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Summer 2018 at the Watershed

Inaugurating the new ICA Watershed in East Boston is an exhibition of works by artist Diana Thater (b. 1962, San Francisco) that create immersive experiences through light and moving image projections.

The installation will center on Thater’s artwork Delphine, reconfigured in response to the Watershed’s raw, industrial space and coastal location. In this monumental work, underwater film and video footage of swimming dolphins spills across the floor, ceiling, and walls, creating an immersive underwater environment. As viewers interact with Delphine, they become performers within the artwork, their own silhouettes moving and spinning alongside the dolphins’. 

In addition to Delphine, the Watershed will feature a recent sculptural video installation, A Runaway World, focused on the lives and worlds of species on the verge of extinction and the illicit economies that threaten their survival. Produced in Kenya in 2016 and 2017, A Runaway World is staged within a unique architectural environment of free-standing screen structures designed by the artist. 

Thater received a BA in Art History from New York University before receiving her MFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She has had major solo exhibitions at leading institutions, including the Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2016); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2015); Kunsthaus Graz, Austria and Natural History Museum, London (2009). Her work was featured in the 56th Venice Biennale at The Azerbaijan Pavilion as well as several Whitney Biennials (1995, 1997, and 2006), and is represented in prominent museum collections worldwide, including The Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York) and Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam). Among her numerous notable awards, Thater has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2005) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1993). A prolific writer and educator, Thater lives and works in Los Angeles, where she teaches at the Art Center College of Design.

About the Watershed
On July 4, the ICA will expand its artistic programming across Boston Harbor to the Watershed, a new space for art in the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina. Award-winning firm Anmahian Winton Architects (AW) has been engaged to design the renovation of the facility, a former copper pipe factory, and restore the historic building for new use. The ICA will present artworks and public programs seasonally in the newly renovated 15,000-square-foot space while continuing year-round programming in its Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed facility in Boston’s Seaport District. The Watershed will be a raw, industrial space for art unlike any other in Boston. In addition to a flexible space for exhibitions, programming, and workshops, the Watershed will house an orientation gallery introducing visitors to the historic shipyard complemented by a waterside plaza that will serve as a gathering place with stunning harbor views. The Watershed is located across Boston Harbor from the ICA in the Boston Shipyard and Marina in East Boston. The ICA will provide a boat to bring visitors between both locations. Admission to the Watershed will be free for all.

Opening Aug. 24, the exhibition features a new body of paintings, works on paper, and artist books

(Boston, MA—JUNE 27, 2023) On August 24, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens Tammy Nguyen, the artist’s first solo museum presentation in the United States. Tammy Nguyen’s (b. 1984, San Francisco) gilded paintings are composite images that reconsider lesser-known histories against the backdrop of lush landscapes and varied symbols of violent conquest or soft power. For the ICA, the artist has created an interconnected body of 14 paintings, works on paper, and artist books. Inspired by East Asian landscape painting, these works are all related to the relationship between people and nature, landscape and wilderness, as articulated in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s influential 1836 essay Nature, written in Concord, Massachusetts. Nguyen maps how ideas Emerson penned nearly 200 years ago have echoed across time and space to influence U.S. policies abroad, with a focus on Vietnam. Organized by Jeffrey De Blois, ICA Associate Curator and Publications Manager, the exhibition is on view through January 28, 2024. 

“Nguyen’s unique paintings are both portraits and landscapes, in which figure and ground are collapsed together, equating humans to nature as in Emerson’s essay. Her new body of work explores the lasting influence of Emerson, a figure associated closely with Massachusetts, on ideas about nature that are still prevalent today,” said De Blois. 

Nguyen’s new works are tied together by the line “what is a farm but a mute gospel?” from Nature, which intimates Emerson’s idea that God is reflected everywhere in nature. Dense layers of foliage combine plants and trees of the U.S. Northeast with the flora and fauna of tropical environments to create jungle-like landscapes where everything is interwoven. Emerson is one of the figures who recurs throughout the new works, along with Jesus, Demeter, and Ngô Đình Diệm.  

