ICA

The New ICA San Francisco Opens Its Doors With an Artist-Curated Show About Black Women and Freedom


The Bay Area’s newest institution, the ICA San Francisco, celebrated the final phase of its opening last night, unveiling its biggest gallery space with a compelling group show on the importance of celebrating Black beauty, rest, and self expression, curated by California artists Tahirah Rasheed and Autumn Breon.

Titled “Resting Our Eyes,” the exhibition features works from both big names and rising stars, with impressive loans by the likes of Carrie Mae Weems, Derrick Adams, Sadie Barnette, Genevieve Gaignard, and Simone Leigh.

Breon, who lives in Los Angeles, and Rasheed, who is from Oakland, met through the For Freedoms artist collective. (Group cofounder Hank Willis Thomas is among the artists featured in the show, along with his mother, photographer Deborah Willis.)

“So many people within the network just kept on assuming that we knew each other,” Breon told Midnight Publishing Group News at the exhibition’s opening reception. When they were finally introduced, the connection was instant.

Curators Tahirah Rasheed and Autumn Breon at "Resting Our Eyes" at the ICA San Francisco. Photo by  Vikram Valluri for BFA.

Curators Tahirah Rasheed and Autumn Breon at “Resting Our Eyes” at the ICA San Francisco. Photo by Vikram Valluri for BFA.

The two have spent the past year curating “Resting Our Eyes,” which offers a taste of founding ICA director Alison Gass’s socially minded vision for the institution, which looks to focus on under-represented voices in the art world.

The show’s theme was inspired by the Combahee River Collective, a group of Black feminists who began meeting in 1974.

“Basically the idea is that if and when black women are free, everyone else in the world will inevitably be free, because the systems that oppress black women would have to be dismantled and everyone else would benefit from it,” Breon said.

“When T and I started thinking about the mechanisms for freedom, we kept going back to leisure and adornment,” she added. “We were looking for the artwork that tells the story how we adorn ourselves and how we prioritize rest, because we see both of those as really necessary acts.”

See some of the works from the show below.

Adana Tillman, <em>Wild Things</em> (2020). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Adana Tillman, Wild Things (2020). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Gaignard, <em>Look What We've Become</em> (2020). Collection of Bob Rennie, Vancouver. Photo by Jeff Mclane, courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter, Los Angeles.

Gaignard, Look What We’ve Become (2020). Collection of Bob Rennie, