Jan 24, 2020, 6:30PM–9PM

Winter 2020 Opening Celebration

Karyn Olivier, Moving the Obelisk, 2019–2020. Courtesy of the artist.

The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania welcomes you to celebrate the opening of our Winter 2020 exhibition season, comprised of the exhibitions Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves, Trevor Shimizu: Performance Artist, and the continuation of Michelle Lopez: Ballast & Barricades.

5PM | Members Preview
6:30PM | Public Opening Celebration

Like people, monuments can reward history, retell valor, honor loss, be displaced, and expire. Karyn Olivier’s recent thinking has been centered on civic space—specifically monuments and memorials, driven in part by her planning, building, and writing for several public commissions and memorials. Everything That’s Alive Moves, featuring five large sculptures, offers a close encounter with the emotional impact of monuments and the political significance of memorials—how each evokes and speaks to citizenship; how both reflect belief in spaces of gathering; and how they alternately can speak in defense of or with suspicion toward a public, collective voice. This exhibition, coming on the heels of Olivier’s return from a year’s study in Rome investigating its ruins and public works, offers a chance to attune to her care for the minute and overlooked. Her gestures and materials may multiply in overwhelming quantities, but they are never larger-than-life. Through the accumulation and displacement of objects and materials, she reminds us that civic space accrues through the weight of peoples, and citizenship is built of absences.

Trevor Shimizu: Performance Artist is an addendum to the ICA exhibition recently on view at the Kunsthalle Lissabon in Portugal as part of the initiative I is for Institute. The exhibition brings together a selection of Shimizu’s videos, video paintings, and online interventions, offering a prescient and poignant commentary on affect and identity in our socially mediated moment. While Shimizu is recognized primarily for his paintings and drawings, the artist’s media works — often produced using lo- and off-the-shelf digital technologies — help to reframe his broader practice as an expanded form of performance. The dry humor that permeates much of his work thus acts as a kind of mask for his critical investigation into identity and the presentation of the self, and his deadpan delivery sometimes makes it difficult to discern Trevor Shimizu the individual from the artist as character. Contrary to the negative associations often conjured by angry inter- net subcultures, Shimizu’s “characters” render a more vulnerable depiction of mediated masculine subjectivity. His self-conscious and often self-effacing portrayals — from the passive fan and rejected romantic to his sentimental renderings of fatherhood and his idealized fantasies of other possible selves — speak to shared insecurities and a collective need to belong.

In Ballast & Barricades, artist Michelle Lopez employs a formal, fragmented architectural language to critique symbols of nationalism, power, and consumption. Known for her sculptural works that recast histories of minimalism and everyday objects through a feminist lens, in this exhibition Lopez brings together a selection of recent sculptures alongside a monumental, site-specific installation that creates a suspended cityscape reduced to rubble. Here, blockades, borders, flags, and natural elements bleed together while remnants of construction sites and scaffolding create a delicate system of counterweights and counterbalances—all meticulously crafted by hand. For Lopez, this sculptural terrain is suggestive of an ongoing history of bodies and violence in the absence of figuration. It is an urban landscape fabricated out of the material remains of crisis, teetering on the brink of collapse.