Spiders & Space Ships


Izzy Pulido

Michael Hogan

The Institute of Contemporary Art on South Boston’s waterfront welcomed two new exhibits at the end of last month. Bourgeois in Boston, an exhibition of the work of Louise Bourgeois, and Momentum 7: Misaki Kawai, a rotating and constantly changing exhibit, now delight Boston’s modern art crowd. With a relatively small permanent collection that includes photographs from Philip Lorca diLorca and Cornelia Parker’s stunning installation “Hanging Fire,” the ICA is made up mostly of exhibits that change every few months. Along with the fascinating Supervision, another exhibition currently on display, the ICA is currently offering some of the most spectacular modern art outside of New York City.

Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris in 1911. She studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1938 she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to New York City and never left. Bourgeois has become one of the most prominent artists, concentrating on sculpture, of the 20th century. Bourgeois has worked in many mediums throughout her career, painting, drawing, sculpture, but, it is her sculptures that have earned her place as one of the most successful artists living today. Her sculpture has explored most every medium that sculpture can investigate including rubber, wood, stone and metal.

An accomplished artist in her early career, her earliest exhibition taking place in 1947, it wasn’t until the 1970s that she began to solidify her place of prominence in the world of modern art. The death of both her husband and her father began to transform her work into what it has become today, abstraction that drips with raw emotion. Her work runs the gamut of emotions, from one end of the spectrum to the other, drawing the viewer in and startling the senses. Much of her work has been described as “sexually charged” and rightly so, one can look at something like “Spiral Woman” and not think of sex. Bourgeois’ life has influenced her work in many ways. An adulterous father and an apathetic mother have led to some of the most surreal work the world has ever seen.

The exhibition at the ICA includes work that spans Bourgeois’ entire career. Pulled from Boston-area collections both public and private, the exhibition rotates pieces throughout the time it is on display at the museum. Every few months, new works are cycled into the exhibit bringing something fresh and mind-bending all the time. Beginning with a rare early painting and ranging into her current sculpture work, the exhibit delves into every moment of Bourgeois’ storied career.

Currently you can see works such as “Spiral Woman,” a hanging sculpture made of bronze that resembles a woman whose torso spirals into a surrealistic cyclone of sorts. “Spider,” a subject that she has used a number of times in the past, is a 10-foot sculpture that takes up an entire room and is in the shape of, you guessed it, a spider. One of the most dramatic pieces, not that a 10-foot spider whose spindly legs stretch from one end of the room to the other isn’t dramatic, is “Cell (Hands and Mirror).” Done in 1995, the pieces consists of a metal cell with doors that open to reveal the sculpture within, mirrors on the doors accent the work, revealing the piece inside from all angles. Within the cell is a block of stone upon which rest two forearms with clasped hands. Bourgeois in Boston is an opportunity to immerse yourself into the life and work of one of the worlds most renowned artists.

Momentum 7: Misaki Kawai is an installation that takes up an entire room. Momentum is a series at the ICA that focuses on emerging artists, giving them a room in which they have free reign to explore any medium they choose. Sound, video, sculpture, painting, all of these could find their way into the work. And in the current installation, they all do. Kawai presents “Space House, 2006-07,” a room where worlds collide in a colorful explosion of sight and sound. It is hard to look at the piece and not think of an acid trip. Influences of the ’60s hippie movement, the world of space and surrealism are melded together to create something of mind-altering proportions.

A mixed media installation, the piece is made up of paper mache “modules” that stretch on “arms” to all corners of the room. Each “module” contains a world within it where tiny people live strangely fascinating lives inside the bright boxes. They listen to music, they lounge in hot tubs and they work out, all within the world of the “Space House.” Figures ride around the outside on what look to be space bikes, traveling around a center “module.” Bright vivid colors and a psychedelic soundtrack along with tiny television screens in many of the “modules” combine to make an odd world of artistic wonder.

Born in 1978 in Kagawa, Japan Kawai now lives and works in Brooklyn. Raised in Osaka and graduating from the Kyoto College of Art in 1999, Kawai has been featured in solo shows around the world since the turn of the millennium. Her work has been exhibited in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Italy, just to name a few. She has been included in shows in Miami, Holland, and right here in Boston at the Allston Skirt Gallery’s 2006 exhibition Don’t Abandon The Ship.

Head over to the ICA to check out the new installations and I promise you won’t be disappointed. The ICA is located at 100 Northern Ave. on the South Boston waterfront right between the Moakley Courthouse and Anthony’s Pier 4. On Thursday nights after 5 p.m., the museum is free to all thanks to the sponsorship of Target. Check out the work of Louise Bourgeois and the psychedelic surrealism of Misaki Kawai and open your mind to a whole new world of art.