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A procession is part of life; people gather and move together to celebrate, worship, protest, mourn, escape, or call for change. These expressions are all at the heart of The Procession, an ambitious installation first commissioned by Tate Britain, UK, and making its North American debut at the ICA Watershed.   

Through his multivalent practice, Hew Locke OBE RA (born 1959 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom; lives and works in London) explores individual and collective relationships to power, cultural memory, and migration. The artist spent his formative years in the then newly independent country of Guyana, a former British colony, where he became fascinated by the symbols through which individuals and groups assert their identities. His work has touched on a wide array of subjects, from British colonialism and Caribbean carnival to political iconographies and public monuments. He investigates these ideas through materials such as cardboard, costume jewelry, and repurposed emblems of British identity, creating elaborate artworks with layered and expansive meanings that engage with the histories and contemporary legacies of colonialism and empire. 

Drawing upon a series of motifs and concerns that have occupied the artist over decades, The Procession is a colorful gathering of approximately 140 life-size sculptures of masked figures of all ages and abilities adorned in printed fabrics and embroideries—Caribbean carnival queens, dancers, refugees, horseback-mounted military figures, fishers, laborers, pregnant women, children, drummers, and flag bearers. The forward-facing figures carry props or wear costumes that reproduce imagery from historical paintings, advertisements, share certificates, maps, and photographs, including reproductions of the artist’s own work. Poetic and powerful, this installation draws on the metaphor of the voyage to, in the artist’s words, “reflect on the cycles of history, and the ebb and flow of cultures, people, finance, and power.” Seen within the harborside setting of the ICA Watershed in East Boston, The Procession is a compelling and immersive invitation for visitors to cross historical and narrative time in an experience that delights the eyes and expands the mind.  

A older person with curly dark hair and white beard stands in front of sculptures out of focus

Audio Series: Hew Locke and Curator Ruth Erickson on The Procession

Listen as artist Hew Locke and Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, unravel the references, inspirations, and thinking behind Locke’s monumental and multifaceted work.

Listen now on the ICA Digital Guide
A procession of sculpted figures with colorful clothing, flags, and masks.

Video Series: Hew Locke’s The Procession

The Paul Mellon Centre, part of Yale University, has commissioned the filmmaker Jérome Monnot to collaborate with nine scholars and curators, and with the artist himself, to make a series of short films about The Procession. Featuring extensive footage of the work in situ at the Tate, each of the films approaches Locke’s work from a different perspective, and focuses on a distinctive topic or theme.

Watch the films

Co-commissioned by the ICA and making its U.S. premiere at the ICA Watershed, Purple is an immersive six-channel video installation by the acclaimed artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah (b. 1957, Accra, Ghana). Akomfrah draws from hundreds of hours of archival footage, combining it with newly shot film and a hypnotic sound score to address themes related to the implications of climate change across the planet and its effects on human communities, biodiversity, and the wilderness. Sited in the Watershed’s industrial building, Purple resonates deeply with the Watershed’s harbor location and its proximity to the current and historical maritime industries of the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina. Symphonic in scale and divided into five interwoven movements, the film features various disappearing ecological landscapes, from the hinterlands of Alaska and the desolate environments of Greenland to the Tahitian Peninsula and the volcanic Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Purple conveys the complex and fragile interrelation of human and non-human life with a sense of poetic gravity that registers the vulnerability of living in precarious environments.

A founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective (1982–1998) and its offshoot, the film and television production company Smoking Dogs Films (1998–present), Akomfrah lives and works in London. His work has been shown in museums and exhibitions around the world including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The New Museum, New York; Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Serpentine Gallery, London; Tate Britain, London; Southbank Centre, London; Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden; and the 56th Venice Biennale.

Plan your visit to the ICA Watershed

Immersive light and moving-image installations inaugurate the ICA Watershed.

