post by Rachel Pastan
The shows closed on Sunday, all three of them: Sheila Hicks, One is the loneliest number, and That’s How We Escaped. It was super busy at ICA the last few weeks as people flooded in to see them before they closed. We probably set a record for summer attendance. The current unofficial count is upward of 10,000 people, including 1,665 who came for programs and events.
One of the main contributors to that solid program attendance number was last Wednesday’s Sister Ray Slam. Close to 400 people crowded into ICA to see Andy Warhol films (care of Jay Schwartz and Secret Cinema), eat Little Baby’s Ice Cream (Earl Grey Sriracha, Balsamic Banana, Birch Beer Vanilla Bean, and other flavors), and hear Dry Feet, Megajam Booze Band, and the Sweet Sister Ray band each offer up their own rendition of the Velvet Underground’s classic “Sister Ray.” Having planned to have the Slam outdoors on the terrace, we were upset when the forecast called for rain. But as it turned out, the energy inside that packed building was fabulous, a contemporary echo of a 60s Warhol Factory bash. The only downside was how utterly totally drenched people got taking the trash out to the dumpster at the one in the morning.
Even with the shows closed and the museum doors locked, there’s plenty to do. There are new shows to open, loose ends to tie up from old ones, and groundwork to lay for projects that won’t be in the galleries for years. I spent a lot of the day copy editing the proof of the catalogue for last winter’s Anne Tyng exhibition, which also documents the show’s run at the Graham Foundation in Chicago in the spring. ICA often publishes its catalogues after the shows open, because for us these books document the exhibitions as they are presented here in our space. Installation photography is crucial, so even if the photographers get in as soon as the show opens, there’s a delay. This catalogue is going to be gorgeous—well worth the wait—with vivid images of two very different installations of the same work in Philadelphia and Chicago. I love what the book designers, Project Projects, have done with Tyng’s life chronology, laying it out with photographs and relevant quotations from the architect like this aphoristic one: “It takes more than effort to make something simple.”
Also today, Becket was arranging travel for Ingrid to research a show scheduled for 2013, and Kate was ordering two versions of part of the wall vinyl because there might only be 19 artists in an upcoming show instead of 20, and Jacqueline was revising the bios of the 20 (or perhaps 19) artists in that show, and Alex was trying to nail down presenters for the fall programs, and Nikyia was adding installation crew members into the payroll system, and Annie was sealing stacks of invitations to the fall opening dinner into envelopes.
At noon, though, everyone took a break for the intern goodbye lunch.
Luckily the weather was good, so this time we could be on the terrace. It’s impossible to overstate the amount of work the interns do for ICA, and it’s always sad to see them go, but they are en route to new adventures. One is going off to study in China, another to a programming job at an art center in her home town, and a third to finish her degree in painting. Pretty soon these people and others like them will be running museums all over the world.
It’s amazing how fast the shows come down. On Monday, the crew took all the crates out of storage and put them near the pieces that would be packed into them. On Tuesday, I finally got to see the inside of the crate from the Stedelijk Museum that Sheila Hicks compared to a boat during installation last March. Annie and I marveled over its J-shaped compartments, while Enrico Martignoni, here from Paris for the de-install, explained that the Stedelijk crates are always the same size—so that storing them doesn’t become a jigsaw puzzle—and therefore the inside parts must be custom designed for the art. By Wednesday, nearly everything had been packed up. The geometric green sculptural pieces by Lucas Ajemian and Julien Bismuth looked lonely in the upstairs gallery like the last autumn leaves still clinging to the tree.
Next week construction will begin for the new shows, which open September 7. ICA is presenting a major retrospective of the work of painter Charline von Heyl; a group show of mostly young, mostly Israeli artists, guest curated by Tel Aviv-based Doron Rabina; and a re-creation of the studio of the minimalist sculptor Bill Walton, who was important to so many artists in Philadelphia. I’m excited about all of these shows, but it’s difficult how quickly they surge toward us. Not yet, not yet, I want to say. Give us a little silence first—or perhaps a tolling of bells—to mark the passage.
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Tags: Andy Warhol, Bill Walton, Blowing on a Hairy Shoulder, Charline von Heyl, contemporary art, ica, Inhabiting Geometry, institute of contemporary art, penn, penn university, Secret Cinema, Sheila Hicks, sister ray slam, Stedelijk, University of Pennsylvania