I take things apart because I feel taken
apart. Reconstruction is an invention.
Surviving abstraction with abstraction.
The Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at VCU is proud to present So it appears, an exhibition of nineteen artists from around the world whose works appear inscrutable at first glance—but look closer, and tangible, acutely urgent narratives will start to emerge.
So it appears brings together 40 works by artists including Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Monira Al Qadiri, Alexander Apóstol, Navine G. Dossos, Torkwase Dyson, Basmah Felemban, Žilvinas Kempinas, Agnieszka Kurant, Dinh Q. Lê, Jeewi Lee, John Menick, Novo (Reynier Leyva Novo), Trevor Paglen, Walid Raad, Tomás Saraceno, Pak Sheung-Chuen, and Levester Williams. Artist Tricky Walsh and audio artist and producer Sharon Mashihi will also be in residence throughout the exhibition’s run, and will produce new works to be presented on April 21 on the occasion of the ICA’s fifth anniversary.
Grappling with the paradox of how to represent the unrepresentable, the collected artists have surfaced abstraction as a visual strategy—a tactic for encoding, encrypting, and indexing otherwise invisible realities and disasters, as well as speculative futures. So it appears is a site to research and explore these tactics and narratives, to question how we usually see things and to find new methods for looking.
Navine G. Dossos’s paintings, for instance, uses the formal principles of Islamic geometry and contemporary Aniconism to covertly picture journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination, emphasizing the silence, secrecy, and visual opacity in media coverage of his murder. In a piece by Agnieszka Kurant and John Menick, line drawings by several “mechanical turks” (the 500,000+ home-based global workers organized into a freelance pool by Amazon, to whom one can outsource basic online tasks for just a few cents) gesture to the atomized, anonymous, radically underpaid labor hidden within that megacorporation. Lawrence Abu Hamdan, on the other hand, uses “sound-images” to help viewers “see” the clandestine sonic warfare perpetrated by Israel in Lebanese airspace and the overlooked psychological effects on the people living below. In other works, aesthetic techniques like color-field painting or conceptual minimalism are deployed to surreptitiously deliver stories of incarceration or enslavement, the unseen experiences of migration or environmental racism.
Though created at different times (from 2004 to the present) in vastly disparate contexts across five continents, the works presented in So it appears reveal surprising affinities in their approaches, subtleties, and associations. Seen together, they invite us to reflect on the interconnectedness of the manifold global crises they speak to individually.
So it appears is organized by ICA Senior Curator and Director of Programs Sarah Rifky with ICA Curatorial Fellow Yomna Osman.