Free Library explores the visual art of letters in Framing Fraktur
The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Library kicked off “Framing Fraktur”, a three-month celebration of the historic Pennsylvania German art form running March 2 to June 14.
Framing Fraktur explores the relationship between manuscript-based folk art created by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania beginning in the 17th century, and the work of seven contemporary artists presented through two simultaneous exhibitions: “Word & Image: Contemporary Artists Connect to fraktur,” based in the work of contemporary artists, and “Quill & Brush: Pennsylvania German Fraktur and Material Culture,” based in historic works.
“Used for birth and baptismal certificates, writing samples, music books, and religious texts, fraktur were exuberantly decorated with tulips, hearts, angels, unicorns, eagles, and other motifs,” reads the press release. “As works of art, fraktur are comparable to fine illuminated manuscripts, and yet they are essentially domestic and personal documents”.
Each of the contemporary artists uses text or type as a visual component of their work — drawings, paintings, woodblock prints, embroideries — to convey particular subject matter about their own culture and identity.
“The artist in the show are not directly working with fraktur but they have this connection through their use of language, the integration and combination of text with image and visual art forms, and also the riff on folk art,” said Judith Tannenbaum, curator of Word & Image.
In attendance at the press preview were participating artists Bob Smith, from England; Marian Bantjes, from Canada, and Anthony Campuzano, from the Philadelphia region.
Campuzano told AL DÍA that although he wasn’t very familiar with fraktur prior to the exhibit, the use of color of this art form, design and language, is similar to the way he processes his own work.
“I often start with a scrap of information or something I’ve written down and I turn it into a picture”, said Campuzano, who originally wanted to be a writer but has been a graphic artist for 20 years. “I’m not a great writer so by making drawings or paintings or photographs I’m able to communicate a little bit better than I would if I was writing a short story or newspaper article.”
About Campuzano, Tannenbaum said his “sources are ever surprising, newspaper articles, popular songs, Emily Dickinson poems, a note his mother left him to clean up his room… anything can be a resource for art”.
The exhibition includes some of Campuzano’s works from 2004 to 2014.
“It’s exciting to see that span of work in one place and also the communication with the other artists and the historic fraktur work,” Campuzano said.