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Discover work of Kara Walker and David Hammons in this mesmerizing exhibition about the American South.

When the Stars Begin to Fall brings together 35 artists of different generations and working in different mediums who share an interest in the American South as both a real and fabled place. Key to the exhibition is the relationship between contemporary art, black life, and “outsider” art, a historically fraught category typically encompassing artists who have not received formal art training and who may have been marginalized in society. 

When the Stars Begin to Fall includes art works by self-taught, spiritually inspired, and incarcerated artists alongside projects by prominent contemporary artists such as Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, David Hammons, and Theaster Gates. It presents diverse artworks—from drawing and painting to performance, sculpture, and assemblage—unified by an insistent reference to place.

When the Stars Begin to Fall was curated by Thomas J. Lax for The Studio Museum in Harlem and organized for the ICA by Ruth Erickson, Assistant Curator.

“It’s about…tracing the ghost of cities past. It’s the pulling off of a layer and finding another underneath.” — Mark Bradford

Through his collaged paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations, Mark Bradford explores issues of class, race, and gender in American urban society. An archeologist of his own environment, Los Angeles, Bradford uses found materials—peeling movie posters, hand-lettered “FOR SALE” signs, endpapers used to perm black hair, salvaged plywood—which he layers, embellishes, erodes, and reconstitutes into abstract compositions.

The first survey exhibition of the artist’s work, Mark Bradford includes painting, sculpture, installation, and video from 1997 to 2010, and several new works. Mark Bradford is a touring exhibition organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University.

The sculptor’s thrilling and seductive work suggests a world beyond our grasp

Anish Kapoor: Past, Present, Future assembles 14 works made since 1980, a period in which Kapoor’s sculptures and installations have grown increasingly ambitious and complex. The first U.S. museum survey of Kapoor’s art in more than 15 years, and the first ever to be seen on the East Coast, the exhibition premieres a new resin sculpture and features many pieces on view for the first time in this country.

In the hands of sculptor Anish Kapoor, forms become at once monumental and evanescent, present and absent, physical and ethereal. Whether using the materials of classical sculpture like stone and bronze or newly applied forms of aluminum, pigment, enamel, resin, polymer, and PVC, Kapoor’s sculpture seems to disappear, dissolve, levitate, or extend beyond a space the viewer can perceive.

The sculptor, born in Bombay and based in London, is perhaps best known in the U.S. for Cloud Gate, a permanent 110-ton sculpture of highly-polished stainless steel created for Chicago’s Millennium Park, and Sky Mirror, a breathtaking, 35-foot-diameter concave mirror that was shown in 2006 at Rockefeller Center in New York. Kapoor emerged as one of a highly inventive generation of British sculptors during the 1980s, and since then has created a body of work that has married a modernist sense of pure materiality with a fascination for the manipulation of form and the perception of space.

Discover the legacy of Black Mountain College, a small school in North Carolina where the course of art history changed forever.

A small, experimental liberal arts college founded in 1933, Black Mountain College (BMC) has exerted enormous influence on the postwar cultural life of the United States. Influenced by the utopian ideals of the progressive education movement, it placed the arts at the center of liberal arts education and believed that in doing so it could better educate citizens for participation in a democratic society. It was a dynamic crossroads for refugees from Europe and an emerging generation of American artists. Profoundly interdisciplinary, it offered equal attention to painting, weaving, sculpture, pottery, poetry, music, and dance. 

GRAPHIC_MappingBMC_thumb.pngThe teachers and students at BMC came to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains from around the United States and the world. Some stayed for years, others mere weeks. Their education was unlike anything else in the United States. They experimented with new ways of teaching and learning; they encouraged discussion and free inquiry; they felt that form in art had meaning; they were committed to the rigor of the studio and the laboratory; they practiced living and working together as a community; they shared the ideas and values of different cultures; they had faith in learning through experience and doing; they trusted in the new while remaining committed to ideas from the past; and they valued the idiosyncratic nature of the individual. But most of all, they believed in art, in its ability to expand one’s internal horizons, and in art as a way of living and being in the world. This utopian experiment came to an end in 1957, but not before it created the conditions for some of the 20th century’s most fertile ideas and most influential individual artists to emerge.

