Kelly Sherman, Wish Lists (detail), 2006. Inkjet prints, Forty parts, each: 14 × 8 1/2 inches (35.6 × 21.6 cm). Gift of James and Audrey Foster. © Kelly Sherman
Kelly Sherman’s video- and text-based work reveals the dynamics of family and social relationships through carefully constructed charts, graphs, diagrams, and picture sequences. Sherman derives her source materials from her own experiences and those of strangers as gleaned from online searches and personal interviews. In elegantly restrained visual statements that speak to shared humanity, the artist considers the emotive power of a single word, the strategic placement of a symbol, the weight of a demarcating line, and the precise shade of a particular color.
In Wish Lists, Sherman presents forty such lists, taken from the Internet, each on a separate sheet of paper. The lists offer a powerful, suggestive glimpse into the lives of their authors, with hints about their age, gender, and circumstances. The items requested range from the most broad and basic, such as “School,” to the minutely specific, such as “VideoNow Color Disks 3-Pack: Monster Garage 2.” Individually and collectively, the wish lists reveal how we are shaped by the things we live with and long for—both necessary and not.
Wish Lists, winning Sherman the 2006 James and Audrey Foster Prize, is the first fully text-based work acquired by the ICA/Boston. Though unique in its genre within the collection, it is in dialogue with a range of other works that incorporate found materials and deal with the issue of domesticity, such as those by Alexandre da Cunha, Ellen Gallagher, and Charles LeDray.