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Opening Oct. 10, the exhibition brings together more than 125 films and videos for an immersive “walk-through experience.”

(Boston, MA—MAY 9, 2024) In October 2024, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents Charles Atlas: About Time, the first U.S. museum survey of pioneering interdisciplinary artist Charles Atlas (b. 1949 in St. Louis). The retrospective exhibition presents work created over 50 years, including a new sculptural video installation on view for the first time. It brings together key components of more than 125 films and videos in monumental and immersive multichannel video installations the artist describes as “walk-through experiences.” Encompassing themes of performance and portraiture, gender and sexuality, and collaboration and friendship, Charles Atlas: About Time is oriented around the artist’s groundbreaking work at the intersections of moving image, dance, and performance, and his intimate video portraits of close collaborators and friends. The exhibition is accompanied by a lushly illustrated catalogue featuring significant new scholarship on Atlas’s practice and co-published by the ICA and DelMonico Books. On view from Oct. 10 to Mar. 16, 2024, Charles Atlas: About Time is organized by Jeffrey De Blois, the ICA’s Mannion Family Curator, with Max Gruber, ICA Curatorial Assistant. 

“Charles Atlas originated the genre of ‘media-dance’ while working as filmmaker-in-residence at Merce Cunningham Dance Company in the 1970s and early 80s. This retrospective exhibition offers visitors an important and long overdue immersion into Atlas’s unparalleled and highly influential legacy in film and video art,” said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director. 

Charles Atlas: About Time is a historically significant retrospective, displaying the breadth of Atlas’s work through room-filling installations that collapse time within their structures and showcase the full scope of Atlas’s creative powers,” said De Blois. “Featuring ‘exploded views’ of the artist’s genre-defying works, this presentation reveals Atlas’s unique negotiation of time as a medium throughout his storied, 50-year career.” 

Atlas’s early career is defined by his time as filmmaker-in-residence at the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in New York. There, he followed the circle of artists with whom Cunningham collaborated closely, including John Cage, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and others. Atlas and Cunningham pioneered the genre of “media-dance”—dance made for the camera, rather than an in-person audience—through a series of video collaborations of successive complexity. Following his time at the company, his works increasingly featured overt expressions of sexuality, especially gay and queer sexuality, and notions of gender that move well beyond constrictive binaries. Likewise, Atlas goes on to value every form of performance equally, from modern dance made for the stage, to drag shows in underground clubs, to today’s viral dance videos made for TikTok. 

Beginning around the time of friend and collaborator Merce Cunningham’s death in 2009, Atlas, an artist who always looked unflinchingly forward to the next project, began to look back at his vast archive of video to create new and increasingly personal works. Through this retrospective approach, Atlas creates “exploded views” of his earlier single-channel videos. Footage from one video is displayed in new spatial configurations on multiple screens and monitors, split into fragments, and edited together for dramatic effect as a “walk-through experience.” These installations are choreographed in space in a way that approximates the movements of the performers on-screen, inspiring visitors to move fluidly between and among them. The works reveal Atlas’s astute sense of architectural space—informed by his time working for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. 

Charles Atlas: About Time traces a non-linear arc of the artist’s practice from the early 1970s to the present, featuring works that highlight key moments from Atlas’s prodigious career, starting with his sculptural video installation, The Years (2018). In The Years, the artist imagines a stand-alone retrospective comprising 77 videos and films laid out across four flat-screen monitors that are displayed upright, like gravestones. On each screen, short excerpts of earlier works—organized into 12-year periods—scroll like the ending credits of a film. These include moments from the small, personal film Cartridge Lengths and Long Shots (1970); Son of Sam and Delilah (1991), which the artist describes as an emotional response to the AIDS crisis; Mrs. Peanut Visits New York (1992–99), which features famed performance artist, fashion designer, and nightlife icon Leigh Bowery; and What Does Unstable Time Even Mean (2015), a media-dance choreographed by Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Reiner. Projected behind the gravestone-like monitors is a group of four expressionless young people staring unmoved into the distance. Farther behind them is a projection showing a starry night sky, as if the sun had already set. This heightens the theatricality of The Years, in which Atlas wonders openly what his work will mean to subsequent generations. 

Since leaving the company in 1983, Atlas has been a leading figure in film and video art, and one of the preeminent artists to capture dance and performance on camera through groundbreaking collaborations with Michael Clark, Yvonne Rainer, Leigh Bowery, Marina Abramović, Rashaun Mitchell, and Silas Reiner, among others. Much of Atlas’s genre-defying, collaborative work has proved prescient for a generation of artists working today. Contemporary concerns such as the creative possibilities of performance and portraiture on camera and the political urgency of challenging commonly held conventions of gender, sexuality, and queer identity have been at the heart of Atlas’s creative output for decades. 

Of her time working with Charles Atlas, Abramović said, “Putting together his over-the-top spirit of plenty and my minimalism, we brought to life three collaborative works: SSS, The Biography, and Delusional. Looking back, I can see now how this collaboration pushed me into a new dimension, liberating me from my own limitations and fears. Charles Atlas is a true original and innovator, helping us to see the world around us in a new way through his work.” 

Collaboration has been central to Atlas’s practice and his work. MC⁹ (2012) commemorates the artist’s long-term collaboration and friendship with choreographer Merce Cunningham. Created following Cunningham’s death in 2009, MC⁹ combines large-scale projection screens and sculpturally positioned monitors in a complex arrangement of newly edited material from Atlas’s work with Cunningham. The installation encompasses fragments of 21 videos from their 40-year collaboration, from Walkaround Time, Atlas’s first proper film documenting a performance in 1973, through Ocean, completed in 2010. Also included is footage of a gray-haired Cunningham dancing to house music around a ballet barre, his final filmed dance piece captured by Atlas. The monumental scale of MC⁹ in many ways conveys the scale of the artists’ creative partnership.  

