and Exhibition Fund, the Gloria and Jack Drosdick Fund for Special Exhibitions, the Harriet and Ronald Lassin Fund for Special Exhibitions, the Kathleen C. and John J. F. Sherrerd Fund for Exhibitions, and by additional contributions from the museum’s Contemporary Art Committee, Eduardo Ardiles and Joseph Ujobai, Robert and Julie Jensen Bryan, Emily and Mike Cavanagh, Jaimie and David Field, Julia and David Fleischner, Arthur M. Kaplan and R. Duane Perry, Susan and James Meyer, Mitchell and Hilarie Morgan Family Foundation, Katherine Sachs, Sarena Snider, Karen Goodman Tarte, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and other generous donors.

Additional support for the construction of these new galleries was provided by the Daniel W. Dietrich II Foundation, Jane and Leonard Korman, Mitchell and Hilarie Morgan Family Foundation, Lynne and Harold Honickman, Jaimie and David Field, Marie and Joseph Field, and other generous donors.

Credits as of March 26, 2021

Related Programs

In Conversation: Artist Odili Donald Odita
Wednesday, March 24, 5:00–6:00 p.m.
Irma and Herbert Barness Endowed Lecture

Artist Odili Donald Odita discusses his new mural, Walls of Change, which will be included in New Grit: Art & Philly Now. This bold and dynamic abstract wall painting weaves together the history of the museum’s architectural and social history, including its original design, the new Frank Gehry–designed spaces, through its role as a site for the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

Odili Donald Odita (born 1966 in Enugu, Nigeria) is an abstract painter whose work explores how color can imbue meaning and trigger profound social and political connotations. He is currently a professor of painting at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture in Philadelphia.


In the Artist’s Voice: Kukuli Velarde
Wednesday, April 21, 5:00–6:00 p.m.

Artist Kukuli Velarde creates embroidered banners and decorated clay figures that evoke ritual procession and a mix of cultural influences (from the pre-Columbian to Catholicism) and reflect her contemporary perspective. In this virtual talk, Velarde considers the influences on this body of work, titled Corpus, as well as her multimedia artistic practice with curator Elisabeth Agro. Q&A to follow.

Registration ends at noon the day before the program; a link will be sent to registrants prior to the program.

Velarde’s work will be on view in New Grit: Art & Philly Now.


Kukuli Velarde is a multimedia artist who works in drawing, painting, and sculpture. She lives and works in Philadelphia.
Elisabeth Agro is the Nancy M. McNeil Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts. She is one of the curators of the upcoming exhibition New Grit: Art & Philly Now.


Shifting Borders of the Americas
Thursday, April 29, 12:00
1:00 p.m
Rose Susan Hirschhorn Behrend Lecture

Trace how art of former colonies of land now part of Latin America—which includes many national identities that have changed over time—has come to be classified as “art of the Americas.” Professor Mey-Yen Moriuchi of La Salle University, curator Cesáreo Moreno of the National Museum of Mexican Art, and Philadelphia-based artist Michelle Angela Ortiz discuss how these histories are displayed in the museum and their relationship to the US raise ongoing questions about the fixity of borders.

Registration ends at noon the day before the program; a link will be sent to registrants prior to the program.


Panelist & moderator: Mey-Yen Moriuchi, Associate Professor, Art History at La Salle University, Philadelphia
Cesáreo Moreno, Chief Curator and Visual Arts Director, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago
Michelle Angela Ortiz, Philadelphia-based artist who will present a new commission as part of the upcoming exhibition New Grit: Art & Philly Now


In Conversation: Doug Bucci & David Hartt
Thursday, May 20, 5:00–6:15 p.m.

Artists Doug Bucci and David Hartt discuss their commissions for the new exhibition New Grit: Art & Philly Now with curators Elisabeth Agro and Peter Barberie. They’ll explore the surprising commonalities of their artistic practices, including a shared interest in history and art history.

