Announcing Framing Fraktur!

By Michelle S. RSS Mon, March 2, 2015

The Free Library of Philadelphia is proud to present Framing Fraktur, a three-month celebration of historic Pennsylvania German folk art and its relationship to contemporary art, opening today and running through June 14, 2015! In addition to bringing fraktur to life with a wide range of public programming, the Free Library is mounting two unique exhibitions devoted to fraktur at the Parkway Central Library: Quill & Brush: Pennsylvania German Fraktur and Material Culture, a historic exhibition featuring original fraktur works along with Pennsylvania German artifacts, manuscripts, and ephemera, and Word & Image: Contemporary Artists Connect to Fraktur, a contemporary exhibition featuring the work of seven international artists. Major support for Framing Fraktur has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, American Airlines Cargo, Christie’s, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation.

Fraktur is a manuscript-based folk art created by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania beginning in 1683. 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. The Free Library’s Rare Book Department at Parkway Central boasts more than 1,300 pieces of hand-drawn and printed fraktur as well as important manuscripts, books, broadsides, and mixed-media objects. As works of art, fraktur are comparable to fine illuminated manuscripts, and yet they are essentially domestic and personal documents.

Framing Fraktur explores the relationship between traditional fraktur and the work of seven contemporary artists: Marian Bantjes (Canada), Anthony Campuzano (United States), Imran Qureshi (Pakistan), Elaine Reichek (United States), Bob and Roberta Smith (United Kingdom), and Gert and Uwe Tobias (Romania/Germany). Whereas discussion of fraktur has often been confined to the folk art genre, Framing Fraktur reinterprets and reframes traditional fraktur through a contemporary lens that is international in scope, multi-generational, and diverse in content, medium, and formal approach. Each of the contemporary artists uses text or type as a visual component of their work to convey particular subject matter about his or her own culture and identity.

Framing Fraktur exhibitions are free and open to the public. Quill & Brush, curated by Lisa Minardi, will appear in the Rare Book Department's William B. Dietrich Gallery, while pieces from Word & Image, curated by Judith Tannenbaum, will appear throughout the Parkway Central building. For a complete calendar of events, including great programs for children and adults, plus digital exhibitions and other fraktur-related material, check out

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