Taking an approach similar to MC⁹, A Prune Twin (2020) adapts fragments of Hail the New Puritan (1986) alongside elements from Because We Must (1989), riffing on two iconic works in Atlas’s long-term collaboration with Michael Clark. One of Atlas’s most well-known works, Hail the New Puritan revolves around the anarchic energy of Clark’s countercultural milieu in mid-1980s London. The film—which Atlas refers to as an “anti-documentary”—purports to show a typical day in the life of Clark in Thatcherite London, albeit one that is highly stylized and fictionalized. Made two years after Hail the New Puritan, Because We Must was based on an original stage production at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, whose formal theatricality is counterbalanced by a behind-the-scenes narrative fantasy featuring Leigh Bowery’s extravagant costumes and production design. In 2020, Atlas created A Prune Twin—an anagram of New Puritan. This transposition of letters from the original phrase to coin the new title is analogous to the transposition of fragments from Atlas’s older works to imagine something entirely new. The baroque aesthetic captured on screen is perfectly complemented by a sense of irony that reflects the spirit and specificities of queer cultures in the 1980s and is now matched by the almost over-the-top sense of excess that this newly imagined installation brings to life.  

Charles Atlas: About Time also features The Tyranny of Consciousness (2017), a work that marries a montage of sunsets Atlas filmed at the Rauschenberg Residency on Captiva Island in Florida with a monologue by iconic drag performer Lady Bunny about the flowering of her political consciousness. In The Tyranny of Consciousness, Atlas synthesizes the social urgency and political consciousness of his portrait of Lady Bunny with the geometric patterns and repeated numerical sequences of his “number pieces”, uniquely tying together his overarching artistic concerns across decades to transformative effect. One of the numbers pieces, Plato’s Alley (2008), is a site-specific video installation and architectural intervention that will be displayed alongside documentation of other site-specific works.  

Finally, the exhibition will premiere a new multichannel sculptural video installation, a collage of portraits featuring musicians Sonic Youth, artist Marina Abramović, director John Waters, and choreographer Yvonne Rainer, among others. This collage of portraits conveys the extent to which collaboration and friendship have always been at the heart of Atlas’s decades-long practice. 

Publication 
The exhibition is accompanied by a generous and lushly illustrated catalogue that generates significant new scholarship on Atlas’s practice, framed by the exhibition’s key themes and artworks. It features commissioned essays by leading scholars, historians, and writers discussing Atlas’s groundbreaking work and legacy: Erika Balsom, Joshua Chambers-Letson, Drew Sawyer, and Jeffrey De Blois, the exhibition’s curator. The catalogue also foregrounds the voices of a diverse group of artists reflecting on Atlas’s influence, including Nicole Eisenman, Eileen Myles, Jordan Strafer, Martine Syms, and Ryan Trecartin.  

About the ICA 
Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of 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 is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Media Contact
Theresa Romualdez, press@icaboston.org 

Credits 
Charles Atlas: About Time is organized by Jeffrey De Blois, Mannion Family Curator, with Max Gruber, Curatorial Assistant.  

With warmest thanks, we gratefully acknowledge the generosity of the ICA’s Avant Guardian Society in making this exhibition possible. 

Over 100 life-size figurative sculptures will fill the Watershed creating a powerful and fantastical installation.

(Boston, MA—MAR. 25, 2024) This summer, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens the next season of the Watershed with the U.S. debut of The Procession (2022), an ambitious work by sculptor and visual artist Hew Locke OBE RA. On view May 23—Sept. 2, 2024, Hew Locke: The Procession was originally commissioned by Tate Britain, UK, for its 2022 Duveen Commission. The ICA Watershed presentation is organized by Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Anni A. Pullagura, Consulting Assistant Curator, in collaboration with Tate. 

A procession is part of life; we gather and move together to celebrate, worship, protest, mourn, escape, or call for change. These expressions are all at the heart of The Procession, which features a gathering of over 100 life-size figures of all ages and abilities. Intricately handmade and adorned in printed fabric, patchwork, and appliqué, these spectacular figures embody visual references to colonialism, globalization, conflict, ecology, and cultural exchange. “They’re moving into another life,” says Hew Locke. “They may be coming from difficult times, they may be heading towards difficult times, but there’s an energy there, which is about hope.”  

Staged in the industrial setting of the Watershed at the edge of the Boston Harbor, The Procession invites visitors to join this forward-moving mass and encounter the diverse histories and experiences these sculptures embody. “With its location in East Boston overlooking the Atlantic—a point of entry, and home for generations of newcomers to this country—the ICA Watershed is a uniquely apt location for audiences to engage with The Procession,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “Renowned artist Hew Locke has created a procession of figures, drawing on Caribbean and other carnival traditions. We are excited to invite our visitors to walk alongside the procession and experience the collective reasons for gathering in solidarity, migrating towards a hopeful future.” 

In The Procession, visitors will see carnival characters such as Mother Sally, Pitchy-Patchy, and Midnight Robber, dancers, refugees, horse riders, soldiers, sailors, bearers, pregnant women, drummers, and flag bearers in Locke’s cast of characters. Some carry metaphorical baggage in the form of symbolic objects, banners, or uniforms from the past and present. Others wear dresses printed with reproductions of historical paintings; Chinese, Indian, and African financial documents; and images of Locke’s own past work. Several sculptures reference contemporary concerns, such as evidence of rising sea levels, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the invasion of Ukraine. Bearing the collective weight of such histories in a timeless arrangement, the figures, in the artist’s words, “reflect on the cycles of history, and the ebb and flow of cultures, people, finance, and power.”   

“In The Procession, Locke gathers and assembles the images, materials, and concerns that have occupied his practice for decades, presenting an engaging and colorful crowd of travelers that carry both historical and cultural baggage on their journey,” said curators Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Anni A. Pullagura, Consulting Assistant Curator. “Using cardboard, jewelry, medals, and repurposed emblems of imperial power, Locke’s work engages with identity, collective histories, and contemporary experiences of the long shadow of colonialism.” 

Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, said, “I am delighted that Hew Locke’s ambitious and powerful installation is being staged at ICA Watershed. When it was unveiled at Tate Britain, it had a transformative impact on the building and on our visitors, bringing complex histories and urgent questions to the fore. It is fitting that The Procession has continued its journey to the other side of the Atlantic, where I’m sure it will continue to spark new conversations and responses.” 

Artist Biography 

Hew Locke OBE RA (born 1959 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom; lives and works in London) explores how different cultures fashion their identities through visual symbols of authority, and how these representations alter over the passage of time. These explorations have led him to a wide range of subject matters, imagery, and media, assembling sources across time and space in his deeply layered artworks. His unique merging of influences from his native Guyana and London, where Locke now lives and works, leads to richly textured, witty, innovative and vibrant pieces that stand on a crossroad of histories, cultures and media. In 2022 Locke was awarded both Tate Britain’s Duveen Hall commission realized in The Procession, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Facade Commission realized in the work Gilt. His work is in the public collections of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Tate Gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, and British Museum. In 2022, he was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) (where he completed an MA in sculpture in 1994) and was awarded an Order of the British Empire for Services to Art (OBE) in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honors list.  

