February 22, 2019

A Landmark Philadelphia Sculpture WHITE WATER (1978) Makes its Way to Woodmere Art Museum

Sculpture Move

PHILADELPHIA, PA (February 25, 2019) White Water, the 40-foot-long, 16-foot high masterpiece of geometric stainless steel sculpture of 1978 by Robinson Fredenthal, will get a new home on the grounds of Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill when it moves there over the weekend of March 1. White Water was a project of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art Program in the Independence Mall Urban Renewal Area. It was commissioned for the courtyard behind 401 Market Street, and has been installed there up until now. The artist, Fredenthal, is known worldwide as a genius in the manipulation of geometry to create monumental public sculpture.

At Woodmere, it will become the latest element in a growing experience of outdoor sculpture in the museum’s majestic green landscape.

William Valerio, the Patricia Van Burgh Alison Director and CEO, said, “What makes Woodmere different from all other museums is the ability to connect with art in the lush, green environment of our Wissahickon landscape. Fredenthal is one of Philadelphia’s most significant sculptors, and we are thrilled that one of his most intriguing and elegant creations will become a new monument on Germantown Avenue, right at the corner of Bells Mill Road.”

This Fredenthal sculpture comes to Woodmere via a generous donation by the owners of the 401 Market Street property, an entity managed by Miller Investment Management, LP, and the American Bible Society, which moved into the building when the organization relocated from New York to Philadelphia. American Bible Society is funding the relocation of the sculpture from Independence Mall to Woodmere.

H. Scott Miller, the Founder and Managing Partner of Miller Investment Management, said: Our investors and our firm are committed to the betterment of Philadelphia’s cultural wellness and we are thrilled that White Water will have a new life and visibility at Woodmere, which will provide new opportunities for educational engagement and understanding.”

American Bible Society will soon commence construction of the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center, set to open next year. The Center will offer an immersive and illuminating experience through advanced technology and scholarly insight for visitors to explore how faith, and the Bible, figure into our country’s history and into our lives today. This latest attraction on Independence Mall will transform the concourse and ground floor of the west side of the building, along with the surrounding plaza.

Patrick Murdock, Managing Director of the American Bible Society’s Faith and Discovery Center said, “American Bible Society is honored to build its new home on the historic grounds of the Independence District. As White Water finds its new home at Woodmere, we will develop a new space to share a positive sense of spiritual experience with visitors from near and far through our exciting world-class facility on Market and 5th Street.”

White Water will travel from Independence Mall to Chestnut Hill on a journey similar to that of the Harry Bertoia fountain sculpture which was once situated on the plaza of the old Civic Center and is now a much-photographed and admired sentinel outside of Woodmere’s front door.

A police escort will lead the way as the sculpture, which will have been placed in its immense entirety on a flatbed truck by the expert handling of George Young Mamoet, slowly makes its way through Philadelphia traffic to its new home at Woodmere.

On Monday, March 4, it will be lifted onto new footings and toasted by those who facilitated its voyage to a new home.

Julia Guerrero, Director, Percent for Art Program at the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority of the City said, “White Water is an unforgettable work of art by one of Philadelphia’s most beloved artists. This soaring, optimistic piece uses sculptural geometry to create a space for reflection and a moment of beauty for everyone to enjoy. PRA would like to thank the Miller Group, the American Bible Society, and Woodmere Art Museum for their commitment to the public good and the importance of art in the civic environment.”

Robinson Fredenthal (1940-2009) came to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania. His graduate studies in architecture were interrupted by the onset of Parkinson’s Disease, after which he turned from an architectural career to the sculptural exploration of geometry and its limitless possibilities of combination. Through the creation of precise models, most of which are now part of the Architectural Archives at Penn, he was able to guide assistants to fabricate his large works.

From his wheelchair, Fredenthal taught welding to the sculptor of industrial steel, Dina Wind (1938-2014), whose monumental sculpture Spring & Triangle will “speak” to White Water across the expanse of Woodmere’s front lawn. Landscape work, to be undertaken in the spring, will complete the installation and further unite the many sculptures on Woodmere’s front lawn.

Fredenthal’s distinctive and immediately recognizable geometric forms command spaces across Philadelphia at 1234 Market Street, on Penn’s campus at 34th and Walnut, and at nearby Morris Arboretum, immediately adjacent to Woodmere. One might imagine a conversation over the trees! As Robin Fredenthal said, “… these things keep relating to each other even when they’re not meant to..”

Peter Saylor, FAIA and principal at JacobsWyper Architecture, the architects hired by American Bible Society to design the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center, attended the University of Pennsylvania with the artist. He said, “I knew Robin, and he was among the very greatest minds of his generation. He brought an architect’s sensibility to sculpture in his ability to bend geometry to the creative spirit of his imagination. I wish that he was with us today to see his magnificent sculpture at Woodmere together with Bertoia’s Free Interpretation of Plant Forms (1967) and other great works of sculpture that now make Woodmere a center of gravity for sculpture in the region.”

Valerio observed, “In these last years, as I have visited White Water more often downtown, I have noticed that couples gravitate to the space under the apex of its great arching form and kiss there.”

He added, “It’s like mistletoe all through the year, and I encourage everyone to post their romantic selfies under the sculpture’s shimmering triangles on our social media. We invite everyone to enjoy!”



Ruth Hirshey Lincoln


About Woodmere Art Museum

Housed in a 19th-century stone mansion on six acres in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Woodmere Art Museum offers a unique museum experience that centers on the art and artists of Philadelphia. The building, grounds, and core of the permanent collection are the gifts of Charles Knox Smith (1845 – 1916). Born of modest means, Smith became a passionate collector of contemporary art in his day. In 1898 he purchased the Woodmere estate with the grand ambition of creating a spiritual experience through encounters with great works of art in the context of the green beauty of the Wissahickon and Chestnut Hill. Woodmere continues to honor and interpret Smith’s vision of bringing art and nature together with a collection that highlights historical and contemporary art as well as outdoor sculpture. Woodmere’s vibrant, changing exhibitions serve as a platform for an ongoing series of: family events, tours, gallery talks, lectures, panel discussions, studio art classes, film, and music performances. Woodmere is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction held by only approximately five percent of museums nationwide.