The ICA loves Vinyl
Over the weekend my boyfriend and I found ourselves at the ICA walking through the 4th floor galleries. Even with the already impeded fondness of vinyl records, The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl show lured us along like hardxcore groupies. Agreeing with Smee’s statement of the natural fascination with the vinyl record as an a single, vivacious object holding secret “whole worlds” of music, I have to say these artists have pushed my idea of the intersection between art and record. Records and their holdings, cult association, and physical presence flicker through the eyes of the viewer in the exhibition of multiple media. Incredibly easy to carve through, the galleries are an overall celebration of this inspiring art object and is incredibly suitable for both the art aficionado and novice.
The Visitor's Experience of the Mark Bradford Exhibition
In mid-February, I had the pleasure of spending a day at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, where the Mark Bradford exhibition was on view. While the purpose of my trip was to research the show, I was more of a first-time visitor than an educator. I knew a little about Bradford’s work and had seen a few images, but for the most part I was a novice viewer.
My first reaction upon entering the galleries was, “These paintings are beautiful!” Nothing I had seen in reproduction prepared me for these dramatic compositions. I knew his abstract paintings had a social and intellectual component, but I was unprepared for their formal impact.
I was also surprised at how often I referenced the wall labels in order to identify the familiar, yet mysterious, materials Bradford employs. It appears my fascination was shared: Visitor Associates (VAs) at ICA told me that 90% of the questions they got were about materials or process. What are acrylic gels? Photomechanical reproductions? End papers? Where is the paint? How is the twine used?
People love talking about Bradford’s paintings—not just materials and processes—but the ideas behind them. Inevitably, when I was gathering information from a VA, visitors would join in on our conversations. These artworks inspire thoughtful questions and insightful comments.
In an age when museum patrons spend only seconds, on average, looking at each work of art, it was wonderful to see viewers attentively watching Melvin, a neighbor of Bradford’s, for over three minutes as he struts down the street in the video Niagara. Referencing Marilyn Monroe’s saunter in the film of the same name, this is simply an image of a man walking down a city street. Yet it is so much more. Through Melvin, Bradford inspires us to reflect on social issues like urbanization and gender identity, while also relating to us as individuals—determined and confident, but vulnerable as well.
— Susan Musich is the MCA’s Manager of Public Tours and a part-time Lecturer. She has also lectured at the Art Institute of Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, and the University Club. She consults with non-profit arts organizations about marketing and grant writing.
Image credits (top to bottom):
Mark Bradford: Strawberry, 2002. Photomechanical reproductions, acrylic gel medium, permanent-wave end papers, and additional mixed media on canvas; 72 x 84 inches. Collection of Barbara and Bruce Berger. Photo: Bruce M. White, 2010.
Mark Bradford: Niagara, 2005. Video; 3 mins., 17 secs. Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.