About the Watershed

In 2018, the ICA opened its new ICA Watershed to the public, expanding artistic and educational programming on both sides of Boston Harbor—the Seaport and East Boston. Located in the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina, the ICA Watershed transformed a 15,000-square-foot, formerly condemned space into a cultural asset to experience large-scale, immersive exhibitions every summer. During the pandemic, the Watershed was used as a food distribution site to address a direct need within the East Boston community. The cross-harbor connection to the Watershed was designed to deepen the vibrant intersection of contemporary art and civic life in Boston and is central to the ICA’s vision of art, civic life, and urban vitality.  

About the ICA

Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of 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 is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok

About Tate

Tate is a family of galleries in the UK that includes Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. Spanning 500 years, Tate’s collection holds the national collection of British art, and international modern and contemporary art. Tate is recognized internationally as a leading art institution and has a major international touring program which sees these artworks travel to galleries across Britain and around the globe. Tate has long been engaged with American art, artists and institutions which is frequently supported through The Tate Americas Foundation, an independent Foundation that supports the work of Tate in the United Kingdom. 

Media Contact

Theresa Romualdez, press@icaboston.org 

Exhibition Credits

Hew Locke: The Procession was originally commissioned by Tate Britain for its 2022 Tate Britain Commission. The ICA Watershed presentation is organized by Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Anni A. Pullagura, Consulting Assistant Curator, in collaboration with Tate. 

Support for Hew Locke: The Procession is provided by David Feinberg and Marina Kalb, and an anonymous donor.  

ICA Watershed programs are supported by Eastern Bank. 

The Procession was initiated and produced by Tate and curated by Elena Crippa, former Senior Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art, and Clarrie Wallis, former Senior Curator, Contemporary British Art, with Bilal Akkouche, Assistant Curator, Contemporary British Art; Hannah Marsh, Curatorial Assistant; and Dana Moreno, Curatorial Administrator. The tour has been managed by Lauren Buckley, Senior Project Curator, and Tucker Drew, Exhibitions Assistant, International Partnerships. 

 

Exhibition debuts works on view for the first time including a newly commissioned floor to-ceiling mural overlooking Boston Harbor.

(Boston, MA—FEB. 8, 2024) In April 2024, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents Firelei Báez, the first North American museum survey dedicated to the richly layered work of Firelei Báez (b. 1981, Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic). The exhibition features 40 works that span nearly two decades of the artist’s practice and showcase Báez’s profoundly moving body of work exploring the complicated and often incomplete historical narratives that surround the Atlantic basin. The exhibition will premiere a new large-scale painting and site-specific mural in the ICA’s stunning Founder’s Gallery overlooking the harbor and responding to Boston’s colonial and marine history. Included in the exhibition are immersive, sculptural installations that give visitors the sensation of stepping into a world of Báez’s creation, and the largest number of her paintings gathered in one place to give audiences a full sweep of her career to date. On view from April 4 to Sept. 2, 2024 at the ICA, the exhibition will then tour throughout North America to the Vancouver Art Gallery (Nov. 2, 2024—Mar. 16, 2025) and the Des Moines Art Center (Jun. 14, 2025—Sep. 21, 2025). Firelei Báez is organized by Eva Respini, Deputy Director and Director of Curatorial Programs, Vancouver Art Gallery (former Barbara Lee Chief Curator at the ICA), with Tessa Bachi Haas, ICA Curatorial Assistant. 

“Firelei Báez is part of a vital movement in contemporary art that embraces the role of art in understanding gaps in the historical record,” said Jill Medvedow, ICA Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “She delves into the historical narratives and fluid identities of the Atlantic basin in a way that invites audiences to reimagine and reassess. Firelei’s stunning, immersive installation at the ICA Watershed in 2021 left an indelible impression on all who saw it. This comprehensive survey will examine two decades of the artist’s practice, offering audiences a deeper and richer encounter with the work of this important artist.”  

“This survey highlights Báez’s investment in the medium of painting and its capacity for storytelling and mythmaking,” said Respini. “Her work is about looking at history through multiple lenses – she shifts perspectives and creates layers of complexity where history has only provided a single perspective.” 

Báez’s exuberant, colorful paintings feature complex and layered uses of pattern, decoration, and abstract gestures alongside symbols rooted in Caribbean culture. She paints overtop colonial maps or construction plans for colonial architecture to challenge our understanding of received power, history, and truth. To create her rich worlds, Báez draws on folklore, fantasy, science fiction and mythology. The mostly female figures that dominate her paintings are not easily identified – they seem to hover between human, animal, and myth. These figures can be understood as free from fixed historical categories, and as symbols of both struggle and renewal. 

In Untitled (Les tables de geographie reduites en un jeu de cartes) (2022), Báez has conjured a stampede of horses in various states of abstraction. This painting began during a 2021-22 residency in Rome, where she encountered many heraldic sculptures and paintings of horses. Unlike the images Báez encountered in Rome, her horses are not agents of battle or royal conquest, instead they are unbridled, created through the artist’s process of rendering figures through poured paint. In this work, Báez responds to the game of colonial conquest. Underneath this painting are reproductions of a set of playing cards dedicated to the Grand Dauphin of France (1661-1711), the son of King Louis XIV (1638-1715). The cards include maps of Africa, America, Europe, Asia, each represented by a playing card suit. The face cards contain a medallion portrait of a different leader for each continent, providing information on the countries represented.

This exhibition begins with significant works on paper, featuring her considerable skills as a draftsperson. An early and important example of work on paper is Can I Pass? Introducing the Paper Bag to the Fan Test for the Month of July (2011), a series of 31 self-portraits displayed like a calendar for the month of July. The self-portraits detail only the artist’s eyes and silhouette as she poses with different hair styles for each day of the calendar month. All of the portraits are made to match the artist’s shifting skin tone as it darkens and lightens with changing seasons. This exercise is reminiscent of the racist practice of using the Brown Paper Bag Test to admit or deny entry to social functions based on one’s skin color in the 20th-century United States.

