Nina Chanel Abney, I Left Three Days Ago, 2016. Acrylic and spray paint. Library Street Collective, Detroit, Michigan. Courtesy of Nina Chanel Abney studio. © Nina Chanel Abney
(Boston, MA—December 18, 2018) On Jan. 17, Chicago-born artist Nina Chanel Abney debuts a monumental, site-specific mural at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA). Abney, born in 1982, is at the forefront of a generation of young artists that is reenergizing narrative figurative painting. A skillful storyteller, Abney masterfully weaves colorful geometric shapes, language, and symbols into energetic and chaotic scenes that address the complex social dynamics of today. Created for the museum’s Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall, the new work—Abney’s first presentation in Boston—features vibrant vinyl cut-outs of various colors, forms, and sizes collaged into a visually compelling storyboard. Referencing what it means to “level the playing field” politically and socioeconomically, a bold black-and-white checkerboard pattern grounds the various characters, or “players,” in Abney’s narrative. On view through March 15, 2020, Abney’s installation is organized by Ellen Tani, Assistant Curator.
“Abney is a fantastic painter: creating vibrant, pulsing colossal compositions of figures, words, and shapes and using a brilliantly colored palette to express and dissect the notion of self in a dynamic and fraught world,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “The Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall, located in the museum’s glass-enclosed lobby, is an open, free and public space for visitors to encounter Abney’s art.”
“Nina is inspired by the power of public messaging—whether billboards, graffiti, current events, or digital information—as such, her approach is intuitive, improvisational, and responsive to social climate. The ICA installation draws on her current practice of creating site-specific public murals whose vibrant colors, recognizable imagery, and balance of chaos and order invite the viewer to both consume and consider their content,” said Tani.
Abney’s artistic practice is grounded in painting but spans a variety of forms, from fashion collaborations to playground surfaces to large-scale public murals. Often working improvisationally in spray paint, she makes brightly-colored compositions that channel the velocity of information cycles and viral content. Abney renders what comes across her radar through social media, popular culture, and the internet as a visual language of signs and icons that is both playful and challenging, and evokes feelings of stimulation and fatigue. Responding to the seemingly inescapable and weighty conditions of suffering that permeate much of the news today, Abney describes her artwork as “easy to swallow and hard to digest.”
The ICA’s Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall is dedicated to site-specific works by leading contemporary artists, commissioned annually.
About the artist
Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982 in Chicago) earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Augustana College, IL in 2004, where she studied computer science and studio art. She earned a Master of Fine Arts at Parsons School of Design in 2007. Abney’s first solo exhibition, Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush, opened at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in 2018. Her work is held in private and public collections including the Brooklyn Museum, The Rubell Family Collection, Bronx Museum, and the Burger Collection, Hong Kong. She currently lives in New York.
About the ICA
Since its founding in 1936, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with audiences in Boston and beyond. Its innovative exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. Spanning two locations across Boston Harbor, the ICA offers year-round programming at its iconic building in Boston’s Seaport and seasonal programming (May-September) at the Watershed, part of a functioning East Boston shipyard.
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 at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Support provided, in part, by Jean-François and Nathalie Ducrest.