Boston ICA

view of Boston Harbor at ICA Boston
View of Boston Harbor from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston

Review of Exhibits at the ICA Boston

This is a repost from my old blog. It was originally published in late 2008.

The newer, bigger Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston has been open for a few years now; however, today was my first venture to this fantastic new landmark on Boston's waterfront.  I ventured over there because I hadn't much to do today. As a matter of fact, now that Stonecoast is pretty much all done, and I'm still unemployed, or underemployed, I have very little to do most of the time.

The West Side of the gallery was closed for renovations in preparation for an exhibit of the work of Shepard Fairey, of Obama Poster Fame.

The current exhibits on view are the runners-up and winner of the Foster Prize, the prize for "early-career artists making an impact in Greater Boston and beyond." The winner this year was Andrew Witkin, who happened to be at the museum today. Part of his exhibit is a live performance every Sunday by musician friends of his, so that's why. I listened to the two guitarists (names unremembered, but they were v.g.) and watched Witkin take lots of pictures, which is how I knew right away he was the artists, since the ICA workers are militant about no picture taking in the musuem. Ha! Then I looked at the informational brochure and was certain. While I enjoyed the music performance, it meant I was unable to view the exhibit as he had planned it, because the space was reorganized for the performance. Oh well.

The other finalists' work was impressive, so I'm sure his was as will. It seemed his was the most conceptual, from what I could tell. The photography of Beirut, from mid to late 2000s by artist Rania Matar was the most straightforward, if you will. It was also very powerful.

Catherine D'Ignazio used mixed media - a tap recording of the breaths it would take to expend to follow Boston's evacuation route. A looped and trippy video of the artist exiting, evacuating, all of the Exit Doors in the ICA.

Joe Zane used humor, irony and mixed materials for his exhibit. Self portraits that were painted by people in China. A balloon that was actually a sculpture. A vase of flowers that was made of glass.

A Note about the Permanent Exhibits and Movements in Art (irony vs sincerity)


I also liked the permanent exhibits by various artists at the museum. This is new for the ICA - have permanent collections, because their previous space did not allow this.

I will say this, though. I am beginning to see, in both visual art, poetry and music, a rebellion from or a distance from Irony. I think, given the new climate, both of dire circumstances with the economy and the newly elected President getting to such a place based on his message of Hope, we're entering the Post-Ironic Age of art.

While some of the pieces featured in the museum surely were "ironic", there were more that were about sincerity, that natural backlash to irony. And I don't mean sentimental or maudlin sincerity, I mean honest, harsh sincerity.

I saw it in the work of Ambreen Butt. Yes, there was an element of play in her work but there was nothing ironic about it. It was in earnest. It was sincere. I think that is the new direction. No more will the driveling Billy Collins, nor the guy who had the video with the arrow shooting of his groceries in the ICA be the art of choice. Instead we go to the sincerity of Ambreen Butt. Or, um, any number of poets both, Post-Language and Post-Slam - that is, poet who incorporate those aesthetics but with sincerity instead of irony.

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