Major exhibition includes works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kader Attia, Firelei Báez, Louise Bourgeois, Nan Goldin, Simone Leigh, Doris Salcedo, and many others


(Boston, MA—November 2, 2020) The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents i’m yours: Encounters with Art in Our Times, a major collection presentation that features new acquisitions and iconic artworks from the ICA’s collection including works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kader Attia, Firelei Báez, Louise Bourgeois, Nan Goldin, Simone Leigh, Doris Salcedo, and many others. The exhibition opens to members on Thursday, November 19 at 10 AM and at ICA Free Thursday Night on November 19 for the public. Advance timed tickets required at On view through May 23, 2021, i’m yours: Encounters with Art in Our Times is collaboratively organized by Jeffrey De Blois, Assistant Curator and Publications Manager; Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator; Anni Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant; and Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator.

“After the events of this year, we recognize now more than ever the power of the arts to uplift us as we reckon with all the uncertainties and complexity of our world,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director.

“i’m yours features new works to the ICA’s collection that have never been on view here, including a life-size sculpture by Simone Leigh, an installation of over 225 drawings by Firelei Báez, and portraits by photographer Zanele Muholi. Visitors will also be able to see iconic favorites from the collection like Tara Donovan’s cube of straight pins and Cornelia Parker’s hanging sculpture of charred pieces of wood,” shared the curators.

For this exhibition, the curators have taken an experimental approach, creating a series of discrete scenes within a dramatic architectural space featuring theatrical lighting and bold color. These scenes address topics that are relevant during these times of isolation, including ideas of home and history, social and material transformation, and frames of identity.

Exhibition highlights

The exhibition opens with three singular artworks: Simone Leigh’s stunning life-sized sculpture Cupboard IX; Louise Bourgeois’s theatrical Cell (Hands and Mirror) where, finely carved marble arms are reflected through mirrors installed in an evocative structure; and Green Heart by feminist painter Joan Semmel, whose work has engaged with charged eroticism and frank, corporeal self-portraiture. The works gathered feature the human figure either in its totality or in part, and evoke touch in poetic ways—whether in Leigh’s outstretched arms, the conjoined hands in Bourgeois’s sculpture, or the full-bodied embrace in Semmel’s painting.

Bridging myth and media, the works in the second scene share narratives of land, history, and the body. Firelei Báez’s monumental Man Without a Country (aka anthropophagist wading in the Artibonite River) includes 225 hand-drawn illustrations over repurposed historical texts written about Hispaniola, the Caribbean island of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Wangechi Mutu’s precarious Blackthrone VIII fuses ordinary materials together in a towering sculpture. Nalini Malani’s video sketch Penelope animates a classical myth. Caitlin Keogh’s painting Blank Melody, Old Wall gathers disembodied feminine motifs floating against a vibrantly designed background. Together, these four works offer artistic musings on the creative balance found in open-ended renewal.

Some of the ICA’s beloved artworks are presented as a means to meditate on the aftermath of loss and the possibility for creative production from what remains. Cornelia Parker’s Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson) strings the charred wooden pieces of a destroyed building to form a suspended sculpture. Doris Salcedo’s Atrabiliarios features the shoes of women who had “disappeared” (presumed abducted and killed) during the Colombian conflict (1967–present). Marlene Dumas’s large-scale paintings in The Messengers bring together three renderings of skeletons with a portrait of her own daughter. Nan Goldin’s photograph, Chrissy with her 100-year-old Grandmother, Provincetown, captures a momentary connection between two women at different points in their lives. Together, these works attest to the forces of loss, death, and destruction, as well as those of tenderness and care, that form our human condition. 

Notions of home are central to the works in next grouping, including rethinking familiar domestic objects. Family ties and relationships play a large part in artists’ reflections on home. Boston-area artist Rania Matar’s Orly and Ruth, a photograph of two Boston-area sisters taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, offers a glimpse into lives in isolation. Toyin Odutola’s Heir Apparent imagines the lives of two fictional Nigerian families joined by marriage, while Nan Goldin captures intimate moments with the families we choose to make. The relationship of home to gender identity also undergirds many of the works gathered here, such as Cindy Sherman’s staged Untitled Film Still #3, a send-up of conventional gender roles.

The next grouping features three artworks that reveal dense layers of meaning ingrained in familiar, everyday materials. Tara Donovan’s Untitled (Pins) is a cube made from thousands of metal dressmaker’s pins that recalls the “unitary forms” of so many highly finished minimalist sculptures. A structure of stacked white sugar cubes on a silver platter dissolves under poured motor oil in Kader Attia’s video Oil and Sugar #2. Sugar and oil are laden with complicated relationships to history, politics, and the environment, even as both are seemingly ubiquitous in everyday life. Equally as complex in its range of associations, the American flag at the center of Cady Noland’s sculptural assemblage Objectification Process is still sealed in plastic packaging. The inert flag positioned on an orthopedic walker suggests a powerful critique of American symbols of national unity and pageantry.

The next scene features nearly thirty portraits of front-facing subjects, many of whom lock eyes with the viewer. Challenging familiar forms of museum display and the genre of portraiture, this grouping stages an encounter in which the viewer is both seeing and being seen—and questions the power dynamics assumed in such relations. Some works, like Zanele Muholi’s suite of photographs and Collier Schorr’s candid portrait, expand ideas of visual agency and self-representation. Others interrogate conventions such as identification photography: Thomas Ruff’s dramatic shift in scale and Rineke Dijkstra’s double portrait both trouble the notion that portraits reveal vital aspects about identity. Brought into dialogue with one another, these portraits explore both furtive possibilities and persistent questions related to the power of seeing and being seen. 

