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PRESS RELEASE
Philagrafika presents Doing Time | Depth of Surface
Jan. 28 – Mar. 17, 2012 at Moore College of Art & Design

Exhibition explores urban archeology and past lives of historic Holmesburg Prison
First project since the successful Philagrafika 2010: The Graphic Unconscious


PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 5, 2011) — Philagrafika has commissioned Spanish artists Patricia Gómez
Villaescusa and María Jesús González Fernández to create Doing Time | Depth of Surface, an
exhibition exploring the architecture and stories of Philadelphia’s historic Holmesburg Prison.
Gómez and González have created large-format “printings” of drawings, paintings and graffiti left by
former inmates on the walls of the prison, which opened in 1896, operating for nearly a century and
being decommissioned in 1995. The exhibition gives a voice to the guards, employees and inmates
who lived in the Northeast Philadelphia prison.

Doing Time | Depth of Surface will run from January 28 – March 17, 2012 at The Galleries at
Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia. The exhibition explores new trends in
contemporary art and printmaking, pushing the boundaries of what constitutes “print.” Philagrafika
will also host related public programs, document and expand the project through its website and
publish an exhibition catalogue.

The exhibition is Philagrafika’s first since the presentation of Philagrafika 2010: The Graphic
Unconscious
, the citywide, multiple-venue, international festival which redefined contemporary
printmaking. With a mission to promote and sustain printmaking as a vital and valued art form,
Philagrafika continues to build upon and reinforce the themes of innovation and collaboration that
were first explored in the organization’s 2010 festival. The commission of Gómez and González
also continues support of international artists in interpreting Philadelphia’s history.

The first phase of the project began with an extensive residency, during which the artists conducted
research and onsite documentation of the project. The artists visited Holmesburg Prison where they
utilized a unique method of monoprinting to transfer the history of the deteriorating prison’s walls
into prints, salvaging the outer surfaces of the prison cells. The exhibition at Moore will feature a
surveillance-style video installation along with an audio installation, still photographs from the
residency and the resulting monoprints – two full cell size and 150 smaller pieces – which serve as
a physical archive of the prison cells and the lives of the prisoner’s who lived in them.


Gómez and González work in a collaborative process grounded in an artistic practice similar to
mural conservation. Utilizing a modified version of a conservation technique known as strappo, they
work primarily to preserve the surfaces of buildings – the veritable “skin of architecture” – by
detaching a wall’s surface layers. Using a layer of fabric and glue they remove the surface, in its
entirety, in a process much like ripping a bandage off of skin. In fact Strappo, an Italian word,
means to rip or tear. This process allows the artist’s to extract a tangible record of the site in its
current state, preserving the expressions of identity, memory, apathy and desire of its former
residents.


Exhibition curator José Roca first came across the work of Gómez and González while conducting
research for Philagrafika 2010: The Graphic Unconscious, for which he served as Artistic Director,
and felt that the complexities of their practice merited a significant project on its own. “Philagrafika
is interested in looking at how print manifests itself in contemporary art,” says Roca. “There is truth
to the common adage ‘if walls could talk’ in the sense of being the silent witnesses of what happens
over time, which is physically and metaphorically imprinted in them.”


Gómez and González have explained their process saying, “The origin of our practice was an
unexpected imprint when a piece of canvas detached from a wall. Instinctively, we thought of this
as an act of printmaking, but with the intervention of different instruments and elements than we
were using at the time. The matrix in our work became the walls; their surface (with several
overlapping layers of paint, history and marks) is imprinted by time and vital experiences.”
Doing Time | Depth of Surface is Gómez and González's first exhibition in the U.S. The exhibition
will be the fourth collaboration of this nature for the artists. Previous works include two installations
of abandoned prisons, from 2008-2009, including Valencia’s Modelo Prison, and a prison in Palma
shown in 2011 at the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Mallorca, Spain.


Publication
The thirty-two-page Depth of Surface exhibition catalogue documents the artists’ residency at
Holmesburg Prison and the resulting artworks. It chronicles the artists’ project with images of the
cells, the prison, and artworks in progress; along with short essays and interviews with the artists. It
will be available free to the public during the exhibition.

 

See schedule for events and programming.


About the Artists
María Jesús González Fernández & Patricia Gómez Villaescusa were both born in 1978 in
Valencia, Spain, where they still work. Their artistic partnership began while the artists were
working towards Fine Arts degrees from the Facultad de Bellas Artes deValencia in 2002. Their
work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows in Spain. They have won a number of
grants and awards including, among others: the photography prize for El Cultural (2010), and first
prize at Generación 2008 Caja Madrid Art Grants and Awards (2009), and a Generación 2007 artist
grant (2007). Collections that house their work include Caja Madrid, DA 2 DOMUS ARTIUM
Salamanca, the Polytechnic University of Valencia, the University of Sevilla, Caja Catilla-La
Mancha, Bancaja, and El Mundo. Doing Time is González and Gómez’ first project in the United
States.

 

About Holmesburg Prison
Holmesburg Prison is located on Torresdale Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. The prison opened
in 1896 and was used continuously for almost 100 years until it was closed in 1995. Similar in
design to Eastern State Penitentiary, the structure is characterized by a central hub from which
cellblocks extend out. It was a maximum-security prison with high brick walls that surround the
seventeen-acre compound. Originally made up of 6 cellblocks containing 450 cells, with the
intention of keeping inmates in solitary confinement, it boasted modern plumbing, incandescent
lighting and forced air ventilation and heating. For the past sixteen years the site has been used
only for police testing and training programs. The films Up Close & Personal (1996), Animal Factory
(2000) and Law-Abiding Citizen (2009) have filmed scenes on location in Holmesburg Prison, and
in 2000 photographer Thomas Roma documented the derelict state of Holmesburg with the book In
Prison Air.

 

 

 

 

 

Philagrafika 139 N. 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106 T: (215) 825 7452 info@philagrafika.org