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Allan Espiritu and GDLOFT: Beneath the Surface of Things

Written by in Design, Features

Kindred Spirits

Sometimes the name fits. For Allan Espiritu, founder and principal of GDLOFT (gdloft.com), a Philadelphia design and art studio, the name  reflects his philosophy towards life, work, art, and conversation. With infectious enthusiasm, intelligence, and wit, Espiritu’s body of work is powerful, ironic, often searing.

GDLOFT is a partnership between Espiritu and creative partner Kevin Kernan. Allan is the current head of the Graphic Design Program at Rutgers-Camden and an active member of AIGA Philadelphia, where he mentors young designers and advocates for the Philadelphia design community. As a fine artist, he uses the language of design to disrupt viewer perceptions and invites them to look beyond the surface of things. Most of all, he invites audiences to engage in the art of life.

(Pictured above, installation by GDLOFT for Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flanerie show at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Photos by Eric Sison Photography, Philadelphia.)

Allan Espiritu’s work suggests it is far better to touch, hold, and navigate a thing than merely look at it. As advocates for the tangible artifact and experience through fine paper and printing, Neenah Paper could not have met a more kindred spirit.




GDLOFT resides in Philadelphia’s Kensington district inside the historic Crane Arts Building, once a warehouse for plumbing supplies and, later, seafood. The past is present: Kensington’s once fetid and industrial waterfront has now given way to a vital and industrious creative community. The building was restored in 2002 and converted into a center for artists and culture. Floors that once stored pipe fittings and iced fish now host a community that connects and feeds Philadelphia in new and exciting ways.


Through art and design, GDLOFT provokes and encourages audiences to participate. Passive viewing is not enough — yet in a online article such as this, viewing is the only thing we can do. If you want to gain the full value of an Espiritu experience, visit one of his installations or exhibitions. Go to GDLOFT’s website for news of events.


Above: Kevin Kernan (left) and Allan Espiritu (center) with Chelsea Majuri (right), a senior designer at GDLOFT studio. Photo: E.M. Ricchini Photography.


I, Must, Confess, I, Still, Believe: Six Thousand Google Results (2011). Photo: Eric Sison Photography.

Espiritu’s art installation I, Must, Confess, I, Still, Believe: Six Thousand Google Results (above), examines the ephemeral nature of language. Google image-search results for each word in the title are pinned on a wall. Simple? Look closer: layers of meaning unfold. “I” reveals the myriad presentations of self on a given day. “Must” showcases representations of temporal obligation. “Confess” zeroes in on news of Tiger Woods’ marital infidelity.

I, Must, Confess deploys Google search to explore collective obsessions and curiosities, ever-shifting and constantly redefined. As subsequent installations of the exhibit demonstrate, same-word searches on different days alter the canvas and suggest the illusive nature of “reality.” What makes this installation unusual is that viewers become authors of their own experience, painters of their own canvas.


Effacing Boundaries (2011). The Stedman Gallery. Photo: E.M. Ricchini Photography.

Printed on French Paper, the Effacing Boundaries catalog for Rutgers University’s Camden Fine Art faculty implores readers to “rip the boundary,” transforming a catalog into a poster. Paper is a catalyst: Each fold, crease, and perforation is a new opportunity to enjoy fresh a new discovery.


Paper Architecture (2012). Muhlenberg College Martin Art Gallery. Photo: E.M. Ricchini Photography.

Designers scored the front and back covers, inviting readers to fold boxes into letterforms. Shown here, Paper Architecture opens to reveal GDLOFT’s identity.


No Idea Is Too Ridiculous (2011). PEW Institute. Photo: E.M. Ricchini Photography. Printer: Great Atlantic.

Layered and complex, Pew Institute’s No Idea workbook amplifies its mission to “explore creativity and risk-taking, and to learn from one another.” Each leaf of the book embodies risk, creative possibility, and the power of individuality. Printed on Endurance Paper.


GDLOFT business cards. Photo: Kevin Kernan. Letterpress by Pointed Press.

Printed on CRANE’S LETTRA® Papers, Fluorescent White, 220#. When you have paper this tactile and letterpress this crisp, why embellish? Production value is the brand message.


Additional Credits

Complex Weave, Rutgers Camden Center for the Arts, Rutgers University, 2009. Mixed Media. Artist: Allan Espiritu.

You Got the Power, Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flanerie. Barnes Foundation, 2017. Photo: Eric Sison Photography.

Deeper and Deeper, Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flanerie, Barnes Foundation, 2017. Photo: Eric Sison Photography.

I Was So Blind, Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flanerie. Barnes Foundation, 2017. Photo: Eric Sison Photography.


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