Five contemporary artists reimagine everyday objects through sculpture and installation at ICA

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Five contemporary artists reimagine everyday objects through sculpture and installation at ICA
Ken Lum, Orange Sculpture in Figure 8, 1998. from the series 'Furniture Sculptures (1978 - ongoing). Courtesy of the artist.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania presents the group exhibition Moveables, which investigates the ways in which the designed environment has the capacity to condition experience, and how artworks can propose new models of “functionality.” Moveables brings together the sculptural works of five contemporary artists— Jes Fan, Nikita Gale, Hannah Levy, Ken Lum, and Oren Pinhassi—who rethink the forms of functional design and its intimate relationship to bodies through their multidisciplinary practices.

“Movables is a prescient thematic exhibition that platforms new and recent work by five distinct artistic voices who are each grappling with the frameworks of our lived environment across media and scales,” said Zoë Ryan, Daniel W. Dietrich, II Director. “It is gratifying to be working with two guest curators on the exhibition—Alex Klein, former ICA senior curator and currently Head Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, The Contemporary Austin, and Cole Akers, Curator and Associate Director of Special Projects, The Glass House —whose visions for this exhibition further our mission and program as a launchpad for innovative artistic experimentation.”

The word “moveables” refers to any article in a building, such as furniture, that is not fixed in place. While originally developed as a legal term to describe property, the word also implies motion and fluidity. The artworks on view—whether they take the form of a sectional sofa, a toothbrush holder, or a chandelier— probe the tension between public and private, real and imaginary, and invite viewers to consider new possibilities for the objects that shape our daily lives. Moveables is part of a lineage of ICA exhibitions— from Improbable Furniture (1977) to Ruffneck Constructivists (2014)—that challenge histories of modernist design to center questions of queer desire, race, class, gender, and ability through a reconsideration of the constructed world around us.

As Klein notes, “The objects that surround us are laden with meaning. This exhibition brings together artists who are keenly attuned to the power structures embedded within objects and create installations and sculptures that reimagine the political, bodily, and aesthetic dimensions of the objects structuring our everyday lives in order to propose alternative possibilities.” Added Akers, “These works, many of which are new or on view for the first time, deconstruct familiar concepts of interior space and address how these spaces reflect larger systems of power.”

Organized as a series of discrete tableaus, or mise-en-scènes, the exhibition features each artist’s work sequentially and includes:

● Two new furniture sculptures—including the artist’s first to incorporate a mirror as a trompe l’oeil installation element—by Ken Lum, known for his use of furniture, mirrors, and photography to address issues of identity, language, and social politics;
● a monumental lighting rig installation by Nikita Gale in which theatrical lighting trusses are transformed into sculpture, and programmed lights “dance” to an unheard soundtrack by Tina Turner;
● a new arrangement of sculptures which interrogate architectures of queer desire by Oren Pinhassi;
● a group of Hannah Levy’s fantastical sculptures that conjure gendered critiques of high modernism with a focus on bodily awareness, alongside the premiere of a new performance; and
● a new video work alongside intimate sculptures by Jes Fan, an interdisciplinary artist who explores the intersection of biology and identity.

Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania
August 18th, 2023 - December 17th, 2023

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