Karyn Olivier Subverts the Formal Seriousness of Monuments
By Erica Cardwell for Hyperallergic
May 6, 2020
Just before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses and institutions across the US to close indefinitely, I was fortunate to visit Karyn Olivier’s recent exhibition, Everything That’s Alive Moves, at the Institute of Contemporary Art. A Philadelphia-based artist whose work addresses memorials, monuments, and public space, Olivier’s projects concern the physical, psychic, and material relationship to history in our everyday lives.
Upon entering the galleries at the ICA, the first work you encounter is Fortified (2017–20), a 15-foot wall made of repurposed bricks, steel rods, with pieces of used clothing overflowing as mortar. Despite its size, Fortified does not convey the foreboding impression of the past typically encountered in monuments; instead its materials evince both the random and the familiar, the ephemeral and the constant.