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Multidisciplinary artist Igshaan Adams (born 1982 in Cape Town, South Africa) explores how people inhabit and move through space. Adams utilizes practices of weaving to make visible everyday patterns of movement that speak to forms of care, survival, and resistance in post-apartheid South Africa. Adams’s recent large-scale woven tapestries point to the interconnectedness of the artist’s spirituality, familial histories, and local community narratives as rooted in his South African heritage, as well as the fraught land use in the region. He draws inspiration from the urban planning term “desire lines”—paths created by pedestrians over time that fall outside of planned walkways. In Adams’s practice and in South Africa, the establishment of desire lines represents an act of transgression in the face of fixed boundaries enforced by the government during the apartheid era to forcibly separate communities along racial castes.  

Lynloop, Adams’s monumental new commission for the ICA/Boston, is a multipart experimental weaving developed in response to the architecture of the museum and the artist’s childhood memories. It is based on aerial images of the intersecting footpaths between a sports field and a walled-off recreational space south of where Adams grew up. Through the work, Adams considers the impact of childhood experiences and memories on the trajectory of one’s life. He writes, “In sitting with the discomfort of growing up among these hypermasculine spaces, the installation explores how I have had to superimpose my own fantasies onto memories in a way that softens the hard edges and coldness of this area.” In hues of pink with beads, rope, chain, and mohair, Lynloop is a stunning and tactile mapping of space, human interaction, and memory.   

South Korea–born artist Haegue Yang has transformed the Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall with a new, site-specific installation titled Multiple Mourning Room: Mirrored. Made in collaboration with graphic designer Manuel Raeder, the installation covers the Art Wall with a large-scale, manipulated photograph of an Asian cityscape. This enormous digital wallpaper features images of Yang’s sculpture and collages, bonsai trees, and Shinto grave markers as well as a three-dimensional sculptures.

The mingling images generate a virtual space, a mysterious floating world that our eye, nonetheless, calculates as entirely plausible. Such virtual, illogical spaces signal for Yang the separation of identity and place so prevalent in our increasingly transient and global world. The title, Multiple Mourning Room, is an allusion to the multi-faith prayer rooms located in airports, and serves to highlight the abundant hours travelers spend idling in airports, the quintessential transient space of our age.

Remanence/Remonstrance, Ritchie’s contribution to the Fineberg Art Wall in the ICA lobby, will continue his exploration of the possibilities, limitations, and collaborative capabilities of various media. Here, painting escapes its traditional confines both dimensionally—by extending across the Art Wall to the adjacent bay of windows—as well as materially—through the inclusion of sound. The imagery, like the Dewey Square mural, will be composed of dark, gestural and diagrammatic lines on a pale background. The drawing on the wall will become more and more colorful as it reaches the windows, where the drawing will erupt with complexity and color. Following the March 29 performance described below, an interactive sound piece will be added to the installation. It will feature recorded sounds from the performance that are triggered by visitors’ movement so that they can “compose” their own music.

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston commissioned Matthew Ritchie for an ambitious, 18-month residency from July 2013 through December 2014. Titled Remanence, the project included a major new public art work in Boston, a large-scale installation at the ICA; a residency with the ICA Teen Arts Council; and multiple performances. Among these are Remanence: The Long Count/The Long Game from a collaborative work Ritchie created with, among others, Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National, and Kim and Kelley Deal of The Breeders, and two new musical performances, Monstrance and Remonstrance, which took place both on site at the ICA and at the nearby Chapel of Our Lady of Good Voyage. 

Ritchie’s project visualized the connections between the history of Boston and of the United States; science, religion and politics; and the ICA building, which, in Ritchie’s opinion, is itself a beacon on the bay. The aim of Ritchie’s overall residency is to expand the space of painting and drawing into six collaborative disciplines: architecture, city planning, video, performance, theater, and music—all while still retaining properties unique to painting and drawing.

