MIT List Visual Arts Center opens two new solo exhibitions

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MIT List Visual Arts Center opens two new solo exhibitions
Kathleen Ryan, Diana, 2017, rose quartz, brass, cast iron. Courtesy the artist and Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- The MIT List Visual Arts Center is presenting two solo exhibitions featuring recent and new sculptural work by Kapwani Kiwanga and Kathleen Ryan.

Kapwani Kiwanga: Safe Passage
Kapwani Kiwanga is a Paris-based artist who traces historical narratives, excavating and considering the global impact of colonialism and how it permeates contemporary culture. Her work is research-driven, instigated by marginalized or forgotten histories, and articulated across a range of materials and mediums including sculpture, installation, photography, video, and performance. At the core of her exhibition at the List Center is an interest in surveillance and the systems used in controlling the movement of bodies in space. Kiwanga follows the lineage of surveillance in relation to blackness in America, from its colonial roots in slavery to Jim Crow era networks of resistance to the visibility new industry and materials afford. Kiwanga is the recipient of the 2018 Sobey Art Award, Canada’s most prestigious contemporary art prize and the List Center exhibition is her first major presentation at a US museum.

Safe Passage premieres a new series of sculptural works that take their point of departure from colonial-era “lantern laws,” laws enacted in Boston and throughout New England in the late 1700s. These laws, first passed in New York earlier in the 1700s, required any nonwhite person to carry a lit candle after dark as a means of identifying and tracking their movement. Kiwanga also presents an ambitious suite of 21 prints, sourcing material from the 1961 issue of The Negro Motorist Green Book. This annual state-by-state listing printed from 1936-1966, served as a resource to provide safe restaurants, service stations, and lodging for African-American motorists traveling across the country. She focuses on 1961, a year at the height of the Jim Crow era in which the Freedom Riders, a group of civil rights activists rode public interstate buses from Washington, D.C. into the south to challenge the unconstitutional standard of keeping public buses segregated.

Safe Passage also includes the US premiere of Jalousie (2018), a sculpture that incorporates two-way mirrors, and steel that addresses visibility and movement in relation to architecture. Lastly, Kiwanga is producing a site-specific architectural intervention that engages Shade Cloth, an agricultural textile used in large-scale industrial farming around the world. Kiwanga has worked with Shade Cloth in the past, most recently in the US in the production of Shady (2018), an outdoor sculpture featured at Frieze NY last May.

Kapwani Kiwanga (b 1978, Hamilton, Canada) studied Anthropology and Comparative Religion at McGill University, Canada followed by post-graduate work at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, France. She has presented solo exhibitions at The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada; the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Chicago, US; La Ferme de Buisson, Noisiel, France; South London Gallery, London, UK; and the Jeu de Paume, Paris, France.

Recent group exhibitions include the Hammer Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles; EVA Biennial, Limerick; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; SALT, Istanbul; and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y Léon. Kiwanga is the recipient of the 2018 Sobey Art Award.

Kapwani Kiwanga: Safe Passage is organized by Yuri Stone, Assistant Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center.

Kathleen Ryan: Cultivator
Working primarily in sculpture, Ryan’s work is distinguished by her virtuosic grasp of materials, ranging from poured concrete, cast iron, carved marble, and precious stones to found objects such as granite manufacturing blocks and bowling balls. She engages with formal sculptural concerns such as volume, weight, pressure, balance, and line, while subtly referencing the materials’ historical and economic underpinnings. At the List Center, Ryan will present a group of new sculptures in the museum’s Reference Gallery, providing the first full institutional showing of her work in North America and introducing New England audiences to her work.

Ryan, who was trained in archeology as well as art, frequently makes reference to ancient iconography. Her hanging sculpture Diana (2017), sharing a name with the Roman goddess of the hunt and of nature, resembles the fruit of a palm tree, with cast-iron husks that encapsulate a teeming cluster of spherical rose quartz seeds. A new work in this series, using black onyx, is included in the Cambridge show.

Many of the artist’s recent works were cast at a defunct blast furnace in Pennsylvania, alluding to a declining manufacturing industry that has shaped the economic and social trajectory of communities across the United States. The artist renders her massive industrial materials effortlessly light and delicate. As the works seem to levitate in spite of their manifest weight, Ryan also wrests a kind of poetry, and a sense of humor, from her unwieldy sources, as in new works in the exhibition made from a two-part industrial boiler or pearl necklaces made of bowling balls, fastened together with chandelier parts and arranged on the gallery floor.

Kathleen Ryan (b. 1984, Santa Monica) lives and works in New York. Solo exhibitions of her work have been mounted at Cc Foundation, Shanghai; Arsenal Contemporary, New York; Kunsthistorisches Museum Wein, Vienna; Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles; and Josh Lilley, London. Her work has been featured in group exhibitions at Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, WENTRUP, Berlin; and many others. She holds an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Kathleen Ryan: Cultivator is organized by Henriette Huldisch, Director of Exhibitions & Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center.

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