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The Parthenon Project, a lobby installation by Pittsburgh architect Paul Rosenblatt and New York City photographer Judith Turner, will be exhibited at Lafayette College's Williams Center for the Arts from September 14 through October 31. A “closing” reception will be held 3-5 p.m. on the last day.

The installation is part of Lafayette's 1999 Roethke Humanities Festival, titled “Modern Appropriations of Homer's Odyssey,” celebrating the epic which was this summer's common reading assignment for the Class of 2003. Held every two years, the Roethke Festival is named for Theodore Roethke (1908-63), a former Lafayette faculty member and noted poet of the 1940s and '50s. Roethke published several critically acclaimed volumes of poetry, including The Waking, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1954.

Visitors to The Parthenon Project, which was previously installed at Carnegie Mellon University (1996) and the Erie Art Museum (1998), experience a contemporary analog to the original Greek Parthenon built in fifth-century B.C.E. Athens and dedicated to Athena. In contrast to the permanent materials of the original Parthenon, Rosenblatt's 20th-century temple is made of materials found in everyday American life — wood studs, white fiberglass sheets, fluorescent lights, and a small television monitor (with an image of an owl, the symbol of Athena). He places Turner's photographs of the ancient Parthenon pediment sculpture into this new architectural context. Among the issues that Rosenblatt addresses in The Parthenon Project is how images can become integral parts of architectural spaces, and how illusory images of buildings can transform the perception of physical reality.

The Parthenon Project began as Rosenblatt's response to Turner's photo-etchings of the Parthenon's pediment sculpture. Turner had photographed the sculpture at the British Museum in 1991 and 1992. Twenty-four of these were then produced as photo-etchings by Vincent FitzGerald for an artist's portfolio.

“I believe that architecture is an art, but architecture and art are different disciplines,” explains Rosenblatt. “I've always been interested in the relationship between the two, and how one activity can inform the other. The challenges that architects face in the scale of projects, the function of buildings, time frames, and the reality of how people actually use the structures means that they cannot address some physical and creative issues as directly as people working in another field. For me, art is a direct way to work out ideas about the built environment.”

Adds Turner: “For me, the results demonstrate how one successful collaboration can lead to another. In addition, they illustrate how great works of art remain alive not only in and of themselves, but in their power to inspire reinterpretations and reinventions.”

Rosenblatt practices architecture in Pittsburgh with the firm of Damianos & Anthony PC. His cross-disciplinary work has explored the relationship between art and architecture in the form of buildings, site-specific art-installations, exhibitions and texts. He has received several awards for his work, including an American Institute of Architects' Open Plan Award in 1991, and was included in the 1993 “young architects” issue of Progressive Architecture.

A resident of New York City, Turner has had solo exhibitions in the United States, Europe, Israel, and Japan. She has been awarded several grants and fellowships, and in 1994 received an American Institute of Architects Honor Award. Several books of her work have been published, and her photographs are included in the permanent collections of institutions such as The Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the International Center of Photography in New York City, and galleries in Canada, Paris, Germany and Japan.

Other Roethke Festival events centering on the Odyssey include a second Williams Center installation, “Journeys,” which opens October 24. Aquila Theatre of London will stage the Iliad at the Williams Center November 13, and the company's artistic director, Robert Richmond, will deliver a talk on “Homer's Epics for the Modern Theater.” There also will be a modern dance performance based on James Joyce's Ulysses by Philadelphia's Headlong Dance Company and a feminist reading of the Odyssey by Peggy Phelan of New York University. For additional information on Roethke Festival events, please call the cultural program office at 610-330-5010.

The 1999-2000 Gallery Exhibition Series is funded, in part, by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Art Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday, 2-5 p.m. Sunday, half an hour before Williams Center performances, and by appointment. For information on exhibits, call 610-330-5361.

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