ICA_BMC_perf_pro_download_350.jpgLeap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 focuses on how, despite its brief existence, BMC became a seminal meeting place for many of the artists, musicians, poets, and thinkers who would become the principal practitioners in their fields of the postwar period. Figures such as Anni and Josef Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller, Ruth Asawa, Robert Motherwell, Gwendolyn and Jacob Knight Lawrence, Charles Olson, and Robert Creeley, among many others, taught and studied at BMC. Teaching at the college combined the craft principles of Germany’s revolutionary Bauhaus school with interdisciplinary inquiry, discussion, and experimentation, forming the template for American art schools. While physically rooted in the rural South, BMC formed an unlikely cosmopolitan meeting place for American, European, Asian, and Latin American art, ideas, and individuals. The exhibition argues that BMC was as an important historical precedent for thinking about relationships between art, democracy, and globalism. It examines the college’s critical role in shaping many major concepts, movements, and forms in postwar art and education, including assemblage, modern dance and music, and the American studio craft movement—influence that can still be seen and felt today.

Organized by Helen Molesworth, the ICA’s former Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with ICA Associate Curator Ruth Erickson, Leap Before You Look is the first comprehensive museum exhibition on the subject of Black Mountain College to take place in the United States. The exhibition features individual works by more than ninety artists, student work, archival materials, a soundscape, as well as a piano and a dance floor for performances, and it will be accompanied by robust performance and educational programs. It will premiere at the ICA/Boston and be on view October 10, 2015–January 24, 2016; it will then travel to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (February 21–May 15, 2016) and the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio (Sept. 17, 2016–Jan. 1, 2017). 

Black Mountain College–Related Symposia

University of Maine Humanities Center

October 22—24, 2015
The University of Maine Humanities Center, in collaboration with the National Poetry Foundation, presents a symposium on the history and legacy of Black Mountain College. This program is presented in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and the exhibition Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957.

Northeastern Center For the Arts

October 30, 2015
Northeastern Center for the Arts presents After Black Mountain College: Community & Collaboration, a one-day symposium that examines the influence of Black Mountain College’s experimental teaching models on contemporary art. This program is presented in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and the exhibition Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957.

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence.

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

Major support is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Additional support is generously provided by Chuck and Kate Brizius, Robert and Jane Burke, Katie and Paul Buttenwieser, the Robert E. Davoli and Eileen L. McDonagh Charitable Foundation, Bridgitt and Bruce Evans, James and Audrey Foster, Erica Gervais and Ted Pappendick, Vivien and Alan Hassenfeld and the Hassenfeld Family Foundation, Curtis R. Kemeny, Kathleen McDonough and Edward Berman, Ellen Poss, David and Leslie Puth, Cynthia and John Reed, Charles and Francene Rodgers, and Steinway & Sons + M. Steinert & Sons.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“Some of the most imaginative American sculpture of the past 20 years.”
New York Times

The first museum survey of sculptor Arlene Shechet, this major exhibition features over 150 objects that trace the development of her innovative practice over the past 20 years. For her entire career, Shechet has embraced an experimental approach to sculpture, finding form in the chance processes that occur as mutable materials—such as plaster, ceramic, paper pulp and glass—become solid. Her exhilarating, polymorphic sculptures test the limits of color and glaze, creating highly visceral surfaces and painterly effects.

Shechet has, over the last decade, generated a body of work remarkable for its use of clay. Fascinated by the material’s history, Shechet recently completed a residency at the renowned Meissen Porcelain Manufactory. The resulting body of work—including mash-ups of functional objects and whimsical figurines—show an artist at the top of her form: recasting centuries old traditions into her own mold.

Arlene Shechet: All at Once is organized by Jenelle Porter, Mannion Family Senior Curator at the ICA.

Episode No. 194 of Tyler Green’s The Modern Art Notes Podcast features artist Arlene Shechet and curator Mari Carmen Ramirez.

The ICA presents the first U.S. survey of the internationally recognized artist.


Mark Dion: Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist, the artist’s first U.S. survey, examines 30 years of his pioneering inquiries into how we collect, interpret, and display nature. Since the early 1990s, Mark Dion (b. 1961, New Bedford, MA) has forged a unique, interdisciplinary practice by exploring and appropriating scientific methodologies. Often with an edge of irony, humor, and improvisation, Dion deconstructs both scientific and museum-based rituals of collecting and exhibiting objects by critically adopting them into his artistic practice. He has traveled the world to gather plant and animal specimens, conducted archeological digs, and rummaged through forgotten collections, arranging his finds into brimming curiosity cabinets and charismatic sculptures. His projects and exhibitions offer novel approaches to questioning institutional power, which he sees as connected to the control and representation of the natural world.  

