post by Rachel Pastan
I WANT TO WRITE THIS WHOLE BLOG POST IN CAPITAL LETTERS!
It’s the pre-opening energy, that jazzy adrenaline buzz that floats up the elevator shaft and down again through the heating vents on every ICA opening day, making me feel like shouting. I have finished my own last-minute assignments for tonight so I’m free for a few minutes to wander around the building watching other people hurry to finish theirs. At five o’clock the doors will open. It’s two-thirty now.
Three new shows will open tonight. The big downstairs gallery hosts Charline von Heyl’s paintings, enormous planes of color that seem to vibrate on the walls as though they too can feel the excitement. A few minutes ago I let in some people from Friedrich Petzel, Charline’s New York gallery, and as they turned the corner into the show I heard them say, “Wow!”
On the second floor, there’s a lot of activity in Blowing on a Hairy Shoulder / Grief Hunters, the big group show guest curated by Doron Rabina. There are a lot of animals in here—at least on video—enormous peacocks, a cawing raven, a quick fox, and a man with a chicken on his head on the wall just outside the gallery. There’s a supine figure lying on the floor (last week I saw it creepily unwrapped from the plastic sheet it was packed in), and a video fire blazing in an overturned desk. Some guys are moving equipment around, and the wall labels are provisionally tacked in place with blue tape, and Thom is walking through with a push broom, sweeping. It’s vibrant and noisy and wonderfully weird in here. Last week, when ICA’s director came through, she announced enthusiastically, “It’s a show about poetry! A poetic show.”
Stepping through the door into the Project Space is like stepping into a pool of stillness. ICA has recreated the studio of sculptor, print-maker, and teacher Bill Walton, complete with tools and works-in-progress, sweatshirts and coffee cups. Last week, when Grace was unpacking and arranging the contents, she told me some of the coffee cups contained old cigarette butts, making it extra important not to spill. With drawers ajar and slippers under the table, it looks like Walton, who died last year, has just gone out for a cigarette.
Out on the terrace, some guys are setting up the tent for the dinner while Jeff arranges tables. Becket is moving the podium. Alex and Jenna are looking for Doron to record an interview about his show for the website. William is tucking boxes away in a closet. Jacob is painting a wall. The sound guys are setting up in a corner. Thom is now sweeping out on the mezzanine, near where an exhausted figure, worn out from the week’s installation, naps on a pouf.
Some ICA staff members are already dressed in their opening finery: black dresses with cut-out sleeves, black dresses with elegant collars, high-heeled shoes showing off new pedicures. Others have hung dresses on the coat hooks, sheathed in garment bags, making for more surprise later, just as the locked museum doors this past month make for surprise tonight. I hope that, as I type this on Wednesday afternoon, you are somewhere putting your own finery on, getting ready to join us.
Of course, by the time you’re reading this, it will all be over: the party dresses put away, the speeches faded, the adrenaline spent, the spills mopped up. The art, though, will still be at the ready, waiting on the walls and plinths and video screens for you to come in.
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Tags: Bill Walton, Bill Walton's Studio, Blowing on a Hairy Shoulder, Charline von Heyl, contemporary art, Doron Rabina, ica, institute of contemporary art, penn, penn university, University of Pennsylvania