Nguyen presents these seemingly disparate figures in parallel, connecting them using different seasons as experienced in the Northeast to create a new narrative around these known symbols. Jesus appears in the figure of the Christ of Vũng Tàu, a 105-foot statue in Vietnam on the top of Mount Nhỏ—both a legacy of colonialism and a path to salvation. Here, the Christ of Vũng Tàu suggests literally the Emersonian connection between God and landscape. Demeter features as the Ancient Greek goddess of harvest and agriculture, and, later, the patron saint of agriculture. Even after paganism was banned throughout the Roman Empire, farmers continued to pray to her as “Saint Demetra.” Ngô Đình Diệm was the first president of South Vietnam from 1955 until he was captured and assassinated during the 1963 South Vietnamese coup. Diệm opened the door to U.S. involvement in Vietnam as part of his nation-building projects, including land reform, a topic that Nguyen explores across her new body of work.  

Nguyen’s vibrant paintings—whose symphonic space is made through overlaying painting, printing, drawing, metal leafing, and rubber stamping with custom-made tools—combine pictorial strategies of reflection and mirroring, drawn from Emerson’s philosophy of nature. In one large-scale painting, Nguyen mythologizes three figures involved in Vietnamese land reform programs whose passport photos she found in the National Archives of the United States. Their countenances are halved across the panels, portrayed against a panoramic landscape of mountains and overlaid with text drawn from documents found in archives. In another, a disc plow and illustrations of Vietnamese farmers found in the archives are juxtaposed with a depiction of the Battle of Lexington and Daniel Chester French’s The Minute Man (1874), a statue in Concord that depicts the revolutionary solider stepping away from his plow.  

Emerson, Jesus, Demeter, and Diệm appear again in the artist’s four collage-based works on paper. The texture and specificity of these works are taken from documents, including propaganda, found in the National Archives related to land reform programs in Vietnam. Across these works, she also includes the words from Ca Dao, propagandistic folk songs promoting land reform that circulated the countryside. 

Finally, four unique artist books—discrete objects unto themselves and the heart of Nguyen’s practice—are also tied to the four seasons and the recurring figures central to this body of work. The artist books are constructed to resemble the mountainous landscapes pictured throughout, tying together Emerson’s conception of landscape and how the Vietnamese landscape was conceived as part of land reform, especially through the lens of the U.S. involvement.  

Artist Biography 
Tammy Nguyen lives and works in Easton, Connecticut. Nguyen has a M.F.A. in Painting and Printmaking from Yale University, and a B.F.A. from Cooper Union. After finishing at Cooper Union, she received a Fulbright Scholarship to study lacquer painting in Vietnam, where she remained for three years. She is Assistant Professor of Art at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She is the founder of independent publishing imprint Passenger Pigeon Press. Nguyen’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions, including Still Present!, 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Germany, and Greater New York 2021, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, New York. Nguyen’s artist books are in many notable collections, including Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT; Clark Art Institute Library, Williamstown, MA; Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art Library, New York; New York Public Library; Philadelphia Museum of Art Library, Philadelphia; and the Whitney Museum of American Art Library, New York. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts. Nguyen’s first novel, O, was published in 2022 with Ugly Duckling Presse. 

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 Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Media Contact 
Theresa Romualdez,  

Organized by Jeffrey De Blois, Associate Curator and Publications Manager. 

This summer, Maravilla and sound healers will activate his sculptures in public sound baths, and the ICA will offer free workshops with community partners and organizations in East Boston.

(Boston, MA—May 4, 2023) The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) will open the next season of the Watershed with a monumental installation by Guadalupe Maravilla (b. 1976, El Salvador). In Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago, Maravilla expands on the Disease Thrower series with a newly commissioned sculpture: Mariposa Relámpago (Lightning Butterfly), the artist’s largest artwork to date. Once a school bus in the United States, Mariposa Relámpago had a second life as a transportation bus in El Salvador, and has now been transformed into a vibrational healing instrument by the artist. Drawing on his personal story of migration, illness, and recovery, Maravilla combines sculpture, painting, performative acts, and installation to create works grounded in activism and healing. The exhibition will also feature several additional artworks including: 8 new retablo paintings, Migratory Birds Riding the Celestial Serpent, 2021; Disease Thrower #0, #00, and #14, and a site-specific Tripa Chuca wall drawing, made in collaboration with an East Boston-based resident. On view May 25—September 4, 2023, Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago is organized by Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Senior Curator, with Yutong Shi, Curatorial Assistant. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, the artist will lead free Sound Baths on June 10 and August 13. The ICA is also working closely with long-time community partner East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) and members of the East Boston Community Healing Center Project on several public programs during the exhibition’s run (full schedule and details below). 