In Man Without a Country (aka anthropophagist wading in the Artibonite River) (2014-2015), Báez uses 225 pages sourced from late 19th-century architectural, engineering and art manuscripts sourced from The Cooper Union library, onto which she ruminates on the history of Hispaniola—the Caribbean island that is divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti—in a global context. These form the support for her drawings depicting chimeric organisms, femme figurations, and decorative, symbolically charged embellishments. The markings intervene across the text, fusing folkloric motifs with academic writing to offer new ways of reading history and culture. Báez installs each page individually to form this wall-size installation, suggestive of island geographies and bodies of water, which viewers navigate according to their own trajectories, resisting singular narratives in favor of multiple readings. 

Báez brings the powerful quality of her paintings into three dimensions with her sculptural installations. She creates generative spaces with painted architectural forms that invite new possibilities and ideas to be explored. A Drexcyen Chronocommons (To win the war you fought it sideways) (2019) is an immersive installation that invites audiences to reexamine historical narratives, echoing some of the same characteristics of her 2021 commission for the ICA Watershed. Báez envelops the space under a star map of the night of the onset of the Haitian Revolution and hand-perforated blue tarps, casting spots of light onto surfaces painted with symbols reflective of the Black diaspora, constructing a place where the past, present, and future intertwine.

Báez’s architectural sculpture (once we have torn shit down, we will inevitably see more and see differently and feel a new sense of wanting and being and becoming) (2014), is adapted from the Sans-Souci Palace in Milot, Haiti, built in the early 1800s for the revolutionary leader and first King of Haiti, Henri Christophe I. The Haitian Revolution, led by self-liberated enslaved people against the French colonial government, was an early precursor to the abolition movements of the United States. Once a space of militant splendor, since an 1842 earthquake the castle has been an archeological ruin. Expanding the painterly surface into an architectural dimension, visitors are welcome to walk through Báez’s archeological re-visioning. The patterning of the sculpture’s surface is largely drawn from West African indigo printing, a knowledge brought by enslaved peoples in the 17th century to the American South. American indigo was a driving force in the early national economy. This material became intrinsically woven into early American decorative and utilitarian textiles—a symbol of “true blue” Americana.

Visitors will reach the end of the exhibition in the ICA’s Founder’s Gallery with the artist’s site-specific, floor-to-ceiling mural. The vinyl mural will be visible from Boston Harbor and will engage with Boston’s colonial and marine history. 

Publication
The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue featuring works in the exhibition, works from throughout Báez’s career, and essays from Leticia Alvarado, Katherine Brinson, Jessica Bell Brown, Julie Crooks, Daniella Rose King, Eva Respini, Hallie Ringle, and Katy Siegel.

Press Preview
Media are invited to attend the press preview for Firelei Báez on Tuesday, April 2, at 10am. RSVP to press@icaboston.org

Firelei Báez is organized by Eva Respini, Deputy Director and Director of Curatorial Programs, Vancouver Art Gallery, (former Barbara Lee Chief Curator, ICA/Boston), with Tessa Bachi Haas, Curatorial Assistant.

Major support for Firelei Báez is provided by Hauser & Wirth, the Henry Luce Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Karen and Brian Conway, David and Jocelyne DeNunzio, Mathieu O. Gaulin, The Kotzubei-Beckmann Family Philanthropic Fund, Lise and Jeffrey Wilks, an anonymous donor, the Jennifer Epstein Fund for Women Artists, and the ICA’s Avant Guardian Society.

Exhibition includes works by Lorna Simpson, Zanele Muholi, and Jenny Holzer, as well as new acquisitions of work by, Ingrid Mwangi Hutter, Joe Wardwell, and Rivane Neuenschwander.

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents Wordplay, a new collection exhibition exploring a defining aspect of contemporary art: the role of text in visual expression. Since the emergence of conceptual art in the 1960s, artists have used “text art” to probe philosophical questions, express and subvert political messages, challenge notions of identity, and connect their artwork to multiple references, writers, and cultural icons. Wordplay features 35 works—including several recent acquisitions on view for the first time—by artists such as Kenturah Davis, Rivane Neuenschwander, and Joe Wardwell, alongside signature works by Renée Green, Glenn Ligon, Jenny Holzer, Zanele Muholi, and Lorna Simpson, among others. The exhibition is organized by Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Erika Umali, the ICA’s first Curator of Collections, and will be on view from Jan. 30 through Dec. 1, 2024. 

“Since the ICA began collecting in 2006, we have built a forward-thinking, 20th and 21st-century collection, distinguished by its representation of women artists and commitment to diversity,” said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “Wordplay is an exciting presentation of the many ways that artists use text and language to convey ideas, promote interactivity, and create symbols, composition, color and form. 

“The term ‘Wordplay’, or a play on words, references the witty use of words and their meanings, bringing attention to language as a subject of a text,” said curators Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Erika Umali, Curator of Collections. “Likewise, the artists featured in Wordplay use text and language in creative ways that heighten our awareness of modes of communication and the acts of seeing and reading.”  

Wordplay draws primarily from the ICA’s permanent collection to showcase how contemporary artists have played with words to animate and expand their art practices. The exhibition will debut a number of recent acquisitions including:  

Collen Mfazwe, August House, Johannesburg (2012) by South African artist and visual activist Zanele Muholi. This photograph is part of Muholi’s Faces and Phases series archiving new horizons in queer self-representation. In each photograph the sitters choose their posture, setting, and dress inviting viewers to, as Muholi says, “contemplate questions such as: What does an African lesbian look like? Is there a lesbian aesthetic or do we express our gendered, racialized and classed selves in rich and diverse ways?” In this work, a sash reading “Princess” sits across the chest of the sitter. 

If You Got the Money Honey (2021) by Boston-based artist Joe Wardwell. This painting is Wardwell’s first cityscape, presenting a view of downtown Boston from Wardwell’s Dorchester studio. Created in response to the impending demolition of his studio and Boston’s increasingly unaffordable housing, the artist layers text ranging from lyrics from the Guns N’ Roses song that gives the work its title, to quotations sourced from cultural figures with ties to Massachusetts, including Malcolm X, Buckminster Fuller, and Donna Summer. This matrix of text and landscape evokes the collective and polyphonic voice of an urban environment.  

Static Drift (2001) by biracial artist Ingrid Mwangi Hutter, born in Kenya to an African father and a European mother. To create this diptych, Ingrid Mwangi Hutter applied stencils to her own abdomen and allowed the sun to burn her skin, leaving parts under and overexposed on her body. One photograph shows the map of Germany outlined in darker brown with words “burn out country,” and the other shows a map of the continent of Africa in lighter brown with the words “bright dark continent.” The artist creates a literal map on her body, visualizing her experience as a biracial woman living in both Kenya and Germany—perceived as white in Africa and Black in Germany—using color, geographical shapes, and language on her own body. 