Organized around three of Dion’s primary methods—fieldwork, excavation, and cultivation—the exhibition traces his research-intensive work across media, time, and place, bringing together more than 20 of the artist’s most significant artworks, plus a newly commissioned interactive sculpture and a salon titled The Time Chamber containing ephemera, journals, prints, and drawings. The exhibition offers a rare look across the artist’s influential practice and distinctive material vocabulary.

The survey includes such seminal pieces as The N.Y. State Bureau of Tropical Conservation, 1992, and Toys ’R’ U.S. (When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth), 1994. These two strikingly distinct collections—a storeroom of natural specimens gathered from a Venezuelan rainforest and a child’s dinosaur-themed bedroom—ruminate on consumption, extinction, and the global environmental crisis. In Rescue Archaeology, 2005 (being shown for the first time since its creation), Dion excavated the grounds of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, during a major expansion, salvaging and displaying fragments of wallpaper, architectural debris, and ceramics that speak to the museum’s history at a moment of irreversible change. In his immersive The Library for the Birds of New York/The Library for the Birds of Massachusetts, 2016/2017, Dion places in a gallery a 20-foot cage that houses live finches and canaries commingling with the accoutrements of ornithology—nets, binoculars, and books—arranged around a tree. This library about birds becomes a library for them, a home and a spectacle within the museum. In these and other works, Dion marries discourses of science with those of the art museum, revealing the interrelationships between the two as purveyors of knowledge and truth.

Hear artist Mark Dion and curator Ruth Erickson go behind the scenes about the works on view. 

How do artists work with other artists’ work?


The desire to collect objects and images of personal significance, and to make connections between them, is a nearly universal human experience. For centuries, artists have collected artworks, along with diverse cultural artifacts and natural materials, as vital sources of inspiration and to create highly individualized models of their world. The Artist’s Museum begins with this impulse to collect and connect, bringing together large-scale installations, photography, film, and videos that employ artworks from the past as material in the present, animating existing artworks, images, and histories to reveal art’s unexpected relationships and affinities. Each of the artists in The Artist’s Museum reimagines the lives of artworks and charts recurring forms and themes across cultures and history. They tweak the language of museum display and organization to engage a variety of disciplines and subjects, from dance, music, and design to gender, sexuality, and technology.

Artist’s Museum feels alive. Within these works, images, memories, and dreams ping-pong and pulse, and those currents of imagination can then spark another secret life: the viewer’s.

—Boston Globe

Works in the exhibition include The Earth Is a Magnet, 2016, a major new commission by Anna Craycroft that brings the photography, biography, and inventions of Berenice Abbott, famed for both her street photography and rigorously scientific images made at MIT, together with video, sculpture, and photography by a group of Craycroft’s peers, including Fia Backström, Katherine Hubbard, Matt Keegan, Jill Magid, MPA, Lucy Raven, Mika Rottenberg, A. L. Steiner, and Erika Vogt. Rosa Barba’s lush 35mm film The Hidden Conference: About the Discontinuous History of Things We See and Don’t See, 2010, imagines a narrative in which paintings and sculptures in storage at Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie serve as protagonists. Christian Marclay’s sixteen-monitor video installation Shake Rattle and Roll (Fluxmix), 2004, features the artist literally playing the Walker Art Center’s Fluxus collection. Carol Bove’s sculptural meditation on the latent energies of display, La traversée difficile (The difficult crossing), 2008, marshals René Magritte and Gerald Heard as inspirations for a mini-encyclopedic museum. Rachel Harrison’s photographic series Voyage of the Beagle, 2007, surveys human and animal forms across sculptural manifestations ranging from taxidermy to mannequins, signs, and public art. Mark Leckey’s uncanny moving-image work Cinema-in-the-Round, 2008, develops unexpected connections between artworks, media technology, and popular culture across time and space, both real and virtual. Pierre Leguillon accompanies a collection of artworks and photographs of dancers with a lightshow and soundtrack by Amy Winehouse in La grande evasion (The great escape), 2012.

