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Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA) announced today that artist Nontsikelelo Mutiti will transform its facade into an expansive, 2,000-square-foot work of art as part of its inaugural Entryways commission. Developed in partnership with Maharam, North America’s leading creator of textiles for interiors, Entryways: Nontsikelelo Mutiti interweaves visual histories and patterns of ironwork with African hair braiding designs to explore concepts of beauty, labor, and protection. On view from February 10 through December 2024, the new installation will be visible to passersby, advancing ICA’s history of commissioning artworks and installations that extend outward from the galleries into public space.
“This expansive new commission transforms the main point of access into our building, serving as both an inviting entryway for the public into ICA and an exciting point of departure into new art and ideas,” said Zoë Ryan, Daniel W. Dietrich II Director of ICA Philadelphia. “This project builds upon ICA’s history of partnering with Maharam to transform public spaces within our building and marks the inaugural iteration of the ongoing Entryways series of commissions that will activate our facade. It is fitting to be launching this new series at the start of our 60th anniversary season as we look ahead to our next chapter at ICA.”
Born in Zimbabwe and based in New Haven, Connecticut, Mutiti has developed an artistic practice that explores the relationship between modern design and its roots in the African diasporic visual culture. For the Entryways commission, the artist incorporates African braid renderings with symbols traditionally found in decorative architectural features first created by enslaved blacksmiths from West Africa. These designs are now found across the United States and the larger diaspora, including the ironwork forms on windows, railings, and doors across Philadelphia, creating a shared diasporic visual language.