Press Release

ICA Announces Group Exhibition by Four Intergenerational Women Artists Exploring Issues of Geography, the Environment, and Black Female Subjectivities

Philadelphia, PA
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Featuring Works by Torkwase Dyson, Lorraine O’Grady, Jade Montserrat, and Keisha Scarville

Opening on April 27, 2018, the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA) will present a group exhibition by four artists investigating how geographical, ideological, and spatial paradigms determine and reproduce uneven social relations. Featuring works by Torkwase Dyson, Lorraine O’Grady, Jade Montserrat, and Keisha Scarville, The Last Place They Thought Of considers how histories of racial, sexual, and economic exploitation shape our understanding of geography, habitat, and environment. The exhibition seeks to explore the possibility of different, critical engagements with geography through the lens of black female subjectivities and feminisms. The Last Place They Thought Of is curated by ICA Whitney-Lauder Curatorial Fellow Daniella Rose King and will be on view through August 12, 2018.

“Daniella Rose King’s tenure is an exemplary iteration of ICA’s Whitney-Lauder Fellowship. Her experience with transnational and intergenerational artists’ projects with Simone Leigh and Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Wael Shawky demonstrate an early commitment that mirrors ICA’s: critical dialogue, research, and spotlighting artists’ imbrication of visual pleasure, social movements, and expanding cultural histories. It is a great pleasure to provide a home base for her to explore a kunsthalle curatorial practice.”

The Last Place They Thought Of presents four interdisciplinary projects that span photography, painting, video, and performance, and interrogate the historical and contextual specificities of black women’s locations and displacements throughout the diaspora. In Katherine McKittrick’s influential publication Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle (2006), from which the exhibition title was borrowed, she references the narrative of Harriet Jacobs, who escaped slavery by secreting herself away for seven years in “the last place they thought of”; the crawl space of her grandmother’s attic. Literal and rhetorical marginalization, being in the last place is an experiential geography of black gendered bodies. Questions of miscegenation, hybridity and the contours of a black female body as landscape deemed, for all intents and purposes as “ungeographic” (after all, where is “black”?) arise in the exhibition alongside cartographies of the auction block, transatlantic slave trade, and Underground Railroad routes. Mythology and alternative narratives of the land similarly emerge through a study of the topographies of imagined landscapes, coupled with an engagement with corporeal, earthly matter – carbon and water – the material that undergirds and sustains it all.

“This has been a unique opportunity for me to explore a thematic curatorial project that will unfold through an exhibition, program, and publication. The Last Place They Thought Of constitutes a development of my previous curatorial work, which has been focused on histories of struggle and resistance, and centers marginalized voices, but here with a focus on geography and place. I’m increasingly invested in how interdisciplinary discourses around, and the ideas contained within, visual art practices can speak to the urgency of our environment and changing climate. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the support of the ICA Philadelphia in this endeavor.”

The exhibition and accompanying catalog create a discursive space to reconsider geography; as it pertains to the environment and our changing climate, as well as how it regulates the production and performance of identities, and continues to uphold material and metaphorical borders and boundaries.

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Lorraine O'Grady, Landscape (Western Hemisphere), 2010/2011. Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York. © 2018 Lorraine O'Grady/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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