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For over twenty years, São Paulo-based artist Rivane Neuenschwander has honed a distinct multimedia practice that investigates the roles of collaboration and chance in the creative act. Whether in film, photography, or installation, Neuenschwander is principally concerned with what she calls “ethereal materialism,” or the role that ephemeral or everyday materials have in creating momentary experiences of wonder, chance, and enchantment in public space. The installation Um festival embananado is the sixth installment of a series of works Neuenschwander began making in 2004 titled Zé Carioca. The series title is a reference to the comic character José “Zé” Carioca, a dapper Brazilian parrot first created in 1941 by cartoonist José Carlos de Brito. The next year, the character was famously adapted by the Walt Disney Company as a companion of Donald Duck and later of Mickey Mouse. The creation of Disney’s new character was an extension of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy, which sought to maintain strategic relations in the Americas—in this case through popular culture. Frequently featured in comic strips, animated films, and television shows, Zé Carioca has become synonymous with Brazilian culture even as the character’s stereotypical traits as a suave, streetwise malandro (rascal) speak to the complicated history of American political interference in Latin America in the twentieth century. In her series, Neuenschwander creates mural blocks of Zé Carioca’s comic panels stripped of the original text and image, leaving only vibrant, Technicolor squares and blank speech bubbles. The artist then invites the public to continue the artwork by writing or drawing directly on the murals. The result is a collective form of social and individual expression determined entirely by the chance encounter in public space. 

New York-based artist María Berrío crafts her large-scale, watercolor paintings through a meticulous process of collaging and painting torn pieces of Japanese paper. The Conference of the Sparrows is part of Berrío’s most recent series, The Children’s Crusade, which blends the history of the Children’s Crusade of 1212 CE with the contemporary mass movement of peoples across borders. Berrío frames her series as a fictional tale, with each painting and its descriptive text serving as a scene from an unfolding story. In The Conference of the Sparrows, a family appears on a boat in a vast expanse of dappled water. As in many of Berrío’s works, this painting merges recognizable and iconic imagery with flights of imagination and fantasy. The blue wooden boat resembles those used by many migrants crossing the Mediterranean, its hull filled with domestic items, foodstuff, and figural details. These realistic elements merge with the otherworldly, including a nude, winged central figure that appears like an angel or a ship’s figurehead, hovering over a plastic bucket and conjuring safe passage. About this work, the artist writes: “To make the crossing required as much hope and courage as it did desperation, or nearly so. But the children had been assured that their gods would look over them. Their faith in a better world to come would protect them.” 

An acclaimed artist working primarily in the media of photography, film, and video, Shirin Neshat creates art that contends primarily with the experiences and struggles of Iranian women through the lens of religion, femininity, and modernity. Neshat’s film and photographs are concerned with the social relationships between women and men in Muslim societies and prompt important questions on representations of Muslim women in contemporary art. The photograph Untitled is from a series made the same year titled Passage, depicting scenes from Neshat’s single-channel video Passage from 2001. With an accompanying score by the composer Philip Glass (who originally commissioned Passage), the video was originally shot on 35mm film in the Moroccan seaside city Essaouira, and in the Moroccan desert at a halfway point between Marrakesh and Casablanca. The video is composed in three parts: the first follows a group of men carrying a body prepared for burial; the second, a group of women preparing a place for burial by digging into the ground with their hands; and the third, a young girl playing alone as the burial concludes with a funeral pyre. This photograph draws from the second part of the film, showing the women in a tight circle on their hands and knees, conflating the forms of their huddled bodies with the dry, rocky landscape. Likewise, their tightly gathered bodies resemble the form of the funeral pyre, layering nuanced meaning through these visual metaphors on the role of gender, performance, and ritual. 

In a career spanning over twenty years, Arlene Shechet embraces chance when making sculpture dictated by materials that change from one state to another before solidifying as a finished object. So and So and So and So and On and On is one of Shechet’s most significant works, marking a new direction within her practice. A ceramic sculptural diptych, the work is composed of two round, glazed forms displayed on top of irregular stacks of kiln bricks. The large, fleshy pink heads—whose color references, among other things, the paintings of one of Shechet’s heroes, Philip Guston—function as three-dimensional vessels for the gestural application of color. They are glazed so that the roseate colors layer in zigzagging paths across textured surfaces, with eyelike blue dots interspersed. The glazed and stacked kiln bricks, some white, some outlined thickly in black, are readymade pedestals for the bust-like, handmade ceramic forms. As integral features of Shechet’s sculptures, pedestals dynamically contrast with the elements they support. Here, the columns of kiln bricks reference the process by which the larger forms came into being, gesturing at the presence of the kiln itself as the arbiter of material transformation. Such interplay of forms demonstrates the artist’s dedication to challenging sculptural conventions, grounded, as she says, by “an experience of sculpture as a language for transmitting information, feelings, beliefs, and thoughts.” 

