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Two new Solo exhibitions open at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston
Ragnar Kjartansson, The Man, 2010. Single-channel video (still). Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik.
BOSTON, MASS.- The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston opened Ragnar Kjartansson: Song on Dec. 12, the first U.S. solo museum exhibition of Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. A musician as well as an artist, Kjartansson makes performance and video works that sample a wide range of culture, from the sagas of his native Iceland to American blues music. Often inspired by misheard lyrics, Kjartansson’s song-filled videos investigate the porous boundaries between reality and fiction, as well as the inherent artifice of performance. The exhibition includes a selection of video works from the last decade. The exhibition is on view from Dec. 12, 2012 through April 7, 2013.

A brilliant and nimble performer, Kjartansson uses music to focus on the persona of the performer, whom he often sets against extreme conditions. In The End the artist and friends play rock-and-roll in the heart of the wintry Canadian Rockies; in Satan is Real he croons while bare-chested and buried waist deep in a hole. Kjartansson also presents other performers, such as the iconic American blues musician Pinetop Perkins and even his own mother. The artist’s lush videos—characterized by incongruous settings, repetition and endurance, and humorous or nostalgic soundtracks—elicit contradictory feelings of pleasure and anxiety, humor and sincerity, sentimentality and skepticism.

Mickalene Thomas
Dec. 12, 2012 – April 7, 2013

Mickalene Thomas is best known for her vibrant acrylic and enamel paintings of African-American women that are adorned with rhinestones and glitter. Combining the genres of portraiture and domestic interior, Mickalene Thomas draws on art history and popular culture to create a contemporary vision of black female sexuality, beauty, and power. The exhibition highlights the ways in which Thomas experiments with the construction of intimate interior spaces to create a metaphor for the status of the female body—itself either present or absent—as it has been interpreted and used throughout the history of art. Organized by Curatorial Associate Anna Stothart, Mickalene Thomas features a selection of five, recent, large-scale paintings.

Meticulously composed of layers of bold patterns and bright blocks of color adorned with Swarovski rhinestones, the paintings are constructed through a rigorous three-part process. Thomas begins by constructing a tableau, posing a model, and taking a photograph. She then cuts up the photograph—fragmenting, deconstructing, and re-contextualizing the interior space—and reassembles the image as a collage. Finally, she reproduces the collage, at a greatly expanded scale, in acrylic, oil, and enamel.

As Thomas reorganizes the interior space surrounding the female figure, she draws inspiration from late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century artists such as Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, and Romare Bearden—all of whom used abstraction, to one degree or another, in their representations of the world. Combining patterns and styles drawn from a 1970s aesthetic, Thomas’s compositions simultaneously recall the “black is beautiful” movement, as well as the second wave of feminism that shattered cultural assumptions about sexuality, family, the workplace, and reproductive rights.

The Institute of Contemporary Art | Ragnar Kjartansson | Boston |


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December 17, 2012

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