The artist’s biggest drawing to date, this 40-foot mural references the ICA’s waterfront location – and is created entirely in Sharpie.

#EthanMurrow

In the nine years since the ICA opened on the waterfront, curators have invited a series of leading contemporary artists to propose and realize monumental, site-specific works on the museum’s sprawling Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall.

In considering whom to feature next, project curator Ruth Erickson says she was drawn to Boston artist Ethan Murrow’s virtuosic drawing ability and his “longstanding interest in landscapes as subjects of immense beauty and power.”A professor of painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Murrow is well known for photo-realistic graphite drawings that combine found and invented imagery to form unexpected scenes drenched with humor and irony. He describes himself as a storyteller inspired by such sources as American landscape painting, 19th-century inventors, Moby Dick, and his childhood experiences growing up on a farm in rural Vermont. “I make work that deals with the tender line between the fool and the genius and situations that examine the fragile, absurd, and intractable fact of our own missteps upon the land and amongst one another,” he says.

In recent years, Murrow has undertaken a series of increasingly ambitious wall drawings. These large-scale temporary pieces in ballpoint pen or marker expand the artist’s laborious drawing process into the realms of installation and architecture.

For his original work at the ICA, Erickson asked him to think about and respond to the ICA as a site within a rapidly changing city and landscape.

 

In a world oversaturated by images, Wearing explores the complexities of identity.

#GillianWearing

Best known for her photographic and video works that intimately capture aspects of our familial and personal histories, Gillian Wearing (b. 1963, Birmingham, UK) continues to explore the nuances of identity, the intersections of public and private, and the performativity of self. Wearing’s monumental photographic installation Rock ’n’ Roll 70 (2015) is a site-specific commission for the Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall, and the first presentation in Boston of the celebrated artist’s work. Using a self-portrait, Wearing asked individuals working with age-progressing technology to digitally enhance portraits of the artist to see what she might look like at age 70. Printed as wallpaper, these aged portraits show the diversity of possibilities of the artist’s future self. They differ slightly or immensely from each other, revealing the limitations of pioneering technology, and how identity can be pictured. On top of the wallpaper hangs a framed triptych of photographic portraits, consisting of the artist at her current age, an enhanced portrait, and a blank last space, as Wearing intends to make a self-portrait when she turns 70. In a world oversaturated by images, particularly “selfies,” Wearing explores the complexities of identity as mediated through technology.

 

Deeply invested in creating imagery that is legible and accessible, Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982, Chicago) is known for weaving colorful geometric shapes, cartoons, language, and symbols into chaotic and energetic compositions. At the ICA, she has created a mural that speaks to social tensions in the digital age, including the constant stream of true and false information, the dilemma of liberal racism, and abuses of power that lead to structural inequality.

Educational materials

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Nina Chanel Abney’s painting practice spans a variety of forms: from canvases to playgrounds to fashion. She is perhaps best known for her large-scale public murals, whose improvisational, brightly-colored compositions channel the velocity of the information age. A vibrant language of graphic signs drawn from the internet, popular culture, and social media articulates the energy of viral content. At the same time, the interaction of dynamic forms conveys the fatiguing and seemingly inescapable conditions of life below the surface impression. The artist describes her playful, yet nonetheless challenging artwork as “easy to swallow and hard to digest.”

Through abstract figuration, text, and symbols, Abney mines the concept of public image, drawing on a variety of sources beyond fine art, such as mainstream media, celebrity news, cartoons, music, and other content that tumbles through the news cycle. Here, she collages colorful vinyl cutouts into a storyboard of the contemporary moment, asking what it means to level the playing field: politically as well as socioeconomically. A checkerboard pattern grounds the various characters (or players) in the narrative, referencing the historical, structural, and cultural impediments to progressive politics—inequality, segregation, and discrimination—both locally and nationwide.

Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982 in Chicago) earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Augustana College in 2004, where she studied computer science and studio art, and earned her Master of Fine Arts at Parsons School of Design in 2007. She currently lives in New York.

