Larry Day: Absent Presence

August 30–November 21, 2021
Spruance, Harrison, and Rosedale Galleries

Visit Woodmere Art Museum's site for a list of additional events

This fall, three venerable Philadelphia-area institutions will mount what will be the most expansive exhibition to date of the art of Larry Day (1921-1998). "Body Language: The Art of Larry Day" will be presented across Arcadia University, University of the Arts and Woodmere Art Museum, exploring Day’s significant contributions to American art from the 1950s through the 1990s including nearly 150 paintings, drawings and prints.

The exhibition is curated by Day’s longtime friend David Bindman, emeritus professor of history of art at University College London and visiting fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

The exhibition’s three-part structure highlights the distinct elements in Day’s career, organized around his most prominent thematic categories: abstraction, figuration and the cityscape. Together, they work in concert to reinforce the artist’s significance and lasting relevance while exploring Day’s shift from abstraction to representation.
 
"Larry Day: Absent Presence" will be on view at the Spruance, Rosedale, and Harrison Galleries at Arcadia University from August 30 to November 21, 2021; "Larry Day: Silent Conversations" will be on view at Woodmere Art Museum September 25, 2021, to January 23, 2022; and "Larry Day: Nature Abstracted" will be on view at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery of University of the Arts October 8 to December 3, 2021. Admission is free at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery and Arcadia University. Admission at Woodmere Art Museum is $10 and free on Sundays and to students.
 
Day's work was featured in many of the ground-breaking exhibitions that charted a new path for figuration in American art in the 1960s.  In his hometown, he was known as "the Dean of Philadelphia Painters," so powerful was his inspiration and impact as an instructor at Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts) and across the city's many other art schools.
 
Larry Day Three Worlds 1989Larry Day, Three Worlds, 1989, oil on canvas, 66 × 48 in.,Lent by Woodmere Art Museum, Museum purchase, 2017

William Valerio, the Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO of Woodmere Art Museums, says:  “Day’s importance in re-imagining the figurative arts is equaled by his impact as a teacher and mentor. That this show takes place at a museum and two schools is a fitting honor on the centennial anniversary of his birth. Woodmere has made a significant commitment to stewarding Day’s legacy into the future, and Body Language has opened our eyes to the relevance of his work and to his constant visual curiosity and questioning, which is so important to artists today.”
 
Guest Curator David Bindman describes Day as a significant voice in American art in his shift away from abstraction in the early 1960s: “ … Day’s figurative paintings are ‘realist’ in the sense that they often represent real people and the everyday subjects and places of modern life, but such ‘reality’ is always undercut by fictional elements and open-ended ironies. Day transcends the real.”

“A CONSUMMATELY REFLECTIVE ARTIST”

Living much of his life in Philadelphia, Larry Day was the son of an Italian father and Scottish mother. He attended Temple University’s Tyler School of Art following his service in World War II’s Pacific theater. He graduated in 1950 with Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Science in Education degrees and a gold medal for his scholarship and achievement in art.
 
Following Tyler, Day embarked on his instructional career in Philadelphia’s public school system. His service there was brief, and he soon became an influential figure in the painting department of the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now University of the Arts), where he was a faculty member for 35 years. Day was also a  critic at the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He was revered by his students and colleagues alike for his dedication to both studio work and teaching.
 
"Body Language: The Art of Larry Day carefully examines the evolution of Day’s artistic voice, from his fascination with the work of old masters and his expert skills as a draftsman, to his deep and abiding interest in music, literature, popular culture and esoteric philosophical texts.
 
Subversive and running counter to then mainstream ideas in American art, Day moved away from abstraction in the early 1960s, opting instead to explore parallel fascinations with figurative and architectural subjects, probing the emotions of everyday life. In his own unique way, he participated in a component of American art that, like the emerging Pop and Hyperrealism movements of his times, sought to direct the arts to the subjects and textures of lived experience.