“Over the past five years, the Watershed has provided unprecedented opportunities for artists to engage with issues of community concern through immersive works of art. With its focus on healing and migration, Guadalupe Maravilla’s ambitious, large-scale installation, including a transformed school bus, is uniquely suited for the Watershed,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “We look forward to welcoming audiences to experience the artist’s unique vision and ideas around community-based care and regeneration.” 

“Maravilla’s installations are amalgamations of animals, spirits, plants, and gongs that create multi-sensory experiences and nurture collective narratives of perseverance and humanity. His work is informed by his own experience recovering from cancer as an adult—an illness he links to the trauma he experienced as an unaccompanied minor migrating from El Salvador and the stresses of being undocumented,” said Erickson. 

Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago draws on Maravilla’s own migration experiences. His sculptures incorporate natural materials, handmade objects, and items collected by the artist while retracing the 3,000-mile migration route that he took as a child fleeing from El Salvador’s civil war to reunite with his parents at the age of eight. The artist explains that he began these trips “to confront trauma in order to heal it” and realized the objects he collected while traveling “were really charged and really powerful from those lands.” His finished artworks contain a cosmology of potent symbols and objects that connect the artist’s personal journey with ancient practices of the indigenous Mayan peoples; diverse spiritual and folk beliefs; and contemporary crises of disease, ecology, and war. The site-specific Tripa Chuca wall drawing is made by the artist and a local resident who shares a similar migration experience of displacement to form an index of cultural exchange. Tripa Chuca is a Salvadoran children’s drawing game in which participants draw lines that never intersect, connecting pairs of numbers to form an abstract pattern.  

Public Programs 
Sound Baths | June 10, August 13 at 12:15 PM and 3:30 PM
Maravilla incorporates sound baths into his practice, harnessing the sonic vibrations of healing instruments to create a space for meditation and restoration. Join the artist and other sound healers for an hour-long sound bath at the ICA Watershed. In this immersive, full-body experience, Maravilla will activate the congregation of sculptures including Mariposa Relámpago, which was once a school bus in the United States and had a second life as a transportation bus in El Salvador, and is now a vibrational healing instrument. 

Watershed Block Parties | June 17, August 13 from 11 AM to 3 PM 
The ICA Watershed’s Block Parties welcome over 900 people from the East Boston neighborhood and surrounding areas to experience art, music, food, and activities at the Watershed. This summer, the ICA is working with EBNHC and the Community Healing Project to lead drumming circles, reiki, yoga, and sound and healing activities at each block party. 

Community Workshops | July 16, August 6 at 2 PM 
The ICA will be holding two intimate and hands-on workshops with members of the East Boston Community Healing Center Project. In these workshops, healing practitioners will delve into their work through presentations and activities for attendees. The first workshop will be led by Arteterapia, and will focus on the health benefits of Latin American Dance; the second will be led by Nancy Slamet, from the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and the EASTIE Coalition, alongside other local Qigong instructors, and will highlight the health benefits of Qigong.   

Additional Resources 
Accompanying Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago will be a behind-the-scenes video with the artist discussing his process and personal history. The video is produced by Doza Visuals in conjunction with the ICA. The ICA Mobile Guide on the Bloomberg Connects app will feature the artist discussing his practice, symbolism, and personal experience in a series of audio tracks recorded in both English and Spanish. 

East Boston Care Collectives 
The Watershed’s Harbor Room will feature a presentation on healing practices in East Boston, titled East Boston Care Collectives, including three videos created with East Boston–based community organizations—Eastie Farm, Maverick Landing Community Services, and Veronica Robles Cultural Center—to demonstrate practices they use to promote healing. All videos are produced by Doza Visuals in conjunction with the ICA. The Harbor Room will also include a drop-in artmaking activity co-authored by the East Boston Social Center’s Director of Joy, Krina Patel. 

