philadelphia

Virgil Marti

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum

Even in this nineteenth-century museum/school, architecturally idiosyncratic by any standard, the first arch-framed glimpse of Virgil Marti’s installation caused a visceral jolt that only intensified as one approached. Marti had transformed the exhibition space with fluorescent wallpaper of his own design, which glowed in the gallery under black light. The fill, as the main panels are called, repeated a large composite image of a range of landscape icons, from palm trees to Rocky Mountain waterfalls; the scene announced the kind of botanical anomalies Marti finds in the recollected landscapes of Frederic Church as well as the geographical peculiarities in some panoramas of nineteenth-century “scenics.” But Marti’s take on transporting wallpaper also evoked the psychedelic vernacular of the ’60s and ’70s and awakened the viewer's sense of nostalgia. A deep black flocking added a kitschy

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