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On 2nd Street, just south of Arch in Old City, one can find the headquarters for the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA). Founded in 1981 by a group of Philadelphia area designers, the AIGA Space represents the first local manifestation of the organization.

AIGA Philadelphia is currently comprised of more than 700 members, and the space is used not only as the headquarters of the local chapter but also host exhibitions, workshops and lectures throughout the year. More than 30 years after its inception, design and graphic arts have become increasingly integrated and important in our daily lives, so the AIGA is a true asset to the many designers, print artists and digital media buffs in Philadelphia and the tri-state area, as well as a link the rest of the country. It exists as a hub for exhibitions and information while allowing for the exchange of valuable graphic ideas and artworks.

AIGA Install

An installation view of AIGA’s Periodic Table.

The show on display right now is “Elements of Design: Artists Imagine Chemistry.” Originally part of the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s “Elemental Matters” exhibit, this show takes the periodic table and transforms it through a number of different lenses and interpretations.

Much of the show is comprised of 118 individual 6 x 6 foot prints by 97 different artists from around the world. Each of the tiles depicts a different element from the periodic table in a way that conveys the atom’s properties or the element’s uses in a visual way, oftentimes including the chemical symbol and number for easy references.

Uranium

Marty Harris, “Uranium.”

Uranium, for example, displays a nuclear yellow wash around a mushroom cloud made of statuesque women holding up a floral bouquet. The atomic number, 92, and the “U” for its period table designation rest solidly in the upper left and bottom right. It is powerful, beautiful and frightening all at once – a concise picture of the atomic age based on the element’s potential for providing either energy or destruction. Others include a saturated yellow paintbrush for cadmium by Amy Josefczyk-Papa, a crisp water faucet for copper by Kate Hutchison and a haunting, orange streetlight scene for sodium by Connie Pierson.

Sodium

Connie Pierson, “Sodium.”

Other takes on the complete periodic table also make appearances in the show, both byHalifax, Nova Scotiaartist David Clark. One is an interpretation of the famous chemical table in large-scale Braille and the other is arranged into the layout of an eye chart. They both allow for unorthodox ways of viewing the traditional layout which allow us to consider the elements in new and multi-sensory ways.

Visual Acuity

David Clark, “Visual Acuity.”

Many takes on the chemical makeup of our planet grace the walls of AIGA this month, creating a healthy marriage of science and art. “Elements of Design: Artists Imagine Chemistry” will be on display at the AIGA Space through November 30.

AIGA Philadelphia Space is located at 72 North 2nd St., Philadelphia; space@aigaphilly.org; aigaphilly.org

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