Critical Mass., Part 6: Swoon at Boston's ICA

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Before this series: The Chain Letter Show
Part 1: Jennifer Riley, Damian Hoar de Galvan, Nancy Natale
Part 2: Cape Cod Museum of Art
Part 3: New England Collective
Part 4: Not About Paint at Steven Zevitas
Part 5: Strand at Boston Sculptors

 Swoon installing Anthropocene Extinction

BOSTON--The Institute of Contemporary Art here, aka The ICA, is one of the city's architectural eye-poppers. I can't call it a gem because it's not precious; it's handsome, a well-dressed stranger with great broad shoulders (and an excellent Wolfgang Puck cafe). In good weather the ICA is a springboard for perambulating the waterfront, which has been outfitted with walkways that take you along the perimeter of what appears to be a good part of Boston Harbor. 

The ICA with its cantilevered face looking out to the hah-bah

Indoors its fourth-floor glassed-in loggia gives you a theatrical view of the harbor, from the cluster of historic downtown buildings at your left sweeping broadly over to Logan Airport on your right (which you cannot see in the photo below). In bad weather--like an electrical storm I viewed there once--that loggia thrusts you almost into the harbor, so that as the clouds roll in, the thunder claps and lighting spears the roiling water, you are in the middle of it separated by a pane of glass THIS thick.

I'm getting to the art.

Splendid view of Boston Harbor from the fourth-floor loggia

Among several exhibitions there now, two stand out: Swoon's site-specific installation in the lobby, Anthropocene Extinction, in progress, and Eva Hesse Studiowork in one of the fourth-floor galleries. I'll have a long post on Eva Hesse next week, both the show here and some images I've shot elsewhere, as well as links to previous posts on her work, so for now let me give you a peek at what's going on in the lobby.

Swoon installing a mural in the atrium
What you're seeing are cut-paper patterns being affixed to the wall

The work area was cordoned off, but I found that by putting my camera lens right up to the window outside, I was able to get a glare-free shot looking in

Here I squeezed the camera between the vestibule and a privacy wall to get a better view of the mural and the process. The artist is at far right

Swoon is the Brooklyn street artist turned respectable museum artist. As a street artist, she created large print plates in her kitchen using a router on plywood, inking them, and then laying sheets of paper onto the plywood, using her feet and the pressure of her own weight, as a "press." The resulting prints, trimmed of excess paper, were wheatpasted onto walls in Brooklyn and elsewhere around town. Finding them is always a surprise and a delight. (You can glimpse the process at the ICA here.) 

Her work has lost nothing in the translation to museum installation. Indeed, under institutional auspices, with many hands helping, she seems better able to ply, and pile, layers of images representing people, cultures and beliefs into a gargantuan cultural collage. This installation is dominated by the image of an indigenous Australian woman. By the way "anthropocene" means, according to National Geographic, "a new geologic epoch--one defined by our own massive impact on the planet." Her own environmental impact appears to be pretty light: paper, paste and some paint.

In the four-story space near the elevator, she is installing, with the help of a small staff, a lantern-like structure (or maybe a giant shuttlecock) that's viewable from the glass elevator as it travels from the lobby to the fourth-floor galleries. You can see just how low-tech she's working. The structure is lashed from bamboo poles, and much of the rest of the piece appears to be paper, cardboard, and maybe some foamcore. Here the prints address flora and fauna--leaves and wings, maybe--and fittingly for its location, marine life, like seahorses with their arabesque lines, and  horseshoe crabs, with their Darth-Vader outline.

Above: Looking at the structure from the elevator on the fourth floor

Below: Descending, there's a better view of what appear to be wings, petals and leaves

Above: Another view, with a small staff for help

Below: The Exhibition opens September 3. If I can get back before I return to New York, I'll shoot and post; otherwise I'll swipe and post, with credit of course

Additional links
. ICA press release here, with links to the artist's recent work
. Colette Randall's posts on the ICA blog, Currents, here and here, which show the process


Alexandra Brock said...

LOVE Swoon and Eva Hesse
Going to have to schedule a Boston trip this fall
Thank you for posting the installation shots, it really helps the sense of scale. Swoon created an immense installation at Deitch a few years back with her boats tied to the gallery along the river and it continuing into the space. Really awesome!

Nancy Natale said...

I love the handmade look of this installation. It seems very ethereal. Seeing it come together makes it more meaningful and understandable. Thanks!

annell said...


Wendy Wolfe Rodrigue said...

We have a Swoon installation, "Thalassa," currently in the Great Hall of the New Orleans Museum of Art. Fantastic- Thank you for this post and the photographs of the work-in-progress.

Julie Sadler said...

Your blog just keeps getting better and better. I appreciate all these wondrous posts, especially this one about Swoon. I continue to be a fan of hers, and really enjoyed getting a heads up on this prolific artist's latest work!