Artist Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi, Kenya) is known for her self-proclaimed “maximalist aesthetic,” hybrid compositions, and wall-based works that add texture and dimension to architectural spaces. Feminism, Afrofuturism, displacement, and marginal spaces figure in her category-defying collage and sculpture work. 

In a new commission for the ICA, Mutu will use the rough, gray rescue blankets of humanitarian aid efforts and emergencies to create a less rational interpretation of the world map. Titled A Promise to Communicate, the work will also create a space for visitors to explore ideas of public space, communication, and free speech, addressing the idea of a world that despite its increasing potential for collectivity struggles to communicate in a comprehensive way.

Eva LeWitt’s vibrant, handmade sculptures are fashioned from everyday commercial and industrial materials. She casts, dyes, and cuts these pliable, soft, and often synthetic materials before composing them in captivating arrangements of hanging geometric forms and gradations of undulating color. Her large-scale abstract artworks often recall domestic or theatrical decor, such as curtains, whose colors are meant to ”radiate heat” and ”generate energy,” according to LeWitt. Just as curtains evoke an interplay between inside and outside—marking a boundary between public and private or alternatively revealing and concealing—LeWitt’s intuitive material arrangements play with unresolved tensions: between transparency and opacity, gravity and weightlessness, abstraction and decoration. 

Conceived for the ICA’s Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall, and structured by the particular shape of the museum’s architecture, Untitled (Mesh Circles) is a monumental sculpture made of bands of colorful coated mesh fabric whose shifting linear composition creates a number of interlocking circular forms. While coated meshes have a variety of uses ranging from privacy screens to high-visibility workwear, LeWitt transforms lengths of the tensile fabric into an unfolding environmental sculpture that intensifies the experience of space. As the crosshatched surface pattern and fields of color overlap and respond to ambient conditions like sunlight and circulating air, a moire effect is produced: a shimmering pattern that occurs when two geometrically regular patterns are superimposed. Untitled (Mesh Circles) creates a dynamic and uplifting experience that vibrates throughout the museum’s interior. 

For more than 40 years, Barbara Kruger (b. 1945 in Newark, NJ) has been a consistent, critical observer of contemporary culture. Her distinct visual language uses textual statements and images taken from mass media to create memorable artworks that investigate ideas of power, identity, consumerism, and gender.

In this new commission for the ICA, Untitled (Hope/Fear), 2022, Kruger uses the wall’s unique architecture to create a bold artwork featuring three distinct areas of text and image combinations. The largest text, “another hope, another fear,” set in the artist’s typeface of choice (Futura Bold), exemplifies the artist’s incisive ability to evoke the emotional tenor of our time, a parade of daily hopes and fears fueled by social media feeds and an ever-escalating news cycle. By repeating and replacing words, Kruger creates a cadence of text that cascades across the wall and traces the ties of power. Another area displays phrases in graphic, black-and-white bands that repeat the word “war” in different configurations (e.g., “war time, war crime, war game”), before turning to the phrase “war for a world without women.” This march of common phrases surfaces relations behind these various wars. In the concluding line “war for me to become you,” Kruger has x-ed out the pronouns “me” and “you,” confounding clear notions of who is speaking and resisting any univocal position. The final element of the work restages the text from one of Kruger’s best-known works, Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989, which she originally produced as a poster for the April 1989 March for Women’s Lives in Washington, DC to protest new laws limiting women’s access to health care. This newest work affirms Kruger’s status as one of the sharpest, most critical respondents to contemporary culture.

Credits

Organized by Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Senior Curator.

Support for Barbara Kruger is generously provided by Jean-François and Nathalie Ducrest.

Additional support is provided by Eunhak Bae and Robert Kwak, Audrey and Jim Foster, Jodi and Hal Hess, Fran and Charles Rodgers, and Marie and Mark Schwartz.