Whether in painting, sculpture, fabric, text, or performance, Jeffrey Gibson’s mixed-media work draws on a wide swath of visual languages, from popular fashion and queer culture, to American modernism inflected through Cherokee and Choctaw aesthetic traditions. Trained as a painter, Gibson describes his approach to the act of painting as akin to beadwork and weaving: “In my head, I [am] applying paint as if I were creating a woven fabric or adorning a textile.” Early in his practice, Gibson expanded on this technique further by incorporating different materials and objects, such as beads, glass, blankets, and metal jingles into works that mixed different aesthetic traditions. Gibson is interested in this hybridity as a way to counter dominant narratives of Native life and community in the Americas, particularly the prevalent misconception that Indigenous art traditions are fixed in the past, rather than within a continuum of adaptation and innovation. “It’s not just that we’ve survived,” Gibson reflects, “there are moments in which we have thrived, we’ve found happiness, we’ve found joy, we’ve found celebration. We’ve always carved out space for ourselves.” The flag, a form of political iconography and a recurring motif in the artist’s practice, is one lens through which Gibson investigates these claims to place, land, and sovereignty to visually critique narratives of settler colonialism. Layering vibrant geometric blocks of color painted on one side of a found wool army blanket, Flag reflects Gibson’s signature visual language and proposal of creative futures for the artistic act through mixed art traditions and their associations. 

Berlin-based artist Haegue Yang makes intricate and visually compelling sculptures from quotidian and domestic found materials, such as clothing racks, light bulbs, and graph paper. Nosy Clown – Fungus Powered comes from a larger series of light sculptures entitled Nosy Clown. These works feature common materials accumulated on wheeled clothing racks. Juxtaposing organic and synthetic elements, the handmade and the mass produced, Nosy Clown – Fungus Powered incorporates the artist’s hand-knit pom-poms and chaotically strewn pieces of yarn, alongside a red aluminum venetian blind and interwoven rope and cloth-covered cord, all topped with a vibrantly colored feather duster. Like others from the series, the sculpture is anthropomorphic and clown-like in appearance, especially with the feather duster resembling a clown nose. As in other of Yang’s works on casters, it is both a discrete object and one imbued with potential energy that might be activated if, and when, it is set in motion. Through its use of the artist’s signature materials (such as venetian blinds and casters) and with the presence of the artist’s hand, Nosy Clown – Fungus Powered exemplifies Yang’s unique visual vocabulary, her playful sense of humor, and her acuity in combining disparate materials to transformative ends. 

For more than forty years, Barbara Kruger has been a consistent and critical observer of contemporary culture. One of Kruger’s most recent time-based media works, Untitled (No Comment) resounds with images and themes that have come to define the artist’s practice. Over nearly ten minutes and across three channels, Kruger integrates a wide range of contemporary footage and sound to explore how the internet and social media amplify and distort age-old questions of power, value, and the ego. Edited together in a fast-paced and enthralling stream of images, texts, and sounds, the video includes polarizing political figures, advertisements, memes, scrolling text, a cat lip-synching to the melodic hook of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s hit song “Shallow,” and numerous other moving images to capture, as the video describes it, “our world in shambles.” While undoubtedly a reflection on our current moment, Kruger also integrates some of her previous works, replaying select phrases (such as “I need you to love me” and “A chilling doubt”) in new contexts and capturing the widespread transmission of her work on social media. Untitled (No Comment) thus functions as both a new artwork and a miniature survey—knitting together the enduring urgency of questions that Kruger has been posing since the 1980s through her singular artistic practice. 

