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Nan Goldin and Jack Pierson were part of the “Boston School”—a group of loosely affiliated artists who met in Boston in the late 1970s and 80s and focused much of their work on the queer underground scene in and around the city. At the time, photography was a powerful form of documentation in an era shaped by the AIDS pandemic. Two works from the ICA’s permanent collection installed together on the third floor point to the artists’ shared interest in performance and its emotional capacities.

Goldin attended School of the Museum of Fine Arts (1974–78) and has spent decades capturing overlooked subjects and the intimacies of everyday life. In 1994, Goldin published Tokyo Love together with Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. An artist book documenting contemporary adolescence in Tokyo, the book celebrates youthful energy and romance as well as the subjects’ fluid sexuality and gender identities during a period of government-imposed censorship. Noa Dressing for the Venus Show at Shogun Club, Tokyo is a portrait of two performers preparing for the stage as one fastens the other’s costume. The name Shogun Club references a queer history of Shoguns—top military commanders in feudal Japan—who often brought beautiful young men as Geishas for entertainment during wartime. The necessity of queer kinship and care is foregrounded here and across Goldin’s work.

A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art in 1984, Pierson is known for his photographs, sculptures, and text-based artworks that often draw on commercial signage and popular culture to explore nostalgia, desire, and disillusion. Applause is a re-creation of the sign used in television studios that, when lit, directs audiences to clap at pre-determined moments during tapings of a program. A kind of instructional device, Applause is a work of irony—drawing attention to the gulf between what one says and means. Pierson’s sculpture encourages viewers to question our emotional reactions to signs and signals.

Xaviera Simmons pursues a research-based practice that spans photography, performance, video, sound, sculpture, and installation, and explores the experiences, memories, and histories of African diasporas. In the series Sundown (2018–present), referencing “sundown towns” where many Black Americans are not welcomed in public space after dark, Simmons utilizes clothing, props, backdrops, and historic photographs to mine and reflect on Black experience across time. Sundown (Number Twelve) (2018) is in the museum’s permanent collection and was featured in the exhibition When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art, on view at the ICA in 2019. 

NOTE: Exhibition dates subject to change. 

The ICA is committed to sharing artists’ perspectives on the world. These two photographs are in the museum’s permanent collection and were made in Ukraine by photographer Boris Mikhailov, who was featured in a solo exhibition at the ICA in 2004.

Mikhailov’s hometown of Kharkiv provided the backdrop to his series Case History, which documents people experiencing homelessness after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. For over 40 years, Mikhailov has explored the position of the individual within the historical mechanisms of public ideology, touching on such subjects as Ukraine under Soviet rule, the living conditions in post-communist Eastern Europe, and the fallen ideals of the Soviet Union. His life-size color photographs document the oppression, poverty, and everyday reality of a disenfranchised community living on the margins of what was then Russia’s new economic regime. These searing images point to Ukraine as a place of beauty, deep history, trauma, and tragedy, both past and, with Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, in the present.

NOTE: Exhibition dates subject to change.