Artist Biography 
Guadalupe Maravilla (b. 1976) received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts and his MFA from Hunter College in New York. His recent solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; and the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Olso were critically acclaimed with reviews in the New Yorker, The New York Times, Forbes, and NPR. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Olso; and Tate Modern, London, among others. He has received numerous awards and fellowships including; United States Artists Fellowship, 2023; Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award, 2022; Joan Mitchell Foundation Inaugural Fellowship, 2021; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation & Ford Foundation Latinx Artist Fellowship, 2021; Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, 2019; Soros Fellowship: Art Migration and Public Space, 2019; Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, 2016; and The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation Award, 2003. He recently became an Art for Justice Artist Fellow, receiving the Art for Justice Grant, 2023. He has since directed this $100k grant to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where he has been providing free meals and sound baths to undocumented immigrants, cancer survivors, and asylum seekers. 

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-art. It has since presented one immersive exhibition each summer, until it was closed to the public in 2020 to support the city and state in their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. During the pandemic, it was used as a food distribution site to address a direct need within the East Boston community, which experienced one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in Boston. 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 Follow the ICA on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.  

Exhibition Credits 

Support for Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago is generously provided by anonymous donors.  

Additional thanks to Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago media sponsor, El Planeta. 

(Boston, MA—May 2, 2023) The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) announced today that Ruth Erickson has been appointed the museum’s Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs. Erickson will lead the vision and development of the ICA’s exhibitions and collection, in alignment with the ICA’s mission to present and serve diverse artists and audiences, and offer a global view of today’s contemporary art practices.

“I am positively elated that Ruth Erickson will serve as the ICA’s Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs,” said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA. “As an art historian and a humanist, Ruth will lead with a keen eye, open heart, and clear vision for justice and the ways in which art, artists, and museums can make meaning, build community, and inspire hope and change.”

“I am thrilled to expand my work at the ICA, a place I know well and love deeply,” said Erickson. “I look forward to building upon a decade of collaboration with artists and colleagues across the museum to deepen and expand our engagement with audiences, amplify the impact and visibility of our permanent collection, and advance new art and ideas through commissions and significant exhibitions.”

Assuming the position June 1, Erickson will succeed Eva Respini, who is stepping down from the role after eight years at the ICA. Respini will return to the ICA as a guest curator for the forthcoming exhibition of Firelei Báez in March 2024, the artist’s first museum survey.

Currently serving as Mannion Family Senior Curator, Erickson has been a driving force in the ICA’s curatorial department since joining the museum in 2014. Among her many projects, she has organized major thematic group exhibitions, including the critically acclaimed To Begin Again: Artists and Childhood (2022)A Place for Me: Figurative Painting Now (2022), and When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art (2019); a significant artist survey and publication Mark Dion: Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist (2017); and solo presentations of María Berrío (2023)Barbara Kruger (2022)Vivian Suter (2019)Wangechi Mutu (2018), and Kevin Beasley (2018), among others. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the 2015 exhibition and publication Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–57 (for which she was co-editor and served as research fellow), Ruth Asawa: All is Possible (2021), Kevin Beasley (2018)Sue Williams (2015), and Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology (2014). Before joining the ICA, Erickson was a fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia (2008–10) and served as curator at Burlington City Arts (BCA) (2004–7). She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Pennsylvania, and her B.A. from Carleton College, Northfield, MN. Erickson is the recipient of a prestigious Center for Curatorial Leadership Fellowship in 2021.

Erickson’s forthcoming exhibition Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago opens at the ICA Watershed on May 25. The exhibition includes a major new commission by the artist – a large-scale vibrational healing instrument made from a transformed school bus – and is centered around ideas of community and care.

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. For more information, call 617-478-3100. Follow the ICA on FacebookInstagram, and TikTok.