Zé Carioca e amigos (Um festival embananado)/Joe Carioca and Friends (The Festival Went Bananas) (2005) by São Paulo-based artist Rivane Neuenschwander. This interactive installation references a famous Brazilian comic strip featuring the character José “Zé” Carioca, a dapper Brazilian parrot first created in 1941 by cartoonist José Carlos de Brito. Neuenschwander strips the comic of its original text and image, leaving only vibrant, technicolor squares and blank speech bubbles on the wall. The artist invites the public to continue the artwork by writing or drawing in the mural blocks, resulting in a collective form of spontaneous social and individual expression. 

This collection exhibition features works by 16 artists: Jennifer Bartlett, Kenturah Davis, Taylor Davis, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Shepard Fairey, Renée Green, Jenny Holzer, Glenn Ligon, Ingrid Mwangi Hutter, Guadalupe Maravilla, Zanele Muholi, Rivane Neuenschwander, Tschabalala Self, Lorna Simpson, Travares Strachan, and Joe Wardwell.  

About the ICA   

Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of 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 is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.   

Media Contact   

Theresa Romualdez, press@icaboston.org 

(Boston, MA–Nov. 14, 2023) On February 13, 2024, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) unveils a monumental, site-specific commission by multidisciplinary artist Igshaan Adams (born 1982 in Cape Town, South Africa). Adams’s woven tapestries point to the interconnectedness of the artist’s spirituality, familial histories, and local community narratives as rooted in his South African heritage. The ambitious new work, entitled Lynloop [Toeing the Line], will be on view from February 13, 2024, to February 15, 2025, in a presentation organized by Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs. 

Drawing on the notion of “desire lines”—paths created by pedestrians over time that fall outside of sanctioned walkways—Adams visualizes the everyday movements of people through a range of tactile materials to contest fixed boundaries. At the ICA, Adams will transform the first-floor lobby’s Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall into a multi-part, experimental weaving and sculptural installation conceived in response to the museum’s architecture and the artist’s recollections of post-apartheid South Africa. 

“Igshaan Adams brings a distinct, new voice to the ICA, combining monumentality, tactility and cosmology with a unique combination of materials and techniques, to represent histories of an apartheid and post-apartheid era in South Africa,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “Visitors will encounter this stunning new work as they enter the museum’s first floor lobby, a free and open space for the public.” 

“Adams’s installation at the ICA considers the impact of childhood experiences and memories on the trajectory of one’s life,” said Erickson. “He takes maps of areas where enforced boundaries, such as those formerly used to separate communities along racial castes during the apartheid era, and reframes them with his own observations and fantasies. In this work, pathways between sports fields adjacent to where the artist grew up are softened with hues of pink, mohair, and delicate gold chain.” 

Adams uses aerial images from Google Earth as the basis for his intricate, monumental weavings. In his commission at the ICA, Lynloop, he reproduces the footpaths between a sports field and a walled-off recreational space in Heideveld, a town in Cape Town, South Africa, adjacent to Bonteheuwel, the artist’s hometown. Lynloop is an Afrikaans term formerly used by South African gangs to denote control, or to punish those who stepped out of line. Adams reimagines a “hyper-masculine” territory of his childhood and associated memories to consider both the imprint of early experiences and the potential of other futures. In dialogue with the extensive weavings are enormous suspended metallic, cloud-like sculptures that suggest concentrated areas of movement and human interaction. The artist describes his new work as “a yearning for the beauty and fantasy of what could have been if my environment had allowed for it – forcing a wish onto a memory.”  

The ICA’s Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall is dedicated to site-specific, commissioned works by leading contemporary artists. Located within the museum’s glass-enclosed lobby, the Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall is the visitor’s first encounter with art upon entering the building and has featured commissions by Barbara Kruger, Wangechi Mutu, Matthew Ritchie, Gillian Wearing, and Haegue Yang. 

About the ICA    
Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of 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 is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Media Contact 
Theresa Romualdez, press@icaboston.org 

Credits 
Igshaan Adams, Bonteheuwel / Epping, 2021, Wood, painted wood, plastic, bone, stone and glass beads, seashells, polyester and nylon rope, cotton rope, link chain, wire (memory and galvanized steel), cotton twine, 194.88 x 460.63 x 127.95″ / 495 x 1170 x 325cm. Photo: Mario Todeschini, Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan.  

Igshaan Adams, Samesyn, 2023. Installation view 35th Bienal de São Paulo – choreographies of the impossible. Photo by Levi Fanan. Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan. 

(Boston, MA—Oct. 25, 2023) Steven D. Corkin and Charlotte Wagner, Co-Chair and President of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), announced today that longtime director Jill Medvedow will step down from her position in December 2024. Over her 25-year tenure as Ellen Matilda Poss Director, Medvedow has led the transformation of the ICA from a small, non-collecting kunsthalle to a major contemporary art museum, a national leader in teen arts education, and a pioneering advocate for the role of art in civic life.  

In a statement on behalf of the ICA’s Board of Trustees, Corkin and Wagner said, “Jill transformed the ICA into an anchor institution in Boston, and one of the leading centers for artistic experimentation and contemporary culture in the country. Working with staff, artists, teachers, students, and community partners, she has integrated new art and ideas into the heart of our communities, bridged the connection between contemporary art and civic life, and in doing so, forever changed the landscape for contemporary art and culture in the city of Boston. We are profoundly grateful to Jill for her inspired leadership, her commitment and dedication, and her unwavering mission to expand access to art for all.”     

“I love the ICA; I love its people and programs, and I am excited for all of us as we move forward,” said Medvedow.  

In 1998, when Medvedow was hired, the ICA was located in a former police station. Medvedow sparked a renaissance for contemporary art in Boston when, in 2006, she opened the city’s first new art museum in nearly a century. The first U.S. commission of architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the ICA today is an architectural icon. The museum now encompasses a waterfront campus including the building in the Seaport, the ICA Watershed—a free, industrial space across Boston Harbor for immersive art and community engagement—and Seaport Studio, a dedicated space for teen arts programs.  

Under Medvedow’s leadership, annual attendance at the ICA has grown more than 1,000%, to more than 300,000 today. Through major campaigns, Medvedow has raised more than $200 million to build the new ICA and the ICA Watershed and to improve financial strength and resiliency for generations to come.  

