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Major new exhibition explores history & legacy of "commonwealth" in VA, PA, PR
Installation image, Commonwealth at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, 2020. In image: (Front) Carolina Caycedo, Distressed Debt, 2020. (Rear) Tanya Lukin Linklater and Tiffany Shaw-Collinge, Indigenous Geometries, 2019. Photo: David Hale

RICHMOND, VA.- On Saturday, the exhibition component of Commonwealth (September 12, 2020 – January 17, 2021), a hybrid digital/in-person experience organized by the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU (Richmond, VA), Philadelphia Contemporary (Philadelphia, PA) and Beta-Local (San Juan, PR) opened at the ICA at VCU. The project explores the complex history and legacy of “commonwealth” in each of the three locations and responds to the events of 2020 which have shed a new light on the unequal structures that shape our lived realities and the ways that people might come together to make the world more equitable.

Commonwealth features new co-commissioned work by artists Firelei Báez, Carolina Caycedo, Duron Chavis, Alicia Díaz, Sharon Hayes, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Nelson Rivera, Monica Rodriguez, and The Conciliation Project (TCP), which will be presented in different iterations online, in-person and in text, broadening the project’s reach. Commissions include:

• Firelei Báez has created two new works, reproduced at billboard scale in Philadelphia and Richmond, that overlay historical maps from Philadelphia and Richmond with powerful new imagery.

• Duron Chavis, a food justice activist, has partnered with architect Quilian Riano of DSGN AGNC to create Resiliency Garden, a space to share practical knowledge and gardening and address larger issues of systemic racism and food justice that have been highlighted and amplified by COVID-19. The phrase “Black Space Matters” frames the garden, echoing the "Black Lives Matter" street murals painted around the country in summer 2020.

• Alicia Díaz, a dancer and choreographer, has partnered with a large group of collaborators to create Entre Puerto Rico y Richmond: Women in Resistance shall not be Moved, a performance for camera. Filmed in a former American Tobacco Company warehouse, the work links the colonizing economies of Virginia and Puerto Rico and invokes the pioneering and contemporary labor activists.

In addition to the indoor/outdoor exhibition at the ICA, Beta-Local is leading the development of a hybrid print and digital publication, and Philadelphia Contemporary has launched grant-funded community partnerships and a billboard by Firelei Báez.

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