Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art [ICA] is one of my all-time favorite places to see art. Apart from having a gorgeous building, the programming and presentation here is almost always so on-point that I get resentful when I visit other museums that don’t get it this right.
It’s also nice to see an institution presenting a balance of international and local artists. I primarily went to the ICA to see Democratic Intuition by the Botswana-born, New York-based painter Meleko Mokgosi, which I’ll go into greater detail about in another post. I ended up really loving the ICA’s two other exhibitions: a retrospective of the New York ceramicist Arlene Shechet’s 20-year career and the biennial James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition, which recognizes Boston-area artists. This year’s Foster Prize focused on collaborative or performance-based practice and was awarded to Ricardo De Lima, Vela Phelan, Sandrine Schaefer, and the collective kijidome—which I had been told was one of the pillars of the Boston art scene.
For the biennial, kijidome converted their South End exhibition space into a rotating studio residency for invited artists, whose work was then curated into the ICA’s galleries in phases. It was a great strategy to showcase the collective’s utility as cultural facilitators rather than focusing on individual members’ studio practices. The resulting show focused on process-based works and stages of building—appropriately dialoguing with a lot of the work I saw in galleries in the collective’s own neighborhood. The aesthetic zeitgeist of Boston at the moment seems to be colorful grid-like work that references architecture and construction. On some level that makes sense, as so many of the artists I spoke with in Boston, as in most contemporary cities, are concerned about gentrification and the fate of their neighborhoods. Perhaps many artists have subconsciously taken to being their own architects, contractors, and urban planners in their studio practices as we feel less and less control or ownership over the outside world.