The work of Marlene Dumas explores the thematic relationships between parenthood, sexuality, and death. Using a wide range of photographic source material, from her own Polaroids to newspaper images and pornography, Dumas creates paintings and drawings that are focused largely on the human body or face. She considers her source images to be political in their contemporaneity, showing the psychological realities of the era in which they were taken. She works in the tradition of portraiture, but she subordinates the aspect of individual appearance to the sitter’s mental and emotional state.

The Messengers reveals the fragile cycles of life in a four-panel painting that depicts three skeletons alongside a young child. While the anatomy is not detailed, Dumas creates a compressed intensity by scaling her figures to the height of the narrow canvasses and installing them close to the floor so they share our viewing space. Dumas made this painting when she was a new parent: the figure to the right is her daughter Helena. In contrast to the three small children sheepishly crowding around one of the skeletons, Helena turns her larger-than-life gaze directly toward us. Images of pregnant women and children recur in Dumas’s work, and Helena is a frequent subject. The Messengers is typical of Dumas’s way of suggesting that motherhood and childhood are not as distant from issues of mortality as we might think. The size and postures of the skeletons and Helena are the same, and the skeleton beside her holds a small figure near its pubis as though it had just given birth; the association emphasizes the inexorability of the cycle of life and death.

The striking and monumental The Messengers strengthens the representation of Dumas’s work in the ICA/Boston collection, which also includes her German Witch, 2000.


Tara Donovan transforms everyday materials into formally elegant sculptures, installations, and works on paper. She has made works from massive accumulations of pins, straws, toothpicks, tarpaper, tape, buttons, paper plates, and pencils. The means by which Donovan manipulates these objects are often simple—ripping, stacking, twisting, piling, cutting, grouping—yet the results are spectacular. The artist begins by testing and experimenting with a given material, seeking to remain true to its inherent properties while pushing its capacities. As Donovan has said, “Every new material comes with a specific repetitive action that builds the work.” Colored buttons form rippling towers that recall sea coral, or three million cups are stacked to form an undulating topographic map. When viewers discover what Donovan’s works are made of, they are surprised and delighted by how something so familiar and ordinary can become so unexpected and new.

Untitled (Pins), made of many thousands of straight pins, is a perfect cube reminiscent of the work of minimalists like Donald Judd. Rather than following the minimalist strategy of industrial fabrication, however, Donovan herself poured and pressed the pins into a four-sided square mold. When she removed the sides, the pins created a cube shape bound together by nothing more than surface tension: rather than holding fabric in place, the pins hold only themselves. As in much of her work, light plays off the cube, making it glitter enticingly. For all its prickliness, it begs to be touched. Yet, unlike Carl Andre’s relatively indestructible floor pieces or Judd’s cubes, Untitled (Pins) is fragile, on the brink of falling apart at the slightest touch. Far from tragic, it betrays a sense of humor and humility.

When the ICA/Boston organized survey of Donovan’s work in 2008, this work particularly aroused the affection of viewers. Untitled (Pins) complements the ICA’s Cornelia Parker pieces, as both artists reanimate the overlooked and mundane to create works of striking beauty.


Sandra Cinto rose to prominence in the late 1980s. In her drawing-based work, she develops the possibilities of line at an architectural scale, and brings attention to the multiple layers of visual experience. Cinto often depicts the landscape in spare yet florid compositions that invoke the sublime and emphasize turbulence in seascapes, rainstorms, and blustery skies. She is frequently commissioned to create large-scale, site-specific works in which she drapes spaces in wide swaths of lush, blue-tinted drawings, pushing the limits of the medium. In these spiraling, expansive works, Cinto offers the rigors of travel across challenging terrain as a metaphor for human ambition.

​Although Cinto is less known for her photographic work, the medium allows her to explore many of the themes that inform her environmental works, namely, the play between flatness and depth, transparency and opacity, and drawing and three-dimensional space. In Untitled, a ghostly bluish-green hand floats within the frame against an indeterminate background. The glass separating the viewer from the image has been streaked and scored by longitudinal etching marks, as if the glass had been shattered, rupturing the serenity of the milky composition. The hand’s tensely curled and truncated fingers, coupled with the scarred glass that encases it, lend the work an eerie, disquieting air.

​This multimedia work by Cinto builds on the ICA/Boston’s growing collection of late twentieth-century photography and artworks that dissolve the divide between photography, sculpture, and painting, such as those by Gilbert and George, Leslie Hewitt, and Annette Lemieux. It also adds to the ICA’s burgeoning collection of Latin American art.