Offering a glimpse into the long history of performance art and social critique, the final scene brings together two artists who took to public space to stage unsanctioned and layered portrayals of class, race, and gender. Between 1980 and 1983, Lorraine O’Grady performed as a fictional 1950s beauty queen named Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, or Miss Black Middle-Class. Arriving uninvited to gallery and museum openings throughout New York, O’Grady’s glamorous and unforgettable alter ego disrupted these private events to expose the racism and sexism rampant in the art field. Similar in its critique of class and privilege, Nari Ward’s 1996 performance involved the artist, dressed in a crisp suit, pushing his sculpture Savior down 125th Street in Harlem, New York. Recalling a traveling salesman, religious figure, and itinerant person, Ward’s performance puts forward his towering sculpture—carefully constructed from discarded objects—as a kind of talisman against a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. 

Artist list

Njideka Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983 in Enugu, Nigeria)
Kader Attia (b. 1970 in Dugny, France)
Firelei Báez (b. 1981 in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic)
Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911 in Paris; d. 2010 in New York)
Rineke Dijkstra (b. 1959 in Sittard, the Netherlands)
Tara Donovan (b. 1969 in Queens, NY)
Marlene Dumas (b. 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa)
Shepard Fairey (b. 1970 in Charleston, SC)
LaToya Ruby Frazier (b. 1982 in Braddock, PA)
Nan Goldin (b. 1953 in Washington, D.C.)
Mona Hatoum (b. 1952 in Beirut, Lebanon)
Chantal Joffe RA (b. 1969 in St. Albans, VT)
Caitlin Keogh (b. 1982 in Anchorage, AK)
Deana Lawson (b. 1979 in Rochester, NY)
Simone Leigh (b. 1967 in Chicago, IL)
Nalini Malani (b. 1946 in Karachi, Pakistan)
Rania Matar (b. 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon)
Paul Mpagi Sepuya (b. 1982 in San Bernardino, CA)
Zanele Muholi (b. 1972 in Umlazi, South Africa)
Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya)
Alice Neel (b. 1900 in Merion Square, PA; d. 1984 in New York)
Cady Noland (b. 1956 in Washington, D.C.)
Lorraine O’Grady (b. 1934 in Boston, MA) 
Toyin Ojih Odutola (b. 1985 in Ife, Nigeria)
Catherine Opie (b. 1961 in Sandusky, OH)
Cornelia Parker OBE, RA (b. 1956 in Chesire, England)
Thomas Ruff (b. 1958 in Zell am Harmersbach, West Germany)
Doris Salcedo (b. 1958 in Bogotá, Colombia)
Collier Schorr (b. 1963 in New York)
Joan Semmel (b. 1932 in New York)
Cindy Sherman (b. 1954 in Glen Ridge, NJ)
Diane Simpson (b. 1935 in Joliet, IL)
Henry Taylor (b. 1958 in Ventura, CA)
Gail Thacker (b. 1959 in Providence, RI)
Nari Ward (b. 1963 in St. Andrew, Jamaica) 

Exhibition-related fall programming

The Artist’s Voice: Zanele Muholi
Thu, Nov 19, 5:30 PM
Digital + Free

Influential South African artist and activist Zanele Muholi discusses their work, including the ongoing portraiture series Faces and Phases, select works from which are on view in i’m yours: Encounters with Art in Our Time, in conversation with Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator.

The Artist’s Voice: Rania Matar
Thu, Dec 3, 6:30 PM
Digital + Free

Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator, chats with Rania Matar about the artist’s Across Windows series of portraits taken in and around Boston during COVID-19. Hear more about Matar’s process for making art during an ongoing pandemic, an example of which is included in i’m yours: Encounters with Art in Our Times.

Virtual Celebration: i’m yours: Encounters with Art in Our Times
Wed, Dec 9, 7 PM
The event is a premiere benefit for ICA Members +

Celebrate the opening of i’m yours: Encounters with Art in Our Times, a new major exhibition reveling in the power of experiencing art in person. Hear from all four curators in conversation about the exhibition and their experience curating in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest. Get premiere access by becoming an ICA member.

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 at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Support for i’m yours: Encounters with Art in Our Times is provided by First Republic Bank.

First Republic Bank

Additional support is generously provided by Lori and Dennis Baldwin and The Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation; Ed Berman and Kate McDonough; Clark and Susana Bernard; Kate and Chuck Brizius; Paul and Katie Buttenwieser; Stephanie and John Connaughton; Karen and Brian Conway; Steve Corkin and Dan Maddalena; Jean-François and Nathalie Ducrest; Bridgitt and Bruce Evans; the Ewald Family Foundation; James and Audrey Foster; Hilary and Geoffrey Grove; Vivien and Alan Hassenfeld and the Hassenfeld Family Foundation; Jodi and Hal Hess; Marina Kalb and David Feinberg; Barbara Lee; Tristin and Martin Mannion; Aedie and John McEvoy; Ted Pappendick and Erica Gervais Pappendick; The Red Elm Tree Charitable Foundation; Charles and Fran Rodgers; Mark and Marie Schwartz; Kambiz and Nazgol Shahbazi; Kim Sinatra; Charlotte and Herbert S. Wagner III; and anonymous donors.

The Artist’s Voice: Zanele Muholi is made possible, in part, by the Bridgitt and Bruce Evans Public Program Fund.

The Artist’s Voice: Rania Matar is made possible, in part, by The Ronni Casty Lecture Fund and the Bridgitt and Bruce Evans Public Program Fund.