On View at the Hirshhorn in Fall 2023 and in a joint presentation at LACMA and CAAM in Summer 2024

Exhibition is accompanied by the first monograph of Leigh’s work

(Boston, MA, March 15, 2023)—The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) welcomes home Simone Leigh’s work created for the Venice Biennale, kicking off a national tour that begins at the ICA on April 6 and runs through September 4, 2023. Leigh represented the United States at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, in a project commissioned by the ICA. 29 works will be presented in Simone Leigh, including 9 works exhibited at the U.S. Pavilion. The exhibition also features key early works that speak to the artist’s consistent interest in the forms and materials of Black feminist thought, and recent ceramics, bronzes, and videos.

Following its debut at the ICA, the exhibition will then move to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. from November 2023 through March 2024. The tour will conclude in a joint presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and California African American Museum (CAAM), on view June 2024 through January 2025 in Los Angeles. Simone Leigh is organized by Eva Respini, ICA Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Anni A. Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant.

“Simone Leigh’s complex and profoundly moving work honors the agency and ideas of Black women, giving visibility to overlooked narratives and histories,” said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA. “We are thrilled to bring Simone Leigh’s art from Venice back to the U.S. as part of this landmark exhibition, so that audiences across the country have the opportunity to experience the work of this consequential and influential artist.”

“It is with pleasure that we expand this presentation to go beyond the works from Venice, including many recent works on view for the first time,” said Eva Respini, who was the Co-Commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion and Curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition reveals and celebrates an artist working at the height of her artistic powers.” 

Featuring interrelated sculptures in ceramic, bronze, and raffia, the first galleries of the exhibition will display recent and new works made largely within the past five years. The exhibition culminates with Leigh’s historic Venice exhibition, presented at the ICA in a sequence that evokes the layout of the U.S. Pavilion, providing American audiences the opportunity to experience this historic installation. The exhibition concludes with Last Garment (2022), a bronze based on a 19th-century souvenir photograph of a Jamaican laundress that explores histories of labor, specifically the anonymous labor of Black women. The ICA presentation will feature a new, larger reflecting pool for Last Garment, breathtakingly situated with a sightline of Boston Harbor.

One of the most important artists working today, Leigh creates sculpture, video, installation, and social practice works that situate questions of Black femme, or female-identified, subjectivity at the center of contemporary art discourse. Leigh’s art addresses a wide swath of historical periods, geographies, and traditions, with specific references to vernacular and hand-made processes from across the African diaspora, as well as forms traditionally associated with African art and ritual, all while mining historical gaps, inaccuracies, and fallacies in material and visual culture. Saidiya Hartman’s conception of “critical fabulation”—a strategy that invites historians, artists, and critics to creatively fill the gaps of history—provides a resonant framework for approaching Leigh’s work.

The exhibition features works at both intimate and large scale. A selection of Leigh’s table-top ceramic busts point to her fluency in the medium of ceramics, including references to the Black American folk art tradition of stoneware face vessels; these citations are also rehearsed in larger ceramic works, which draw on the vernacular traditions of the American South, Caribbean, and African continent, and challenge traditional hierarchies of art and labor. Domestic vessels such as bowls and jugs, cowrie shells, and busts are recurring motifs, and her readdress of these forms over time and in various materials underscores the remarkable consistency of Leigh’s vision.

In recent large-scale ceramic sculptures, Leigh merges the human body with traditional domestic containers, conjuring black woman’s labor and knowledge production. The intersection of architecture with the body is also central to her sculpture, such as the work Cupboard IX (2019), seen in the steel cage-like structures that the artist leaves bare or covered with raffia, evoking the womb, skirts, and sub-Saharan dwellings, often built by women and used as gathering spaces. 

In 2018, the artist began casting her sculptural works in bronze, creating statuary for both gallery presentations and public art commissions. Her bronzes combine figuration with domestic or architectural elements, such as in the 2019 sculpture Jug, featuring the head and torso of a woman’s body atop a large-scale vessel. Through their material choices, these bronzes embody a state of permanence and grandeur; with their overtly Black feminist and aesthetic references, Leigh’s bronzes also insist on the centrality—indeed, the necessity—of considering the agency of Black women as subjects in the cultural sphere. The exhibition will feature Leigh’s monumental 24-foot-tall bronze Satellite (2022), sited at the entrance of the ICA, broadcasting ideas around self-determination that are endemic to the work.

