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The ICA/Boston presents U.S. debut of Steve McQueen's powerful video installation, Ashes
Steve McQueen, Ashes, 2002-15. Two-channel video transferred from 8mm and 16mm film (color, sound; 20:31 minutes), two-sided screen, and posters, dimensions variable. Gift of Tristin and Martin Mannion. © 2002-16 Steve McQueen.

BOSTON, MASS.- The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston presents the U.S. debut of Ashes, a momentous video installation by award-winning British artist Steve McQueen. This powerful, immersive work tells the story of Ashes, a charismatic young fisherman from Grenada, and his unexpected fate. On view from February 15, 2017 through February 25, 2018, Ashes was a standout at the 2015 Venice Biennale and was acquired by the ICA earlier this year. Steve McQueen: Ashes is organized by Dan Byers, Mannion Family Senior Curator, with Jeffrey De Blois, Curatorial Associate. The ICA introduced McQueen to Boston audiences with a film presentation in 1995.

“Steve McQueen is one of Britain’s most influential artists, known for his film and video installations, as well as feature films such as ‘Hunger’ and ‘Twelve Years a Slave,’” said Byers. “Ashes is a remarkable work of art and expands on McQueen’s subjects of the political body, and the ways in which bodies can be confined and defined by history, labor, and the legacies of colonialism and globalism. We’re fortunate to have this piece as part of our collection to share with visitors, and expect its visual and visceral power to make an indelible impression for years to come.”

Ashes is composed of two films projected simultaneously on either side of a hanging screen. One side, originally shot on soft, grainy Super 8 film, shows a young, carefree fisherman named Ashes balancing playfully on a pitching boat against a horizon of blue sky and water. He is surrounded by the open air and sea, completely at home in his world. McQueen met Ashes in Grenada while filming another work in 2002. The other side, shot in 16mm film, shows a second projection made eight years later and chronicles Ashes’s unexpected fate. Never seen together, yet linked by a shared soundtrack, the videos conjure an easy vitality and a vivid description of place against the darker forces of society and fate.

“Life and death have always lived side by side, in every aspect of life,” said McQueen. “We live with ghosts in our everyday.”

Steve McQueen was born in London in 1969. His work has been collected by museums throughout the world, including: Tate Gallery, London; MoMA, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; and the Musée National d’Art Moderne George Pompidou, Paris. His film Five Easy Pieces showed at the ICA/Boston in 1995, one of his earliest screenings in the U.S. McQueen represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2009. A recent and highly acclaimed survey of his work was co-organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Schaulager, Basel. McQueen won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 for his feature Hunger, the only British director to be granted the prize, and the FIPRESCI prize for Shame at the 2011 Venice Film Festival. 12 Years a Slave was awarded three Oscars at the 2014 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Having been appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE, 2002), McQueen was created Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honors for services to the Visual Arts. He lives and works in Amsterdam and London.

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