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

The installation centers 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 features 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 expanded 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) designed 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. In addition to a flexible space for exhibitions, programming, and workshops, the Watershed houses an orientation gallery introducing visitors to the historic shipyard complemented by a waterside plaza that serves 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; free ferry service between the two locations is included in ICA admission. Admission to the Watershed is always free.  Visit the Watershed

On display in the ICA Watershed Harbor Room is a project by Boston-based artist Stephen Hamilton highlighting the generations-long tradition of indigo dyeing in West Africa too often ignored in the accounting of early American history. Included is Hamilton’s painting Owners of the Earth (2020), a richly layered mixed-media work that refers to traditional artforms and philosophies from the Yoruba people in West Africa. The work is accompanied by a description of the unrecognized historical contributions of West Africa to indigo use in the Americas and educational materials depicting indigo dying techniques that the artist adopted during his research in southwestern Nigeria. Hamilton brings these histories—referenced in Firelei Baez’s monumental Watershed installation currently on view—to life through words, images, and textiles.

In summer 2021, the ICA Watershed featured a newly commissioned, monumental sculpture by acclaimed artist Firelei Báez. In her largest sculptural installation to date, the artist reimagined the archeological ruins of the Sans-Souci Palace in Haiti as though they were revealed in East Boston after the sea receded from the Watershed floor. The Watershed’s location—in a working shipyard and as a trade site and point of entry and home for immigrants over decades—provided a pivotal point of reference. Báez embedded Sans-Souci within the geological layers of Boston, where histories of revolution and independence are integral to the city’s identity. This site-specific installation invited visitors to traverse passageways and travel through time, engaging with streams of influence and interconnectedness. The work’s intricately painted architectural surfaces include symbols of healing and resistance, patterning drawn from West African indigo printing traditions (later used in the American South), and sea growths native to Caribbean waters. Báez’s sculpture points to the centuries-long exchanges of ideas and influence between Europe, the African continent, and the Americas.

Báez was born in 1981 in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, to a Dominican mother and a father of Haitian descent. Her upbringing between Hispaniola’s two countries, which have a longstanding history of tension predicated on ethnic difference, informs her concerns with the politics of place and heritage. She currently lives and works in New York City.

Missed the exhibition in 2021? Catch her first museum survey in North America at the ICA, beginning April 4, 2024.

Firelei Báez will be on view at The Momentary at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, from November 19, 2022 through October 15, 2023.

In summer 2022, the ICA Watershed presents Revival: Materials and Monumental Forms, an exhibition of large-scale installations by six international artists who reclaim and reuse industrial and everyday materials. Inspired by the Watershed building’s mixed-use history—built in the 1930s as a copper pipe and sheet metal manufacturing plant and serving since 2018 as a free site for contemporary art—this exhibition highlights how artists have derived inspiration from industry, labor, and the poetic and political power of found goods.

Participating artists include El Anatsui (b. 1944, Anyako, Ghana), Madeline Hollander (b. 1986, Los Angeles), Ibrahim Mahama (b. 1987, Tamale, Ghana), Karyn Olivier (b. 1968, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago), Ebony G. Patterson (b. 1981, Kingston, Jamaica), and Joe Wardwell (b. 1972, Chapel Hill, NC). Making visible the often invisible forces that shape human experiences, these artists reflect on the systems of industry, nature, and society in monumental artworks. For some, recycled objects expand ideas of materiality and industry in daily life: Anatsui collects bottle caps and other refuse to form glittering, tapestry-like sculptures; Hollander programs automobile head and taillights to blink with the movement of traffic; and Patterson makes intricate collages of flowers, birds, butterflies, and figures. Olivier and Mahama collect used clothing and crates, respectively, to build towering sculptures that reflect on human persistence, labor, and ingenuity. Wardwell, a Boston-based artist, will create a new, site-specific installation in dialogue with the rich history of labor songs. Together, these artworks capture the power of reuse, resilience, and reclamation, celebrating a revival of the everyday at monumental scale.
 