Medvedow has been a leader in nurturing artistic experimentation, championing new artists and new ideas and amplifying artists’ voices, additionally establishing the museum’s first Artist Advisory Council to ensure that the ideas and needs of artists are central to institutional planning. During the course of her directorship, the ICA has presented more than 250 exhibitions, including groundbreaking thematic exhibitions such as Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957; Fiber: Sculpture 1960–present; Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today; When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art; and To Begin Again: Artists and Childhood as well as important single-artist exhibitions by Cornelia Parker, Tara Donovan, Shepard Fairey, Nick Cave, Doris Salcedo, Ragnar Kjartansson, Arlene Shechet, Amy Sillman, Jeffrey Gibson, Yayoi Kusama, Huma Bhabha, Deana Lawson, and Simone Leigh, among many others. Watershed presentations include commissions from John Akomfrah, Firelei Báez, and Guadalupe Maravilla.  

In the performing arts, the ICA has been a vibrant presenter of new work, including recent commissions by Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran, Okwui Okpokwasili, and Liz Gerring. Medvedow was the co-commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion of the 2022 Venice Biennale with a historic presentation of Simone Leigh.  

Medvedow transformed the ICA into a collecting museum—including the acquisition of The Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women—bringing to the fore diverse artistic voices and artists who have been historically underrepresented. Today it is one of the only art museum collections with almost 60% of works by artists who identify as women and 38% who identify as people of color. Equally notable, Medvedow is a national champion for teen arts programs and the role museums can play in the lives of teens and their city. In 2012, the ICA’s teen initiative was recognized with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award from the White House, the highest honor of its kind. Today an average of 6,000 teens a year participate in ICA programs and national convenings.  

Throughout her career, Medvedow has been equally passionate about contemporary art and civic life, from her leadership on after- and out-of-school equity for children; early work with City Year developing a survey on attitudes and behaviors of young people on the arts; and championing temporary public art projects in unexpected locations since the early 1980s. A member and former trustee of the American Association of Museum Directors, she led efforts for paid internships at art museums, changing a longstanding tradition in the field. Medvedow’s commitment to enriching the lives of young people extends to her personal creativity as well; she recently authored a children’s book titled Kangamoo!, donating hundreds of copies to early education programs in Boston.  She served on Governor Deval Patrick’s Creative Economy Transition Team in 2008 and more recently on the arts policy transition group for Governor Maura Healy. In 2022, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Medvedow is currently a Trustee of Boston After School and Beyond and serves on the Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion Arts Advisory Board. In 2023 she began as a fellow at the Harvard Divinity School, exploring art’s expanded role in community. She is a passionate speaker about art, healing, and social change. 

Media contact:
ICA: Colette Randall, crandall@icaboston.org, 617-318-8271

(Boston, MA—OCT. 11, 2023) The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents Wu Tsang: Of Whales, an immersive video installation inspired by Herman Melville’s classic 1851 American novel Moby Dick; or, The Whale.   

In Of Whales, Wu Tsang (b. 1982, Worcester, Massachusetts) reimagines the story of Moby Dick from the perspective of the sperm whale, inviting viewers on a mesmerizing journey through the depths of a CGI ocean, only surfacing for the occasional breath of air. Created on the Unity gaming platform, the dynamically generated real-time video installation loops continuously and offers audiences a multisensorial experience of undersea life that transforms with each viewing. The exhibition is organized by Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Tessa Bachi Haas, Curatorial Assistant, and will be on view Feb. 15 through Aug. 4, 2024.   

Of Whales (2022) is part of a filmic trilogy derived from Tsang’s multidisciplinary research around Moby Dick; or, The Whale. An artist whose practice frequently centers on reinventing cinematic language and narrative, Tsang approaches the novel through a decolonial lens, channeling perspectives of the whale and the ‘motley crew’ aboard the whaling ship to evoke non- and inter-human sociality, as well as environmental themes and queer intimacies.   

As collaboration is central to Tsang’s practice, she often works with a variety of artists, scholars, and performers on a single project. In Of Whales, the endless expanse of ocean life is accompanied by a multi-channel, layered soundscape that fills the entire gallery. The musical score, composed by Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda, and performed by Tapiwa Svosve, Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson, Miao Zhao, and Ahya Simone, blends saxophone, trumpet, bass clarinet, harp, and vocals to accompany the audience’s surreal adventure into the unknown depths of the sea.  

“Wu Tsang is one of the most significant video artists working today, and her epic commission Of Whales was an important highlight of the 2022 Venice Biennale. We are thrilled to share this mesmerizing installation with our audiences. Overlooking the Boston Harbor, the ICA is a poignant location to view the work with its references to maritime culture and New England’s whaling history – as well as the artist’s personal connection with Massachusetts,” said Erickson and Haas. 

Wu Tsang will be at the ICA on February 15 for an Artist’s Voice conversation with Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, Ruth Erickson. 

Artist Biography  

Wu Tsang (born 1982 in Worcester, Massachusetts) is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker who combines narrative and documentary techniques to explore fluid identities, marginalized histories, and whimsical worlds. Tsang received her MFA from the University of California at Los Angeles and BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Other films by Tsang include We hold where study (2017), Girl Talk (2015), Damelo Todo (Gimme Everything) (2010), and Shape of a Right Statement (2008). Tsang’s work was included in the ICA/Boston’s acclaimed Art in the Age of the Internet: 1989 to Today (2018) and has been exhibited or screened at La Biennale de Venezia, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern London, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, among many other national and international venues.   

About the ICA   

Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of 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 is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Media Contact   

Theresa Romualdez, press@icaboston.org    

Paintings, drawings, and installations will span nearly 20 years of the artist’s practice and expand upon recent installations

(Boston, MA—Sept. 15, 2023) In April 2024, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents Firelei Báez, the first museum survey dedicated to the richly layered work of Firelei Báez (b. 1981, Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic). The exhibition will feature approximately 40 works—paintings, installations, and works on paper spanning nearly two decades of the artist’s practice—and showcase Báez’s profoundly moving body of work, which explores the complicated and often incomplete historical narratives that surround the Atlantic basin. The artist will premiere new works in the exhibition, which is slated to tour throughout North America to the Vancouver Art Gallery (Fall 2024) and Des Moines Art Center (Spring 2025). The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue co-published by the ICA and DelMonico Books. On view from April 4 to Sept. 2, 2024, Firelei Báez is organized by Eva Respini, Deputy Director and Director of Curatorial Programs, Vancouver Art Gallery (former Barbara Lee Chief Curator at the ICA), with Tessa Bachi Haas, ICA Curatorial Assistant. 

