One of the greatest mythological ﬁgures in Philadelphia history, Rocky Balboa has inspired untold numbers with his triumphs. Now, in a unique exhibition co-curated by a University faculty member, a new chapter the iconic movie character has been created—one that even attracted a visit from Sylvester Stallone himself.
“Rocky (re)Runs” brings together 13 local architects, artists, practitioners, videographers and academics whose collective work examines infrequently studied aspects and places within Philadelphia’s built environment. The exhibit identiﬁes a set of related themes and proposes challenges that encourage each participant to investigate those themes in personal ways. The common denominator: Rocky Balboa.
“I always have been fascinated by the way ‘Rocky’ captures Philadelphia differently than other movies,” said Andrew Hart, assistant professor of architecture at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University). “It’s not about Center City or City Hall. It’s about North Philly and South Philly and the neighborhoods. I wanted to get a group together and ask them to react, as designers, as artists, as fellow Philadelphians—to showcase their city.”
Over the past year, Hart and John James Pron, professor emeritus from Tyler School of Art, held discussions, crits and salons with the group to marinate ideas and facilitate feedback. College of Architecture and the Built Environment adjunct faculty members Ken Jacobs and Laura Blau, who’s an exhibitor as well, also worked on “Rocky (re)Runs.”
The tomb of a Roman magistrate, a gladiator who won his freedom, inspired Hart’s piece, “The Tomb of Rocky.”
“Rocky is the gladiator of our city, and a tomb for the fictional character should be inscribed with our city,” said Hart, noting the original “Rocky” and “Creed” top his list of movies from the blockbuster franchise.
The “lid” of the sarcophagus is a 3D-carved map of the city, and carefully built into his sculpture are pieces of Philadelphia that Hart collected, including bricks fallen from the cornice of Rocky’s apartment, wooden beams from a warehouse on Lehigh Avenue and hardware discarded from a construction site.
Stallone caught wind of the novel exhibit in the Bella Vista section of the city and stopped by last week for an hour to see it and speak with the artists.
“In addition to being an actor, director, producer and screenwriter, Stallone also is a painter,” Hart said. “He was keenly interested in the creative process behind the show and spent time with each piece. We spoke at length about how the city, its neighborhoods and the people were the genesis behind ‘Rocky (re)Runs.’ It meant a lot to hear from someone who also has been inspired by Philadelphia.”
See “Rocky (re)Runs” until Sunday, April 29, at the Da Vinci Art Alliance at 704 Catharine St. in Philadelphia.