Free but donation appreciated; registration required.This event is part of the Museum Reimagined program series.


Doug Bucci is an artist and educator whose work focuses on how digital processes can display biological systems and the effects of disease on the body.

David Hartt is an artist and curator interested in how historic ideas and ideals persist over time. He often combines elements of video, music, and sculpture to create site-specific installations.

Elizabeth Agro is the Nancy M. McNeil Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts.

Peter Barberie is the Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center.


The Garden: Invisible Branches

Nichole Canuso Dance Company will present The Garden: Invisible Branches, an interactive dance commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, for four weeks, May 21–June 19, 2021 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Garden: Invisible Branches will be performed with showings at the following dates at 11:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1:00 p.m.

Friday, May 21
Saturday, May 22
Monday, May 24
Friday, May 28
Saturday, May 29
Saturday, June 4
Sunday, June 5
Monday, June 7
Friday, June 11
Saturday, June 12
Monday, June 14
Friday, June 18
Saturday, June 19

In The Garden: Invisible Branches, four participants at a time will follow cues from an audio-guide as they navigate through New Grit: Art & Philly Now in the museum’s new Daniel W. Dietrich II Galleries where they will encounter artworks, dancers and one another. Choreographed by Canuso, this interactive dance experience unfolds over 20 minutes, guiding each participant in an intimate yet expansive journey that heightens the experience of looking and observing towards unexpected and magical ends.

Free after museum admission. Reservations required.

In Conversation: Jonathan Lyndon Chase & Sharon Hayes
Thursday, June 3, 5:00 6:00 p.m.

Philadelphia-based artists Jonathan Lyndon Chase and Sharon Hayes discuss their practices, drawing out themes of the intimate and everyday, navigating public and private space, and giving visibility to a multiplicity of queer identities. Both artists are featured in the exhibition New Grit: Art & Philly Now.

Free but donation appreciated; registration required.This event is part of the Museum Reimagined program series.


Jonathan Lyndon Chase takes on issues of race, gender, and sexuality in paintings, drawings, and installations that celebrate Black male queerness, and in doing so centers those who have gone unseen in the history of art.

Sharon Hayes creates video works and installations, blending a documentary style with the fictional and the speculative. Since her involvement in New York City’s performance scene during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s, she has collaborated with queer-identifying and feminist cultural workers such as artists, poets, and academics.


Arrival and Belonging: Philadelphia Stories
Tuesday, June 22, 6:007:00 p.m.

Artist Michelle Angela Ortiz leads a conversation with two community members featured in her new video installation, Arrival and Belonging, which humanizes the struggles and challenges of finding a home.

Arrival and Belonging is a two-part project commissioned by the museum: a large-scale multiscreen video installation with light boxes and a series of events highlighting the experiences of community members throughout the city. Over an extended period of intimate conversations, Ortiz gathered the stories of four Philadelphians who represent a wide range of lived experiences as immigrants and migrants. In this talk, Ortiz talks with singer Fatu Gayflor and activist Jamaal Henderson as well as shares excerpts and images of this new work, currently on view in the exhibition New Grit: Art & Philly Now.

Free but donation appreciated; registration required.This event is part of the Museum Reimagined program series.


Michelle Angela Ortiz is a visual artist, muralist, community arts educator, and filmmaker. Through community arts practices, painting, documentaries, and public art installations, she creates a safe space for dialogue around some of the most profound issues communities and individuals may face.

Fatu Gayflor is a singer and songwriter who sings the traditional songs of Liberia’s sixteen ethnic groups. Impacted by the war, she was in exile in neighboring countries for ten years. It was during this time that she started to compose songs based on traditional rhythms and melodies that address immediate concerns and call for change.

Jamaal Henderson is an activist fighting for housing rights in Philadelphia. In 2020 they were active in advocating on behalf of residents of a homeless encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway fighting for decent housing.

Further programming to be confirmed.


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