New sculpture takes up residence on PAFA plinth

 'Young Punch Juggling' by Connecticut-based artist Robert Taplin is the second in an ongoing series of temporary sculptures erected onto the façade of PAFA's historic building on North Broad Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

'Young Punch Juggling' by Connecticut-based artist Robert Taplin is the second in an ongoing series of temporary sculptures erected onto the façade of PAFA's historic building on North Broad Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A new, temporary sculpture erected over the front door of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is a hodgepodge of time eras.

“Young Punch Juggling” by Connecticut-based artist Robert Taplin is the second in an ongoing series of temporary sculptures erected onto the façade of PAFA’s historic building on North Broad Street.

It depicts Punch – a jester from the 17th century Italian commedia d’ellarte theater tradition – is rendered in modern fiberglass and LED lights. He’s juggling objects from a completely different era.

“They’re very specific to 1920s,” said Harry Philbrick, director of the museum at PAFA. “A top hat, hip flask, opera gloves. They are not contemporary.”

Philbrick asked Talpin to create a sculpture that responds to the building. Famed architect Frank Furness designed it in 1875 as his own contemporary response to traditional: he made a steel-trussed building with a classic Gothic Revival façade, including a sculpture platform over the front door – a plinth.

directorHarry Philbrick, director of the museum at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, looks up at the newly installed sculpture above the historic building’s entrance. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

This is the second of an ongoing series of plinth installations. The first – a fluorescent-colored fiberglass figure resembling Gumby – was made by the artist KAWS. Taplin, has a different approach.

“KAWS comes out of street art and deals of pop culture,” said Philbrick. “Taplin deals much more with the history of Western art, and the tradition of the sculpture on a plinth.”

More sculptural work by the artist Robert Taplin will be featured inside the museum and juxtaposed – like the work of KAWS had been – with the classical art from PAFA’s permanent collection. That opens February 13th.

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