Listen to “Gotta Go to Work,” a playlist created by artist Joe Wardwell to accompany his work on view in Revival

Guadalupe Maravilla (b. 1976 in San Salvador, El Salvador) grounds his sculpture, painting, performance, and large-scale installation in activism and healing, informed by his personal story of migration, illness, and recovery. At the age of eight, Maravilla fled El Salvador’s civil war as an unaccompanied minor and made a perilous journey through Central America to reunite with family in the United States. In the 2010s, Maravilla was diagnosed with colon cancer—an illness he links to generational trauma and the stresses of being undocumented—and during the recovery process, he was introduced to ancient methods of healing, including the use of sound. This life event shifted Maravilla’s practices, and he has since worked tirelessly to raise awareness of trauma and expand access to healing, nurturing collective narratives with a sense of perseverance and humanity.

This exhibition presents a selection of recent sculptures and paintings by Maravilla. At its center is Mariposa Relámpago (Lightning Butterfly), a newly commissioned work for the ICA Watershed and the artist’s largest sculpture to date. Mariposa Relámpago is part of the artist’s Disease Thrower series—sculptures that incorporate natural materials, handmade objects, and items collected by the artist while retracing his migratory route to become shrines and healing instruments. Every sculpture includes metal gongs that are activated by the artist during public sound baths to deploy the powers of vibrational sound as a form of healing. Maravilla’s 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. We invite you to explore this exhibition and come back for one of the many programs offered in collaboration with East Boston organizations and individuals who support community healing and well-being.

Tour

The artwork Mariposa Relámpago is on tour. See it at Marfa Ballroom November 4, 2023 to March 16, 2024, The Contemporary Austin’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria in April 2024, and Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston in November 2024.

Resources

Mariposa Relámpago looking guide

Mariposa Relámpago guía de apreciación

Hear the artist speak about his work on view

Escuche al artista hablar sobre sus obras a la vista

In conjunction with Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago, the ICA collaborated with organizations and individuals in East Boston who support community healing and well-being. Many are members of the thriving East Boston Community Healing Center Project, a group of 20-plus members who actively offer wellness interventions in response to the stresses and traumas experienced by many residents. Their work in this neighborhood that has for generations witnessed the arrival of new immigrants is culturally rooted and community-led—a hallmark of the community activism historically found in East Boston.

Numerous activities centered on healing and well-being will take place in the Harbor Room throughout the summer, including interactive workshops on Qigong, Latin American dance, and more. These public workshops and community events, along with the introductory videos displayed on this wall, highlight just a fraction of the diverse healing practices and practitioners in East Boston.

We extend our deep gratitude to the many practitioners and members of the East Boston Community Healing Center Project who met with museum staff about Maravilla’s installation and shared their own healing practices and experiences with us. We are also thankful to the clinical team at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center for meeting with Maravilla in an exchange of ideas on healing.

East Boston Community Healing Center project supporters, collaborators, and members:

Arteterapia
Barnes School Seniors Residence
Boston Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement
Boston Medical Center / Recovery Programs
Boston Society of Architects
Care Dimensions / Bereavement Services
Centro Cooperativo de Desarrollo y Solidaridad
City of Boston Age Strong Commission
East Boston Neighborhood Health Center
East Boston Neighborhood Trauma Team
East Boston Neighborhood Trauma Team Community Support Collective
EASTIE Coalition
Eastie Farm
Freedom Community Clinic
HarborCOV
La Colaborativa
LatinX Bioethics
Maverick Landing Community Services
Mutual Aid Eastie
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts
Neighbors United for a Better East Boston
North Suffolk Mental Health
Perfectly Balanced Life
Revive Church Chelsea
Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office / Restorative Justice program
Tejiendo Mi Vida
Transformation Prison Project
The Trustees of Reservations
Veronica Robles Cultural Center
ZUMIX