institute of contemporary art

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Felix Gonzalez-Torres “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) 1991 

“This installation is an allegorical portrait of the artist’s partner, Ross Laycock, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991. The 175 pounds of candy can be seen to correspond to Laycock’s ideal body weight. Adult visitors are invited to take a piece of candy; the diminishing pile parallels Laycock’s weight loss prior to his death. The museum can choose to replenish the pile, metaphorically ensuring Laycock perpetual life, or to let the pile disappear over time.”

As a queer artist Felix has inspired me to not be afraid to make queer art, I am grateful to experience one of his many great pieces of art in real life. This piece will always have a special place in my heart.

Guerrilla Girls, [no title], from Guerrilla Girls Talk Back, 1985–’90

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“Narcissus Garden” by Yayoi Kusama (1966)

Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist and writer, created the “garden” in 1966 which was then shown in the 33rd Venice Biennale. The installation holds 1,500 metallic balls that reflect and distort the landscape around them as well as the person who views them. During the opening week, Kusama placed two signs at the installation. The first sign read “NARCISSUS GARDEN, KUSAMA” while the other said “YOUR NARCISSISM FOR SALE”. While wearing a gold kimono and emphasizing her “otherness” of being an artist from Japan making an entrance into the American art scene she acted as a street peddler and went around selling the balls to anyone willing to buy them for $2. She also distributed flyers with complimentary remarks about her work from Herbert Read, an art critic and co-founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts  The Biennale officials eventually stepped in and put and end to her “side-business” but the installation remained. 

The recreation of Narcissus Garden via commissions and re-installations in various other places has killed its original intention of criticizing the narcissism that Kusama was addressing in a post-WWII America. While the installation was originally made as an interactive performance between the artist and the viewer, the installation and mirror balls themselves are put into high value and are now regarded as decorations with hefty price tags and worth.

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From the Park Avenue Armory, to Park City, to a theater near you! Artist Julian Rosefeldt’s installation project, Manifesto, debuted in the United States at the Park City Armory in New York City in December 2016, and is now playing in theaters nationally. The show consisted of thirteen large screens projecting thirteen different characters portrayed by Cate Blanchett. She transforms into a newscaster, a CEO, a schoolteacher, and a homeless man, among several other characters. The thirteen scenes pull from over 50 manifestos given by notable artists early in their careers. Weaving these profound manifestos into the monologues of ordinary characters living everyday lives creates a heightened context for experiencing the text, and challenges the viewer to reconsider art, culture, and society. Rosefeldt brought the thirteen scenes together to create a feature film which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Click here to watch a trailer for Manifesto.


All stills courtesy of Manifesto; Julian Rosefeldt at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Manifesto premiere: © 2017 Sundance Institute | Photo by Kelly Ann Taub; Manifesto film team outside of Library Center Theatre in Park City, UT: © 2017 Sundance Institute | Photo by Kelly Ann Taub

Herbert Read (4 December 1893 – 12 June 1968) 

English art historian, poet, literary critic and philosopher, best known for numerous books on art, which included influential volumes on the role of art in education. Read was co-founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He was one of the earliest English writers to take notice of existentialism. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Title page detail from Poetry and Anarchism by Herbert Read. London: Freedom Press, 1941.

Barbara Kasten
Architectural Site 14, Sunset Blvd. LA Office Bldg, 1987
Cibachrome
30x40 inches

Can’t wait to participate in the “Kasten Colloquium” as part of her ICA survey exhibition. Come see this gorgeous piece in person through August 16th in Philadelphia at the Institute of Contemporary Art!