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A Revolution Against the Bland at ICA: New Contemporary Art Institute In Design District Opens

Exterior of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. Photos by Iwan Baan.
Exterior of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. Photos by Iwan Baan.
Ellen Salpeter, Director, Institute of Contemporary Art Photo by Wilhelm Scholz
Ellen Salpeter, Director, Institute of Contemporary Art Photo by Wilhelm Scholz

“I feel like we are a revolution against the bland,” said Ellen Salpeter, Director of The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Miami, at the private press viewing on Monday Dec. 4, 2017, just three days after its official grand opening. She took the line from Campbell McGrath’s poem “The Key Lime” to describe the new Design District museum and its team including Deputy Director and Chief Curator Alex Gartenfeld, Curator of Programs Gean Moreno, and Associate Curator Stephanie Seidel.

The ICA just opened the doors of its permanent location to the public and, not coincidentally time for Miami Art Week.  Nestled between the high end stores in The Design District, the free, non-profit museum is in a prime, central location, making it readily available to the public.

Designed by Spanish firm Aranguren + Gallegos Arquitectos, the 37, 500 square feet building, is a relatively small-scale space, compared to the other contemporary museum a few blocks away, PAMM. Nevertheless, within its three exhibition floors and lovely outdoor garden, the institute encompasses a vast amount of artistic conceptualization with exhibitions including pieces from some of the most poignant artists from recent decades like Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Miriam Schapiro and Faith Ringgold.

Pablo Picasso Le Peintre et Son Modele, 1963
Pablo Picasso Le Peintre et Son Modele, 1963

The inviting entrance is framed with a geometrical open air facade of glass doors underneath interlocking metal triangles and lighted panels. Walking in through the lobby, you can see the outdoor sculpture garden through the wall-length windows that bring natural light into the space. You can continue towards the tree-canopied exterior to view the long-term installations, now featuring George Segal’s Three Figures and Four Benches, 1979, Abigail DeVille’s Lift Every Voice and Sing, 2017 and Mark Handforth’s Dr. Pepper, 2017. You can hang out in the garden and sit on one of the benches for a half an hour in the middle of the day and come back since it’s free. Or, you can turn into the six ground floor galleries, providing a project space for emerging artists.

Currently on display are works from Eward Keinholz and Nancy Reddin Keinhotz. With elements of American Gothic, they intersect the idea of the nuclear family as envisioned on television with the notion of a woman’s role in society. Using real life figures and every day objects, they comment on the role of the tube in modern day households and how they have perpetuated the subordination of women in a patriarchal society.

LEFT: George Segal Three Figures and Four Benches, 1979 | RIGHT: Anna Oppermann, Paradoxe Intentionen, 1988-92
LEFT: George Segal Three Figures and Four Benches, 1979 | RIGHT: Anna Oppermann, Paradoxe Intentionen, 1988-92

In Useful Art No. 1 (Chest of Drawers & TV), 1992, a television frames an anus exuding feces and expresses the common concept that there’s nothing but crap on TV. In The Soup Course at the She-She Cafe, 1982, life-sized figures of a man and woman sit a dinning table. The woman has a veil over her head to represent her oppressed role.

Another hallmark of the ground floor exhibition is Chris Ofili’s large scale, colorful painting Love, Life and Liberty, 2015.

LEFT: Roy Lichtenstein, Artist's Studio with Model, 1974 | RIGHT: Miriam Schapiro Time, 1988-91
LEFT: Roy Lichtenstein, Artist’s Studio with Model, 1974 | RIGHT: Miriam Schapiro Time, 1988-91

A winding stairway or elevators lead you up to the second and third floors where Special Exhibitions are housed. At the moment, the inaugural display is “The Everywhere Studio.” Showcasing over fifty artists, the major group exhibit examines the role of the artist and his or her studio from the postwar period to the present. The showcase flows one room featuring major male artists of the 1950s and 1960s like Philip Guston, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Yves Klein to another “feminist” room displaying female-centered art of the 1970s from the likes of MIriam Schapiro, Faith Ringgold, and Carolee Schennemann.

LEFT: Carolee Scheemann Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions for Camera, 1963 | RIGHT: Philip Guston, Pittore
LEFT: Carolee Scheemann Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions for Camera, 1963 | RIGHT: Philip Guston, Pittore
Other images from “The Everywhere Studio.”

Institute of Contemporary Art : www.icamiami.org/
61 NE 41st Street, Miami, FL 33137

Admission to the museum is always free. There are also a host of educational workshops, that are also open to the public at no charge.

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