(Boston, MA—JUNE 5, 2024) On Aug. 29, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens Tau Lewis: Spirit Level, the artist’s first solo museum presentation in the United States. For the ICA, Lewis (b. 1993, Toronto) is creating a new body of work that will be accompanied by her first monograph. On view from Aug. 29, 2024, to Jan. 26, 2025, the exhibition is organized by Jeffrey De Blois, ICA Mannion Family Curator, with Max Gruber, Curatorial Assistant. 

Lewis transforms found materials into fabric-based figurative sculptures, quilts, masks, and other assemblages through labor-intensive processes such as hand-sewing and carving. She forages for objects and materials that carry meaning and memories—from previously worn clothing and leather to driftwood and seashells. Often, these artifacts are drawn from a meticulously organized material library the artist has amassed since 2000 collected from innumerable places. The evocative objects Lewis gathers and transforms carry their own spirit and energy and connect her work to the social, cultural, and physical landscapes that she moves through, collects from, and inhabits. Lewis describes these different landscapes as “Black geographies.” These geographies—oceanic, terrestrial, extraterrestrial—are the areas where Lewis’s otherworldly beings live.  

“Lewis harnesses the beauty and power carried by found materials in her monumental soft sculptures,” said De Blois. “Her sculptures are alive with the energy of previously worn found fabrics and animated through every meticulous gesture. They are intensely personal, yet open to a world of associations and meanings.” 

Lewis’s upcycling relates to forms of material inventiveness practiced by Afro-diasporic communities. For the artist, working with things close at hand is a reparative act aimed at reclaiming agency. Her works circumnavigate a broad range of references, from the mythic underwater civilization of Drexciya, to forms of material inventiveness practiced by artists such as Thorton Dial, Lonnie Holley, and the quilters from Gee’s Bend Alabama. Throughout, Lewis’s interest is in advancing the diasporic traditions and exploring the transformation and rebirth of materials that occurs when an object is made by hand.  

For the ICA, Lewis is creating a new, interrelated body of sculptures including a large floor-bound quilt and five monumental figurative sculptures. The patchwork quilt is pieced together with a series of repeating panels the artist refers to as sequences radiating out from the center, where a miniature architectural form made from found metal components and a starfish is located. Each repeating sequence is composed of a set of found objects from the artist’s material library that recall kingdom-like organizations of the universe: animals, planets, satellites, weapons, aliens, and more. Intricately detailed in its configuration, and a whole world unto itself, the quilt evokes the idea of a portal or a galactic landscape; a cosmological ecosystem where struggles for power are playing out. The quilt is surrounded by five statuesque, fabric-based sculptures, each approximately 10 feet in height, adorned with hand-sewn, cloak-like garments and holding unique gestural hand poses. Their garments are pieced together with a makeshift aesthetic from found fabrics—ranging from muslin scraps dyed with tea or rust to deconstructed leather jackets and parachutes—while the figures themselves are by turns oceanic and extraterrestrial in appearance. Holding space in the exhibition, the figures congregate together as onlookers towering over the quilt.    

Artist Biography 
Born in 1993 in Toronto, Tau Lewis lives and works in New York. Her work has been exhibited internationally, at venues including the Barbican, London; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Lafayette Anticipations, Paris; ICA/Boston; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Hepworth Wakefield, London; MoMA PS1, New York; the Art Gallery of York University, Toronto; and New Museum, New York. Her work has been included in major international group exhibitions including The Milk of Dreams, the 59th Biennale di Venezia, and Yesterday we said tomorrow, Prospect.5, New Orleans. Lewis’s work is held in several permanent collections, including Grinnell College Museum of Art, Iowa; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  

The exhibition will be accompanied by the artist’s first monograph featuring an essay from the exhibition’s curator, Jeffrey De Blois, and a conversation between Tau Lewis and Lonnie Holley, renowned artist, musician, and long-time mentor to Lewis.  

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   

Organized by Jeffrey De Blois, ICA Mannion Family Curator, with Max Gruber, Curatorial Assistant. 

This exhibition is supported by The Coby Foundation, Ltd., Mathieu O. Gaulin, Girlfriend Fund, Robert Nagle and Katherine Hein, Kim Sinatra, the Jennifer Epstein Fund for Women Artists, and Miko McGinty.