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The southern tip of Philadelphia where the Schuylkill meets the Delaware River used to be a separate piece of land, separated from the rest of the city by a waterway. Called League Island, it stopped being one in the late 1920s, when the U.S. Navy filled the back channel to create an airfield.
That history provided inspiration for the name of the latest Philadelphia Navy Yard installation by Group X.
You might know the artist collaborative from their past works — a building-size sea monster and a climbable web of packing tape — at the sprawling mixed-use campus, where developers are slowly but surely transforming the industrial structures of the former naval base into businesses, residences, hotels and shops.
Group X popped back on the Navy Yard radar in September 2020 with a collection dubbed “Mystery Island and the Marvelous Occurrence of Spontaneous Art,” aka M.I.M.O.S.A.
Comprising six different outdoor structures made of wire, yarn, paper and metal, by artists from Philadelphia and around the globe, the installation is still up, and available for socially distanced viewing through Nov. 2.
You don’t need any tickets to attend, just your facemask and yourself. Here’s a look at what you’ll find when you go.
‘Libertad (Freedom)’ by Justin Favela
12th Street between Normandy Place & Constitution Avenue
Yes, that is a 1984 Ford Thunderbird turned into a piñata. No, you can’t smash it open to find candy inside.
What you can do is appreciate its fluttering beauty from many angles, while contemplating the Las Vegas-based artist’s inspiration: their mother, who bought this model as her first car after immigrating to the U.S. from Guatemala.
The colors represent the Guatemalan flag, according to Favela’s statement, which notes that the lowrider “was a symbol of progress for her, of independence, the end of ‘the American Dream’ mythos.”
‘Florecer (Flourish)’ by Raquel Rodrigo
Building 99, 13th Street & Constitution Avenue
Embroidering buildings is the calling card of this yarn artist based in Valencia, Spain, who travels to add “flourish” to cities around the world.
The idea is to bring a feminine delicacy to streetscapes, according to Rodrigo’s statement, dressing homes in new clothes and mixing the mediums of craft, architecture and design into a three-dimensional structure.
‘Urban Jewelry / Rusty Love’ by Liesbet Bussche
Admiral Peary Way between 13th Street & Broad Street
If not for its scale, this piece of art would be totally recognizable: it’s a “name necklace,” like those worn by countless people around the world.
This particular edition happens to feature a pendant measuring more than 7 feet across. It’s held in place by a rusty ship chain and nautical clasps, which, along with its message, shout out the many marines and sailors who left loved ones on this shore as they sailed out to sea.
The Belgian artist is known as a jewelry designer, albeit pieces that adorn buildings instead of humans. Per Bussche’s statement, the work is a “cross-pollination between the city as a democratic context and jewelry as a social phenomenon.”
‘BitterSweetVine’ by Reed Bmore
Buildings 100 + 101, Broad Street & Intrepid Avenue
If you didn’t know to seek out this piece, you might miss it — but a glint of sunlight would then catch your eye and make you look twice.
Created of galvanized wire, the “two dimensional, three-dimensional drawing,” as the Baltimore-based artist describes it, shows a young child swinging between an eagle and a vulture, a bird cage and a bird house.
These contrasting elements represent the differences in concept between a home and a prison, per Bmore’s statement, with “bittersweet vines” intertwined among them.
‘Ray of Hope’ by DAKU
Crescent Park, 13th Street & Rouse Boulevard
Wait for a sunny day to catch the full effect of this typographic sculpture, which projects the word “hope” in more than two dozen languages on the concrete below.
The artist from Delhi, India, is known for this ethereal style of graffiti, using shadows and light to spread messages across urban landscapes around the globe. The sun, referred to in their statement as “one of the truest and consistent gifts of nature,” becomes an integral part of the work.
In this case, its rays are meant to be a catalyst for positivity as they filter through the metal canopy.
‘Where the Wild Jawns Are’ by Kid Hazo + South Fellini
League Island Park, 12th Street & Constitution Avenue
Little explanation is needed for anyone familiar with Philadelphia culture and classic children’s books.
A collab between the anonymous Philly street artist known for satirical signage and the two founders of a local apparel and lifestyle brand, this bridge troll and its pals will likely only attack fans of Sheetz.
Say the artists in their statement: “These figures are the metaphysical embodiment of Philly’s leisure lifestyle. They’re the monsters in all of us who are just trying to have a good time.”