Across nine screens, Isaac Julien’s Lina Bo Bardi—A Marvellous Entanglement (2019) explores the life, work, and legacy of the Italian-Brazilian modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992). Born in Rome, Italy, and relocating to São Paulo, Brazil in the 1940s, Bo Bardi was a multifaceted artist and thinker who developed an architectural practice rooted in the social potential of space and the fusion of Italian and Brazilian culture and aesthetics. Emphasizing improvisation, recycling existing spaces, and utilizing novel building materials, Bo Bardi designed some of Brazil’s most iconic art and cultural institutions, including the São Paulo Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia, SESC Pompéia, and the Teatro Oficina.
In a new arrangement imagined by Julien specifically for this presentation, A Marvellous Entanglement establishes a vital architectural dialogue between Bo Bardi’s visionary buildings and the Williams Forum, the central space of Frank Gehry’s expansion project. Through a carefully constructed choreography of sound and moving images, Julien combines six years of archival research, on-location footage shot across multiple Bo Bardi-designed buildings, voice and dance performances, and recitations of Bo Bardi’s writings by two actresses. Quoting Bo Bardi in his title, Julien invokes her spirit and points to the liberatory possibilities of non-linear histories within global circulations of art and culture.
This exhibition is organized in conjunction with multiple cultural partners across Philadelphia including the Barnes Foundation; BlackStar Projects; Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania; and The Fabric Workshop and Museum, on the occasion of the Barnes Foundation’s centennial and newly commissioned film installation, Once Again…(Statues Never Die) on view June 19–September 4, 2022.
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Sir Isaac Julien, CBE RA, (born 1960, London) has for over forty years explored, through cinematic means, representations of race and sexuality in the contexts of diasporic culture. Early films like Looking for Langston (1989) and Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1996) creatively rework fact and fiction to question established historical narratives. Across several multi-screen installations made since the 2000s, Julien has addressed questions of history and memory, race, migration, and labor in the Global South. A Turner Prize nominee and the winner of several major awards, Julien’s work is held in major international collections. In spring 2022, Julien was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the arts.
Isaac Julien: Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement is generously supported by the Daniel W. Dietrich II Fund for Excellence in Contemporary Art, the William Penn Foundation Matching Gifts Program, John Alchin and Hal Marryatt, The Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Foundation, and other generous donors.
Erica F. Battle, John Alchin and Hal Marryatt Curator of Contemporary Art; and Swagato Chakravorty, Daniel W. Dietrich II Fellow in Contemporary Art