Exhibition Delves Deep into Rocky Culture

By Eldon Graham

Photo by Gary Grissom

Da Vinci Art Alliance is proud to host “Rocky Re-Runs,” an art exhibition that both stands alone and is an extension of  a previous exhibition, known as “YO, PIRANESI!,” that DVAA hosted in 2017.

Rocky Re-Runs assembles a group of young architects, artists, practitioners, and academics whose work responds to infrequently examined aspects of and places within Philadelphia’s built environment. The exhibit identifies a set of related themes and proposes challenges that would encourage each participant to investigate and interpret selected themes in personal ways.

Among those themes are: movement through Philadelphia, Philadelphia neighborhoods past/present/future, Rocky’s mind + Rocky as a role model to others, “sacred Rocky” vs. human Rocky, sport + ritual of boxing, innovation of the steadicam, global Rocky, and art that honors the hero. DVAA is located at 704 Catharine Street.

Andrew Hart, DVAA member and co-organizer of the Rocky Exhibition, describes how this a sort of homage to the city of brotherly love and its legendary folk hero. “In the way that they encapsulate the underdog grit of their hero and locale, the characters and settings of the early Rocky films could not have been situated in any city other than Philadelphia – nor at any other time than the early 1970s.”

“In the second film, Rocky Balboa is seen on a training run that passes through a number of locales. The journey can be seen in many ways: as a single run; as a series of runs; as visual pornography that exploits derelict neighborhoods; as a celebratory paean to iconic Philadelphia views. The sequence, repeated almost to the point of parody in later parts of the Rocky franchise, is short, noir-ish, stark, and surprisingly different from recollections formed by viewers decades later.”

Hart reflects on how Philadelphia has changed yet the city still embraces the rocky heart and soul. “Philadelphia 1976 is drastically different from Philadelphia 2018, yet the Rocky images still feel familiar to native Philadelphians,” he said. “While some settings have changed dramatically in conjunction with the city’s urban Renaissance, blight, poverty, drugs, and crime remain in many others. Is the training run an encapsulation of a time? Is it timeless? Is Rocky Balboa one man or everyman? Does he symbolize personal triumph over grinding oppression or was he just exceptionally lucky? Does he lead the others to achieve salvation? To fulfill their destiny? To discover their true selves?”

Drawing by John James Pron

Exhibition dates start on Wednesday Apr. 18, 6-8 p.m. with the opening reception.

Saturday Apr. 21, 1-5 p.m. – All Artist Talks

Beginning at 1:30, each of the 12 artists will talk on their particular work (scheduled for 15-minute intervals until 4:30). This event will be moderated by Jefferson University Associate Dean of Architecture Professor David Breiner. It will be an informal walkaround, with refreshments, and open to gallery members, the general public, friends, family and professional peers.

Sunday, Apr. 22, 1-5 p.m. – gallery open

Wednesday, Apr. 25, 6-8 p.m. – gallery open

Thursday, Apr. 26, 6-8:30 p.m. – an evening with A. Thomas Schomberg

Art and architectural historian Kenneth Jacobs will host an event dedicated to a discussion of the art of A. Thomas Schomberg, the Colorado-based sculptor commissioned by actor Sylvester Stallone to create a 2-ton bronze statue of Rocky Balboa, currently placed adjacent to the Art Museum Steps made famous in the movie. It will begin at 7:00 with Jacob’s presentation – a PowerPoint overview of the history of monumental figurative art from the ancient world to the present. In a skype interview, Schomberg will discuss his own artistic oeuvre (which includes many monumental sculptures and war memorials, throughout the U.S. and in several foreign countries. He will also specifically address Rocky and will end this informal interview with a question and answer session with the audience.

Saturday, Apr. 28, 1-5 p.m. – gallery open

Sunday, Apr. 29, 1-5 p.m. – talk by Michael Vitez, Pulitzer-prize winner and author of “Rocky Stories”

Pulitzer-prize winner former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter and writer Michael Vitez published Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps (Paul Dry Books, publisher, Phila. 2006) – 52 stories of people who have found inspiration in Rocky, endured similar challenges and had reason to celebrate their accomplishments. Vitez will present a PowerPoint lecture (illustrated with photos by Pulitzer-prize winner Tom Gralish) highlighting some of the most compelling of their stories. Reception and exhibit closes at 5:00.

The Rocky Re-Run exhibition has been partially funded by the generous support of De Fino Law Associates, P.C.

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