Ramp Project: Zoe StraussApril 21 - July 30, 2006
Friday, April 21, 5-6pm, ICA Members Only, join on-site
Friday, April 21, 6-8pm
The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), University of Pennsylvania, is pleased to present a new Ramp Project this spring by photographer Zoe Strauss. Strauss transforms ICA's ramp space with an installation of her photographs and a slide show. Strauss wraps the windows of the 36th Street façade in a huge blow-up of one of the images from her accompanying slide show that focus on themes of desire, in all of its beauty and repulsion. The ninth in a series of temporary works commissioned for the ramp, Strauss' work can be seen April 21 - July 30, 2006.
Strauss (b. 1970, Philadelphia), a self-taught photographer, has been described as the chronicler of Philadelphia's mean streets and the town's own Diane Arbus. Armed with her Nikon d70, she captures the irony, honesty and joy in corner stores, signs, billboards, the industrial landscape, people living in her South Philadelphia neighborhood and, most recently, the devastation left in Katrina's wake in Biloxi, Mississippi. She is the first member of her working-class family to graduate high school and although always interested in photography, it was not until she received a camera for her 30th birthday did her career begin.
For the past five years Strauss has been committed to a 10-year project she calls the Philadelphia Public Art Project (PAP), a photo archive that will document the people and neighborhoods of her native city creating photographs that find beauty in the forgotten and overlooked. Her portraits are both emotionally direct and compassionate. "I am interested in producing photographs that are both a story unto themselves and part of a cohesive body of work designed to be viewed in public spaces" Strauss says.
Accessibility is a big part of her work and her politics. Her fifth annual "Under I-95" show is scheduled for this May and is free and open to the public. During this event she transforms the concrete expanse into her own temporary museum. Paula Marincola, Director of the Philadelphia Exhibitions Inititative, describes the space as "a ruined cathedral" which Strauss activates. More than 200 images are affixed to the concrete pilasters under I-95. Having the shows under I-95 helps viewers connect with how she felt while she was making the work. "I want someone to be able to walk through it and have that same feeling looking at the landscape and architectural shots as well as the portraits" says Strauss. Copies of the photos sell for $5 a piece and are available at the show and on her website. The affordability is as much a statement as her subject matter.
The next "Under I-95" show is scheduled for May 6, 2006 from 1-3pm at Front and Mifflin Street. For more information visit www.zoestrauss.com.
Installation views at ICA. Photos by Aaron Igler. > click to enlarge
Strauss's photographs are in the collection of the Philadelphia Art Museum. She is the recipient of a 2005 Pew Fellow Award, a 2002 Leeway Grant, and in 2004 received the Arcadia Works on Paper Award. Most recently, she was invited to participate in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, the only artist from Philadelphia. This is Strauss's first solo museum exhibition.
ICA acknowledges primary sponsorship of the William Penn Foundation for this project. We are also grateful for the generous support of Elaine Finkelstein. Additional funding has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. ICA is also grateful for in-kind support from Loews Philadelphia Hotel. (Information complete as of 3/1/06.)
Background, left: Zoe Strauss, Detail I-95 (Cabrini Green Woman Leaning Out Of The Window) (detail), Philadelphia, PA, 2003. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Public Art Project... Background, right: Zoe Strauss, Detail I-95 (Your Future Starts Here) (detail), Las Vegas, NV, 2004. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Public Art Project... Top of page: Zoe Strauss, Detail I-95 (Camden Mattresses), Camden, NJ, 2002. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Public Art Project... Bottom of page: Zoe Strauss, Detail I-95 (Phillies), Philadelphia, PA, 2003. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Public Art Project.