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18.1.12

Ten Years -- Then Party!

It’s a good bet that your New Year started off well when, the following day, the recycling truck woke your neighbor, two blocks away, with a thundering crash of glass bottles.

There is nothing better than a good party, especially a dance party. So my fair maiden and I made our way this past weekend to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the opening reception for Zoe Strauss: Ten Years. The staid old museum was alive with a thousand-plus guests and music provided by DJs David Dye, host of The World Cafe, and The Roots drummer ?uestlove.

Throughout the event, guests were invited to have their pictures taken against a blue screen, organized by Megawords Magazine, set up in the basement. The images were randomly displayed on a large screen over the dance floor upstairs -- people do love to have their picture taken.


I’ve covered Zoe's Under 95 exhibits here before. Over the past ten years she exhibited her work on the cement pillars holding up a section of I-95 in South Philly. At the end of the day all the work was free for the taking, which was brilliant.

For her museum exhibit Zoe has done it as only she can. In addition to a traditional gallery display of many of her already classic images – professionally printed (and framed!) images are also projected on the exterior of the museum, which is fabulous and somewhat eerie at night and on fifty-four billboards throughout the city. Strauss has occupied the museum and still takes it to the people.


The first time I met Zoe and her work was at the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Instead of exhibiting her photographs in the standard way, printed and framed, she opted for projecting them on the wall of a darkened room/cube. I was reminded of when I was young, sitting with my family viewing projected slides of travel and events. It was intimate, direct, and unassuming, and it often introduced me to places I'd never been, people I'd never had an opportunity to meet.

A Strauss exhibit is unique. Many of the subjects that inhabit her photographs, most from her South Philadelphia neighborhood, show up for the opening, proud, dignified, and all dolled up. I can only imagine that most have never been through the doors of this great museum, this Oz on the hill, the hill that Rocky Balboa climbed, let alone have their portraits exhibited there among the Cézannes.

Zoe Strauss: Ten Years runs through April 22nd. Here is a Tyler Green podcast with Zoe and a New York Times review.

Megawords will call the Philadelphia Museum of Art home for three months. As part of Zoe Strauss: Ten Years they will create a publishing studio and bookshop in the museum, program music performances, host a panel discussion about what belongs in a city, conduct workshops and classes, screen films, and hold office hours in the museum. They will also publish a new issue of Megawords and an original edition of artists' books.

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