History in Motion: Tom Judd’s Subway Mural

02/27/2021
06/20/2021
In connection with the reconstruction of the 5th Street-Independence Hall Station on the Market-Frankford Line, and as part of SEPTA’s Art in Transit program, artist Tom Judd was selected to create a permanent installation for the station. Titled Portal to Discovery, Judd’s mural on the eastbound and westbound platforms presents figures who contributed to the founding of the United States as well as those who fought for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all. The mural includes portraits of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Philadelphians such as Frances E. W. Harper, one of the first African American women to be published in the United States, and Absalom Jones, an African American abolitionist and clergyman who founded the Free African Society with Richard Allen in 1787. Juxtaposed with these figures are familiar landscape views of Philadelphia, windows, doors, and other architectural elements of the city. The experience is one of a great historical dreamscape that poses questions and promotes civic dialogue.
 
The Museum’s exhibition includes preparatory studies for the mural as well as in-process photographs of the installation; the panels were fabricated by Ben Volta Studios and the installation was managed by James Shuster. The project was realized with help from graphic designer Wenlu Bao; David W. Seltzer, transit consultant and catalog producer; SEPTA; Burns Engineering, Inc.; Converse Winkler Architecture; and Marsha Moss, public art curator and consultant. Station identification and exit signs were made by Jessica Liddell of Bella Mosaic Art. The mural is an important addition to Philadelphia’s rich landscape of public art.

Judd grew up in Salt Lake City and attended the University of Utah from 1970 to 1972. He received his bachelor of fine arts degree in painting from the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts). His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States, and is in the collections of numerous museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Birmingham Museum of Art, and Woodmere Art Museum. Judd works in a variety of media, including painting, collage, photography, and installation.
 
The accompanying catalogue features contributions by William R. Valerio, Marsha Moss, and David Seltzer, and includes descriptions of the mural process through Judd's explanation of each development phase: Presentation, Fabrication, and Installation. The catalogue is available for purchase here.
 
Exhibition-related Events
February 27 | Meet the Artist: Tom Judd | 11am-4pm
February 28 | Meet the Artist: Tom Judd | 11am-4pm
April 18 | Meet the Artist: Tom Judd | 1pm-4pm
May 23 | Meet the Artist: Tom Judd | 1pm-3pm
June 6 | Meet the Artist: Tom Judd | 1pm-3pm
June 13 | Meet the Artist: Tom Judd | 1pm-3pm
 

 

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