August 30 – November 21, 2021
Spruance, Harrison, and Rosedale Galleries
Arcadia Exhibitions, in collaboration with The Woodmere Art Museum and The Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, University of the Arts, is pleased to present “Body Language: The Art of Larry Day,” an exhibition in three parts: “Absent Presence” at Arcadia University from August 30, 2021 through November 21, 2021; “Silent Conversations” at Woodmere Art Museum from September 25, 2021 through January 23, 2022; and “Nature Abstracted” from October 8, 2021 through December 3, 2021 at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, University of the Arts.
Almost one hundred and fifty of the artist’s paintings, drawings, and prints will be presented across the partnering venues, a selection of works that makes the case for Day’s continuing relevance to the creative intellectual life of Philadelphia and to the expanding international conversations about American art.
Larry Day (1921–1998) was a distinguished painter and a dominant force in American art from the 1950s through the 1990s. Born Lorenzo del Giorno to an Italian father and a Scottish mother in Philadelphia, where he spent most of his life, Day served in the Pacific campaign of World War II, after which he attended college on the GI Bill. He graduated from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in 1949, also earning a degree in education there the following year.
Almost immediately thereafter, he began his career as an instructor, briefly in the Philadelphia public schools, but primarily as an anchor figure in the painting department of the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts) from 1953 to 1988 and the graduate school of the University of Pennsylvania. Day was revered as a “guru” by his peers and students.
Each of the exhibiting institutions links to Day’s life and career in particular ways. Having resided in Cheltenham Township most of his life, Day was no doubt familiar from childhood with Beaver College, now Arcadia University’s distinctive, medieval-inspired facades. His participation in four important drawing shows in the 1960s and ’70s at the Atwood Library gallery helped to establish the Works on Paper exhibition series, highlighting drawing as an independent and primary medium, a mainstay of Arcadia’s programming for over thirty years.
Day’s architectural paintings are almost—if not quite—a separate genre within the artist’s work. Sometimes the elements of the site are strong in his figurative paintings, but the architectural paintings are invariably without figures, though human activity is usually signaled in some way. What they have in common is the urban banality of each setting, though some are not without drama. Their subjects are the most unassuming, undistinguished urban architecture of Philadelphia and elsewhere.
At roughly the same time he embarked on a separate group of architectural paintings, producing unpopulated scenes, primarily in Philadelphia, where he spent most of his life, and Washington, DC (when he lived in Maryland in the late 1980s and early 1990s) in a deliberately formal way . All the time, as he had done from the beginning, he made copious drawings for the figure paintings, in some cases in series, but—unexpectedly—many fewer for the architectural compositions.
The paintings located in Spruance gallery feature geometry-based cityscapes with the viewer functioning as the eternal human presence that contributes meaning to the work beyond that embedded by the artist’s own experiences. Equally important to their meaning is Day’s concern for the nature of identity, which was Day’s central subject throughout his life. Day believed that the extraordinary was to be discovered within the ordinary, and the sites he chose to explore were those he encountered during the course of his daily travels. These were primarily in Philadelphia, but also in cities across the United States, especially Washington D.C. from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s when his home and studio shifted to suburban Maryland. An array of related drawings and watercolors are on view in the Harrison Gallery nearby on campus, with a selection of Day’s prints in Arcadia’s Rosedale Gallery.
Day’s work is represented in numerous museum collections, including the British Museum, London; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Rhode Island School of Design Museum; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Woodmere Art Museum. Each of the exhibiting institutions links to Day’s life and career in particular ways. Having resided in Cheltenham Township most of his life, Day was no doubt familiar from childhood with Beaver College, now Arcadia University’s distinctive, medieval-inspired facades. His participation in four important drawing shows in the 1960s and ’70s at the Atwood Library gallery helped to establish the Works on Paper exhibition series, highlighting drawing as an independent and primary medium, a mainstay of Arcadia’s programming for over thirty years. Celebrating this connection, “Absent Presence,” focuses primarily on Day’s cityscapes.
The exhibition is curated by David Bindman, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art, University College London and Fellow of the Hutchins Center, Harvard University.
Lectures in conjunction with Body Language: The Art of Larry Day
Opening Reception and Conversation with Ruth Fine
September 2, 2021, Arcadia University
Opening Reception for Body Language: The Art of Larry Day
September 25, 2021, Woodmere Art Museum
Members’ Tour of Body Language: The Art of Larry Day
October 10, 2022, Woodmere Art Museum, Guided by Rachel Hruszkewycz, Assistant Curator, Woodmere Art Museum
Body Language: The Art of Larry Day with Ruth Fine
October 16, 2022, Woodmere Art Museum
Centennial retrospective of works by Larry Day with Ruth Fine and William Valerio
October 20, 2022, online via Zoom
“The Living Past”: The Art of Larry Day with Patricia Likos Ricci, Professor of the History of Art, Director of the Fine Arts Department, Elizabethtown College
October 23, 2022, Woodmere Art Museum
On Larry Day: A Conversation with Phong Bui, artist, publisher, and artistic director of the Brooklyn Rail
November 7, 2022, Woodmere Art Museum
Reception at University of the Arts
November 11, 2022, Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery
A Game of Charades Roundtable Discussion
January 13, 2022, Online via Zoom
Curator’s Talk: The Art of Larry Day with David Bindman, guest curator, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art, University College, London and Fellow of the Hutchins Center, Harvard University
January 22, 2022, Online via Zoom