“Firelei Báez is part of a vital movement in contemporary art that embraces the role of art in understanding gaps in the historical record,” said Jill Medvedow, ICA Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “She delves into the historical narratives and fluid identities of the Atlantic basin in a way that invites audiences to reimagine and reassess. Firelei’s stunning, immersive installation at the ICA Watershed in 2021 left an indelible impression on all who saw it. This comprehensive survey will examine two decades of the artist’s practice, offering audiences a deeper and richer encounter with the work of this important artist.”   

“This survey highlights Báez’s investment in the medium of painting and its capacity for storytelling and mythmaking, featuring complex and layered uses of pattern, decoration, and saturated color, often overlaid on maps made during colonial rule in the Americas,” said Respini. “Her work is about looking at history through multiple lenses – she shifts perspectives and creates layers of complexity where history has only provided a single perspective.” 

Drawing on disciplines of anthropology, geography, folklore, fantasy, science fiction, and social history, Báez presents works that engage with Caribbean, African, and Latin American diasporas and histories. Her large-scale map paintings, featuring colonial maps, charts, and architectural plans immerse audiences in sweeping narratives that bring together myth and history. In Man Without a Country (aka anthropophagist wading in the Artibonite River) (2014-2015), Báez uses 225 pages sourced from late nineteenth-century texts on the history of Hispaniola—the Caribbean island that is divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti—as supports for her drawings depicting chimeric organisms, femme figurations, and decorative embellishments. The markings intervene across the text, fusing folkloric motifs with academic writing to offer new ways of reading history and culture. Báez installs each page individually to form this wall-size installation, suggestive of island geographies and bodies of water, which viewers navigate according to their own trajectories, resisting singular narratives in favor of multiple readings. 

Báez employs a similar reframing of recorded histories in her drawings. In Can I Pass? Introducing the Paper Bag to the Fan Test for the Month of July (2011), she creates a series of 31 self-portraits displayed like a calendar for the month of July. The self-portraits detail only the artist’s eyes and silhouette as she poses with different hair styles for each day of the calendar month. All of the portraits are made to match the artist’s shifting skin tone as it darkens and lightens with changing seasons. This exercise is reminiscent of the social practice of using the Brown Paper Bag Test to admit or deny entry to social functions based on one’s skin color in the 20th century United States.

Bringing the powerful quality of her paintings into three dimensions with her sculptural installations, Báez creates generative spaces with painted architectural forms that invite new possibilities and ideas to be explored. A Drexcyen Chronocommons (To win the war you fought it sideways) (2019) is an immersive installation that invites audiences to reexamine historical narratives, echoing some of the same characteristics of her 2021 commission for the ICA Watershed. Báez envelops the space in a hand-perforated blue tarp, casting spots of light onto surfaces painted with symbols reflective of the Black diaspora, constructing a place where the past, present, and future intertwine. 

Publication 
The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue featuring works in the exhibition, works from throughout Báez’s career, and essays from Leticia Alvarado, Katherine Brinson, Jessica Bell Brown, Julie Crooks, Daniella Rose King, Eva Respini, Hallie Ringle, and Katy Siegel. 

About the ICA 
Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of 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 is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Media Contact 
Theresa Romualdez, press@icaboston.org

Credits
This exhibition is organized by Eva Respini, Deputy Director and Director of Curatorial Programs, Vancouver Art Gallery (former Barbara Lee Chief Curator, ICA/Boston), with Tessa Bachi Haas, Curatorial Assistant, ICA/Boston

Major support for Firelei Báez is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Karen and Brian Conway, David and Jocelyne DeNunzio, Mathieu O. Gaulin, The Kotzubei-Beckmann Family Philanthropic Fund, Lise and Jeffrey Wilks, the Jennifer Epstein Fund for Women Artists, and the ICA’s Avant Guardian Society. 

First major group exhibition in the U.S. to envision a new approach to contemporary art in the Caribbean diaspora.

(Boston, MA—Sept. 12, 2023) This October, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today. This major group exhibition is an innovative rethinking of “Caribbean art,” focusing on art of the Caribbean diaspora and featuring an intergenerational group of 28 artists who live and work across the globe. Challenging conventional ideas about the region, Forecast Form reveals the Caribbean as a place defined not by geography, language, or ethnicity, but by constant exchange, displacement, and movement. The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The ICA’s presentation of Forecast Form is coordinated by Jeffrey De Blois, Associate Curator and Publications Manager, and will be on view from October 5, 2023, through February 25, 2024. 

Forecast Form is a far-reaching, stimulating exhibition of art from the Caribbean and its diaspora. With works by 28 artists from around the world, it is full of new ideas: formal, conceptual and experiential. We’re very excited to share this with audiences from, connected to or new to Caribbean contemporary art,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director. 

“The concept of diaspora—the movement or displacement of people through migration from one location to another—provides a powerful framework for understanding “Caribbean art” in the context of Forecast Form and beyond,” said De Blois. “This concept allows for the artworks in the exhibition to be framed through ideas of movement and transformation,  exceeding the limitations of geographic boundaries.”  

Forecast Form takes the 1990s, when debates around identity and difference featured front and center, as a cultural backdrop. This decade—a period of profound social, political, and economic transformation globally—also had a major effect on art from the Caribbean, and in the cultural sector gave rise to a Pan-Caribbean art exhibition model that attempted to represent the region’s complex colonial histories through art. In contrast, Forecast Form focuses on the affinities shared between works made by artists who have ties to the region yet hold diverse personal identities, geographies, and histories. Using the weather’s constant movement as a metaphor for analyzing artistic practices, this expansive exhibition reveals new modes of thinking about identity and place. Through a deeply innovative exploration of form, Forecast Form positions the region as a place where the past, the present, and the future meet. 

The ICA’s presentation of Forecast Form debuts a new work by Teresita Fernández, Manigua(Mirror) (2023). The word manigua is often used to describe a dense forest or swamp; a chaotic entanglement or an impenetrable place. Inspired by this definition and Wilfredo Lam’s painting, The Jungle (1943), Fernández’s manigua is a space of refuge. Through evocative materials such as charcoal and black sand, and wielding the symbolic power of the palm tree, Manigua(Mirror) conjures an image of a Caribbean landscape as a site of resistance.  