Leigh’s videos, often created in collaboration with other artists, draw from historical and fictional representations of Black women and femmes. Conspiracy (2022), made with filmmaker Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich, focuses on the performativity of making and the studio as a site of labor and care. In the video my dreams, my works, must wait till after hell (2011), Leigh and artist Chitra Ganesh reimagine the reclining female nude, a common subject in European art. Another 2011 collaboration between Leigh and artist Liz Magic Laser, titled Breakdown, features mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran singing a script the two artists compiled from fictional scenes of individuals experiencing nervous breakdowns, offering a stunning meditation on psychology, race, and gender.


A major scholarly monograph is forthcoming, including images of works in the exhibition, installation views from Leigh’s Venice presentation, and images of works from throughout her career, accompanies the exhibition. Serving as the first comprehensive scholarly publication on Leigh’s practice, the publication includes newly commissioned essays by over fifteen leading scholars, historians, and writers; a conversation between Simone Leigh, Lorraine O’Grady, and Malik Gaines; and an introduction by Eva Respini. The catalogue is designed by Nontsikelelo Mutiti, and co-published by the ICA and DelMonico Books. The monograph will be available summer 2023.

Contributors to the publication include:
Vanessa Agard-Jones
Rizvana Bradley
Dionne Brand
Denise Ferreira da Silva
Malik Gaines
Saidiya V. Hartman
Daniella Rose King
Jessica Lynne
Nomaduma Masilela
Katherine McKittrick
Uri McMillan
Sequoia Miller
Steven Nelson
Tavia Nyong’o
Lorraine O’Grady
Rianna Jade Parker
Yasmina Price
Anni A. Pullagura
Eva Respini
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Christina Sharpe 
Hortense J. Spillers

The publication is available for pre-order from the ICA Store; please click here to place your order.

Exhibition Credits

The U.S. Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia was co-commissioned by Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director, and Eva Respini, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Barbara Lee Chief Curator, at the ICA.

Simone Leigh is organized by Eva Respini, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Anni A. Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant.

With warmest thanks, the ICA/Boston gratefully acknowledges the following philanthropic partners for their magnificent support.

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Major support is provided by the Ford Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. 

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Lead corporate support is provided by eu2be.

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Generous support is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser, Girlfriend Fund, and Wagner Foundation

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Leadership gifts are provided by Amy and David Abrams, Stephanie Formica Connaughton and John Connaughton, Bridgitt and Bruce Evans, James and Audrey Foster, Agnes Gund, Jodi and Hal Hess, Hostetler/Wrigley Foundation, Barbara and Amos Hostetter, Brigette Lau Collection, Henry Luce Foundation, Kristen and Kent Lucken, Tristin and Martin Mannion, Ted Pappendick and Erica Gervais Pappendick, Gina and Stuart Peterson, Helen and Charles Schwab, and the Terra Foundation for American Art

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Essential support is also provided by Suzanne Deal Booth, Kate and Chuck Brizius, Richard Chang, Karen and Brian Conway, Steven Corkin and Dan Maddalena, Federico Martin Castro Debernardi, Jennifer Epstein and Bill Keravuori, Esta Gordon Epstein and Robert Epstein, Negin and Oliver Ewald, Alison and John Ferring, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, Vivien and Alan Hassenfeld and the Hassenfeld Family Foundation, Peggy J. Koenig and Family, The Holly Peterson Foundation, David and Leslie Puth, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, Leslie Riedel and Scott Friend, Mark and Marie Schwartz,  Kim Sinatra, Tobias and Kristin Welo, Lise and Jeffrey Wilks, Kelly Williams and Andrew Forsyth, Nicole Zatlyn and Jason Weiner, Jill and Nick Woodman, Marilyn Lyng and Dan O’Connell, Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg Foundation, Kate and Ajay Agarwal, Eunhak Bae and Robert Kwak, Jeremiah Schneider Joseph, Barbara H. Lloyd, Cynthia and John Reed, and anonymous donors