The Artist’s Museum locates these diverse works within a cultural moment and artistic impulse bookended by the historical cabinet of curiosities and 20th century image libraries, and our current era of the hyperlink and circulation of digital images. Each artwork reconfigures established narratives, asking each of us to find our place amongst newly imagined worlds.

The Artist’s Museum features works by Rosa Barba, Carol Bove, Anna Craycroft, Rachel Harrison, Louise Lawler, Mark Leckey, Pierre Leguillon, Goshka Macuga, Christian Marclay, Xaviera Simmons, Rosemarie Trockel, and Sara VanDerBeek.

A work of spellbinding beauty, In Search of Vanished Blood is a seminal installation by one of India’s leading artists.


Nalini Malani (b. 1946, Karachi) is India’s foremost video and installation artist and a committed activist for women’s rights. Currently living and working in Mumbai, Malani came to India as a refugee during the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, an experience that deeply informs her work. This exhibition centers on Malani’s signature multimedia installation, In Search of Vanished Blood (2012), the title of which comes from a poem by the revolutionary Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The installation is inspired by East German writer and critic Christa Wolf’s 1984 novel Cassandra, about a struggling female artist and visionary. Combining imagery from Eastern and Western cultures, with sound, projected image, and light, In Search of Vanished Blood is an enthralling, immersive experience. The work comprises six 11-minute video projections streamed around the room through five clear Mylar cylinders, hand-painted with a variety of cultural and historical iconography, which hang in the center of the room. As the Mylar cylinders rotate, the colorful and layered imagery is projected onto the walls, creating a magical environment reminiscent of lantern slide presentations and other proto-cinema experiments in the 18th and 19th centuries. The presentation of Malani’s immersive video installation will be accompanied by a selection of related works on paper.

A pivotal figure in contemporary art, Walid Raad explores the ways in which we remember and make sense of history.


This exhibition will be the first comprehensive North American museum survey of the internationally recognized artist Walid Raad (b. 1967, Lebanon), whose work in photography, video, sculpture, and performance in the last 25 years investigates the distinctions between fact and fiction and the ways we represent, remember, and make sense of history. Dedicated to themes exploring the veracity of archives and photographic documents in the public realm, the role of memory and narrative within discourses of conflict, and the construction of histories of art in the Arab world, Raad’s work is informed by an upbringing in Lebanon during the civil war (1975–1990) and recent socio-economic and military policies that have shaped the Middle East in the past few decades. The exhibition will feature a selection of works produced in the past 25 years in photography, video, and sculpture. 

An integral part of the exhibition is Raad’s 55-minute presentation Walkthrough, a recording of which is available on the ICA Mobile Guide. The ICA strongly encourages visitors to access this powerful performance: Walkthrough offers a deeper understanding of the work on view, and a chance to hear directly from the artist. Raad will also be performing Walkthrough in the galleries several times throughout the run of the exhibition. 

Please note that access to portions of the exhibition Walid Raad will be restricted during Walkthrough performances for a total of 90 minutes per performance. Please plan your visit accordingly.

The exhibition is accompanied by an expansive scholarly publication and after its presentation at ICA/Boston, it will travel to Museo Jumex, Mexico City.

A “quiet giant” (New York Times) of contemporary photography, Liz Deschenes pushes the very limits of the medium.


Deschenes (b. 1966, Boston), is known for her lushly beautiful and meditative work in photography and sculpture, and since the early 1990s has produced a singular and influential body of work that probes the relationship between the mechanics of seeing, image-making processes, and modes of display. The first mid-career survey dedicated to Deschenes’s work, this exhibition will feature 20 years of her art, including explorations of various photographic technologies, rich and nuanced work with photograms (a type of photographic image made without a camera), and sculptural installations that reflect the movements and light within a given space and respond to a site’s unique features.


Organized by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Jessica Hong, Curatorial Assistant.

Support for Liz Deschenes is generously provided by Edward Berman and Kathleen McDonough, Robert and Jane Burke, Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté, Bridgitt and Bruce Evans, James and Audrey Foster, Ted Pappendick and Erica Gervais Pappendick, David and Leslie Puth, Mark and Marie Schwartz, and the Residence Inn.