Press Release

 Two new exhibitions open Dec. 12 at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

First U.S. solo museum exhibition of Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson
Recent paintings by New York-based artist Mickalene Thomas

(Boston—Nov. 29, 2012) The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston opens Ragnar Kjartansson: Song on Dec. 12, the first U.S. solo museum exhibition of Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. A musician as well as an artist, Kjartansson makes performance and video works that sample a wide range of culture, from the sagas of his native Iceland to American blues music. Often inspired by misheard lyrics, Kjartansson’s song-filled videos investigate the porous boundaries between reality and fiction, as well as the inherent artifice of performance. The exhibition includes a selection of video works from the last decade as well as a live, multi-hour performance of Schubert’s An die Musik on Dec. 13, from 5 – 9 pm (tickets are free). Coordinated for the ICA by Curatorial Associate Anna Stothart, Ragnar Kjartansson: Song is organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. The exhibition is on view from Dec. 12, 2012 through April 7, 2013.

A brilliant and nimble performer, Kjartansson uses music to focus on the persona of the performer, whom he often sets against extreme conditions. In The End the artist and friends play rock-and-roll in the heart of the wintry Canadian Rockies; in Satan is Real he croons while bare-chested and buried waist deep in a hole. Kjartansson also presents other performers, such as the iconic American blues musician Pinetop Perkins and even his own mother. The artist’s lush videos—characterized by incongruous settings, repetition and endurance, and humorous or nostalgic soundtracks—elicit contradictory feelings of pleasure and anxiety, humor and sincerity, sentimentality and skepticism.

Exhibition-related performance
Thursday, Dec. 13, 5 – 9 pm
Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater
Tickets: Free
Kjartansson sings composer Franz Schubert’s An Die Musik, an ode to art as a refuge from the stress and strain of everyday life, in constant repetition for four hours. The artist will be joined in this herculean task by fellow Icelandic musician Davíð Þór Jónsson and several Boston-area singers and pianists.

Ragnar Kjartansson: Song has been organized by Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

Sponsored by The Robert E. Davoli and Eileen L. McDonagh Charitable Foundation.


Mickalene Thomas
Dec. 12, 2012 – April 7, 2013

Mickalene Thomas is best known for her vibrant acrylic and enamel paintings of African-American women that are adorned with rhinestones and glitter. Combining the genres of portraiture and domestic interior, Mickalene Thomas draws on art history and popular culture to create a contemporary vision of black female sexuality, beauty, and power. The exhibition highlights the ways in which Thomas experiments with the construction of intimate interior spaces to create a metaphor for the status of the female body—itself either present or absent—as it has been interpreted and used throughout the history of art. Organized by Curatorial Associate Anna Stothart, Mickalene Thomas features a selection of five, recent, large-scale paintings.

Meticulously composed of layers of bold patterns and bright blocks of color adorned with Swarovski rhinestones, the paintings are constructed through a rigorous three-part process. Thomas begins by constructing a tableau, posing a model, and taking a photograph. She then cuts up the photograph—fragmenting, deconstructing, and re-contextualizing the interior space—and reassembles the image as a collage. Finally, she reproduces the collage, at a greatly expanded scale, in acrylic, oil, and enamel.

As Thomas reorganizes the interior space surrounding the female figure, she draws inspiration from late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century artists such as Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, and Romare Bearden—all of whom used abstraction, to one degree or another, in their representations of the world. Combining patterns and styles drawn from a 1970s aesthetic, Thomas’s compositions simultaneously recall the “black is beautiful” movement, as well as the second wave of feminism that shattered cultural assumptions about sexuality, family, the workplace, and reproductive rights.

Exhibition-related film
Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman: A Portrait of My Mother (2012, 23 min.)
Thomas’s first short film is part documentary and part emotional portrait of her mother Sandra Bush—both inspiration and muse to the artist’s work. See for screening dates and times.
Mickalene Thomas is generously sponsored by the Lehmann Maupin Gallery.


Ragnar Kjartansson, The End, 2009. Five-channel video (still). Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik.

Mickalene Thomas, Baby I Am Ready Now, 2007. Rhinestone, acrylic, and enamel on wooden panel. 72 x 132 inches. Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

About the ICA

An influential forum for multi-disciplinary arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art has been at the leading edge of art in Boston for 75 years. Like its iconic building on Boston's waterfront, the ICA offers new ways of engaging with the world around us. Its exhibitions and programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA, located at 100 Northern Avenue, is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.– 5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $15 adults, $13 seniors and $10 students, and free for members and children 17 and under. State Street Corporation Free Admission for Youth at the ICA is generously supported by the State Street Corporation. Free admission on ICA Free Thursday Nights, 5–9 p.m. Free admission for families at ICA Play Dates (2 adults and children 12 and under) on the last Saturday of the month. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our Web site at



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