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Ideal City: Exhibition by Adam Cvijanovic


Brooklyn artist Adam Cvijanovic will create a site-specific, handpainted wallpaper mural examining aspects of Philadelphia history for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts' Morris Gallery. Open February 21 through April 25, 2004, Cvijanovic's exhibition, Ideal City, will juxtapose two Philadelphia icons: Edward Hicks' The Peaceable Kingdom (circa 1833) from the Academy's permanent collection, and images of the MOVE confrontation of 1985.

Cvijanovic's decision to examine politically-charged themes marks a departure from his usual subject matter-iconic landscape imagery. However, the Academy installation remains true to his usual large-scale, mural painting technique that he refers to as "scenic wallpaper."

For this commissioned project, Cvijanovic will appropriate and enlarge elements from Hicks' painting, as well as historical media images of the MOVE tragedy, integrating them into a seamless mural. (right: Adam Cvijanovic, Sketch for one wall of Ideal City, 2004, Acrylic on Tyvek. Courtesy of the Artist.)

The Peaceable Kingdom portrays a utopian vision that permeated early American thought. Hicks based the painting on Biblical prophecy (Isaiah 11:16) and historical events-including William Penn's treaty with Delaware Valley Native American tribes that insured harmony between indigenous peoples and Quaker colonists. Isaiah's prophecy reads:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Penn's act as founder of the Quaker colony embodied the sect's principles of peace and pacifism. Hicks believed that Penn's treaty was a practical demonstration of Isaiah's prophecy, and sought to depict both in his composition.

MOVE, a loose-knit mostly African American group whose members all adopt the surname Africa, advocates a "back to nature" lifestyle and preaches against technology. In 1985, members of the group began using loudspeakers to blare anti-government messages from their West Philadelphia row house on Osage Avenue in an attempt to free nine members who had been convicted of killing a police officer. Neighbors complained about harassment, stench, and members brandishing weapons.

On May 13, 1985, police officers arrived to arrest several MOVE members and were met with gunfire, touching off a fierce gun battle. Later that day, a police helicopter dropped a bomb on the MOVE row house, starting a fire that burned an entire city block. The fire destroyed 61 row houses and killed 11 MOVE members, including five children. The City of Philadelphia re-built the block.

Cvijanovic has painted a number of large-scale, wall-based panoramic landscapes for various museum and gallery exhibitions, including scenes of Monument Valley, an abandoned drive-in theater, suburban housing developments, an erupting volcano, icebergs on Greenland's west coast and a spring break beach scene in Florida.

Cvijanovic revives the 18th century French tradition of panoramic, scenic wallpaper. At a time when painted landscape itself seems marginal, the artist embraces what has often been relegated as mere decoration. Printed wallpaper was developed for middle class French society, imitating the handpainted, frescoed rooms of the aristocracy. Cvijanovic's endeavor explores the borders between art and craft, the decorative and the profound. Reminiscent of the grand landscape tradition of American artists Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole, and Frederic Church; historical decorative traditions; and the popular panorama paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries, Cvijanovic "updates" these precedents with contemporary landscape imagery or modern subject matter.

Adam Cvijanovic's Ideal City is the third and final exhibition in a series of installations at the Pennsylvania Academy exploring wall-based projects by contemporary artists.

Adam Cvijanovic has had solo exhibitions in many New York galleries, including Bellwether Gallery, Steven Sclaroff, Richard Anderson, and Bess Cutler Gallery. He has had one-person shows at Michael Berger Gallery, Pittsburgh, and Art Compact, Barcelona, Spain. He has been featured in group exhibitions at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence; The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; P.P.O.W. Gallery, N.Y.; University of Wyoming Art Gallery, Laramie; New Museum of Contemporary Art, N.Y.; and the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, N.Y., among others. Cvijanovic is self-taught.

Ideal City opens with a complimentary artist's reception Friday, Feb. 20, 6-8 p.m.


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