Landmark exhibit First Light: A Decade of Collecting at the ICA gathers more than 100 works the museum has acquired since its 2006 move to the waterfront, from its permanent collection’s very first promised piece—Cornelia Parker’s Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson), featuring a building’s charred remnants strung up and suspended in midair—to recent additions being displayed for the first time. On view through Jan. 16, it’s an exhibition that rewards repeat viewings (and not just because two new sections rotate in on Oct. 8). We tapped four staffers from different departments at the ICA to find out which work in the show keeps them coming back again and again.
1) Ragnar Kjartansson, The Man, 2010 “This 49-minute video by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, featuring blues legend Pinetop Perkins, really draws me in,” says admissions manager Gail Leavitt. “As a musician, I find his performance captivating and the imagery jarring, with the artist choosing to display this renowned pianist against such a desolate backdrop.”
2) Dana Schutz, Sneeze, 2002 “This small but mighty canvas captures the mundane, grotesque and captivating aspects of a woman sneezing, enhanced by the artist’s tactile brushwork and use of color,” says curatorial assistant Jessica Hong. “What enthralls me about this work are its active paradoxes: The repugnant is beautiful, the ordinary is extraordinary, the static is dynamic, as you find yourself both grimacing and smiling.”
3) Marisol, Couple No. 1, 1965–66 “With its protruding white conic appendage and humming motor, it’s hard to miss Marisol’s Couple No. 1. The cone is inflated by a fan inside the sculpture, so when you stand in front of it, you feel a stream of cool-ish air on your face. I wouldn’t call it pleasant, but it is a tactile way to experience the art—without touching, of course!” says education department assistant Lenny Schnier. “Marisol’s assemblages bring together elements of painting, drawing, sculpture, technology, and nature. Couple No. 1 is blocky, bulky, and its metal façade recalls midcentury futurism. Painted and etched on the front of the work are two figures that, in my opinion, lack distinctive gender markers. This makes possible narratives for the work all the more open-ended. I like to think of the piece as one body comprised of a multitude of genders beyond the binary. The work sits in a lineage of objects and people that have compounded machine and human form, and it’s really freaking awesome that a 50-year-old sculpture resonates with our contemporary selfie-crazed cultural zeitgeist.”
4) Ana Mendieta, Silueta Works in Mexico, 1973–77/1991 “It is incredible to work for a museum that has one of my all-time favorite works of art in its collection,” says membership manager Chris Hoodlet. “In this series, Mendieta blends performance and photography, human and nature, presence and absence in a series that makes you reflect on your relationship to the earth. In these sublime images, Mendieta’s immersion into the landscape of Mexico, and the traces that remain, show how powerful the forces of nature are in comparison to humanity.”
THE IMPROPER’S 2016 FALL ARTS PREVIEW: DANCE | THEATER | MUSIC | COMEDY