Duke  Riley

Reclaiming the Lost Kindom of Laird

Riley focused in on the tiny yet contentious island in the Delaware River known as Petty’s Island. In the past the island served as a safe haven for pirates, illegal immigrants, gambling, and duels. In the 1850s, Irish immigrant Ralston Laird settled on the island and declared himself king. For his project Reclaiming the Lost Kingdom of Laird, Riley tracked down Laird descendants and “reclaimed” the island on behalf of the family. Items from Riley’s project—including artifacts excavated from the island and decorative plates with images of Laird descendants—were displayed.

Duke Riley lives and works in New York City and received his MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 2006. Riley has become known for this interest in history as a purveyor of narratives that can be reconfigured. He is also fascinated with navigation and the sailor subculture; constant travel and adventure; shipbuilding; maps and hidden treasures; pirates; and tattoos. Two of his recent works involved the construction of ships: After the Battle of Brooklyn, 2007, for which he built an acorn-shaped mini-submarine and attempted to attack the Queen Mary II; and Those About to Die Salute You, 2009, where he staged a naumachia or mock naval battle inside a flooded pool in Queens’ Corona Park, which pitted boats manned by education staff from museums of the five boroughs of New York, and which ended in joyous chaos. Riley uses a multitude of media to realize his projects, including drawing, printmaking, mosaic, sculpture, performative interventions, and video. He has had solo exhibitions at Magnan Projects, New York, White Box, New York; his work has also been exhibited at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, and the American Natural History Museum, New York.

Image credit: Greenhouse Media

More Info

Opening Reception with Duke Riley: February 4, 6pm

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

1300 Locust St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107   
(215) 732-6200