Other works in the exhibition include: 

  • The Fir-Palm (1991/2019) by Boston-born artist Lorraine O’Grady. In this photograph, a slanting tree emerges from the base of a Black woman’s back. This tree is a composite of two types: a New England fir and a Caribbean palm. While each of these trees is strongly associated with different geographic regions, their merger alludes to O’Grady’s experience as the Boston-born child of immigrants from Jamaica.  
  • Sugar/Bittersweet (2010) by Cuban-born artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, who studied at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The work consists of an installation of Yoruba spears that sit atop traditional African and Chinese stools. At the base of each spear, stacked panelas (or discs of sugar) appear in various states of production, from dark molasses to brown sugar to refined white, doubling as metaphors for imposed racial categories. The sculptures, which together resemble a field of sugarcane stalks, steer away from the bucolic landscape to focus on the violence of the sugar trade against enslaved Black people, and later, Chinese laborers who were brought by the colonial government to work on the plantations in Cuba. 
  • the fecund, the lush and the salted land waits for a harvest . . . her people . . . ripe with promise, wait until the next blowing season (2022) by Saint Martin and New Jersey-based artist Deborah Jack. In this lyrical and immersive installation, shots of lush orange pomegranates mix with the ocean, sky, and shoreline. Filmed by the artist around her mother’s home on Saint Martin, these images appear alongside footage of salt mining from a 1948 Dutch documentary about the island. Pomegranates and salt, both emblems of death and rebirth, share a common legacy as commodities of the colonial economy in the region.  
  • An Ocean Cradle (2022) by Los Angeles-based artist Suchitra Mattai. An oceanic landscape woven together from vintage, handmade saris, An Ocean Cradle alludes to movement in many ways. Collected from family and friends living throughout the South Asian diaspora, the saris not only represent travel and migration, but also gesture toward movement across lineage. Customarily passed down from generation to generation, saris carry the memories and scents from those who wore them before. From the 1830s to the early 1900s, waves of Indian migrants—Mattai’s family included— migrated across the ocean from India to British Guiana (now Guyana) to work as indentured servants on sugarcane plantations. 

This comprehensive group exhibition features 28 artists from across the diaspora: Candida Alvarez, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Donna Conlon and Jonathan Harker, Christopher Cozier, Julien Creuzet, Maksaens Denis, Peter Doig, Jeannette Ehlers, Alia Farid, Teresita Fernández, Rafael Ferrer, Denzil Forrester, Joscelyn Gardner, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Deborah Jack, Engel Leonardo, Daniel Lind-Ramos, Suchitra Mattai, Ana Mendieta, Lorraine O’Grady, Ebony G. Patterson, Keith Piper, Freddy Rodríguez, Zilia Sánchez, Adán Vallecillo, Cosmo Whyte, and Didier William.  

The exhibition is accompanied by a substantial 288-page catalogue featuring groundbreaking scholarship as well as extensive plate sections reproducing exhibition artworks.

About the ICA 
Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of 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 is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Media Contact 
Theresa Romualdez, press@icaboston.org

Credits 
Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today was organized by Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. 

Major support for Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today was provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. 

The exhibition is curated by Carla Acevedo-Yates, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator, with Iris Colburn, Curatorial Assistant, Isabel Casso, former Susman Curatorial Fellow, and Nolan Jimbo, Susman Curatorial Fellow. 

The ICA/Boston presentation is coordinated by Jeffrey De Blois, Associate Curator and Publications Manager.

With warmest thanks, we gratefully acknowledge the generosity of the ICA’s Avant Guardian Society in making this exhibition possible.

(Boston, MA—AUGUST 22, 2023)—The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) announces the appointment of Erika Umali as the museum’s first Curator of Collections. In this newly created role, supported by the Leadership in Arts Museums initiative, Umali will lead strategy, acquisitions and exhibitions for the ICA’s collection, as well as expanding access and visibility for the collection through public exhibitions and programming, publishing initiatives, and digital platforms. The ICA’s collection, begun in 2006, has strong representation of women artists and artists of color, and reflects the exhibition program at the museum.

“We are thrilled to welcome Erika to our curatorial team, to learn from her, and to work together to make the collection an integral, driving programmatic force at the ICA,” said Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs. “The role of Curator of Collections will expand our capacity and support our commitment to reflect strong, diverse voices and perspectives in our collection and in all aspects of our work.” 

“I am elated to join the ICA’s curatorial team at such a transformational moment in the development of the collection,” added Umali. “I look forward to collaborating with the brilliant team here to support their ambitious and thought-provoking programming, and to contribute towards building a leading collection of contemporary art that fully reflects the diverse narratives and histories of the world around us.” 

Since the ICA began a permanent collection in 2006, the museum has built a forward-thinking, 20th and 21st-century collection, distinguished by its representation of women artists and commitment to diversity. The collection has greatly expanded in recent years, with the addition of major acquisitions by Yayoi Kusama, John Akomfrah, Firelei Báez, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Barbara Kruger, among many others. The full collection is available here

Umali comes to the ICA from the Brooklyn Museum, where she served as the inaugural Assistant Curator of the Collection and oversaw thousands of acquisitions. Alongside this, she also organized several exhibitions including Jeffrey Gibson: When Fire Is Applied to a Stone It Cracks, Brooklyn Abstraction: Four Artists, Four Walls, featuring installations by Maya Hayuk, José Parlá, Kennedy Yanko, and the late Leon Polk Smith, and Art Breaks, a collaboration between MTV and the Brooklyn Museum. Prior to her role as Assistant Curator of the Collection, Umali served as the Brooklyn Museum’s Mellon Curatorial Fellow. 

About the ICA/Boston

Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of 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 is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. For more information, call 617-478-3100. Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.   

Credits

The Curator of Collections position is supported by Leadership in Arts Museums, an initiative to create more racial equity in arts museum leadership led by the Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Pilot House Philanthropy and Alice L. Walton Foundation. 

About Leadership in Arts Museums

Leadership in Arts Museums is a $11+ million initiative over the next five years to invest in a variety of efforts to create more racial equity in art museum leadership. A partnership between the Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Pilot House Philanthropy and Alice L. Walton Foundation, the initiative provides funding to museums to increase leadership roles such as curators, conservators, collections managers, community engagement staff, and educators in a manner designed to advance the goal of racial equity.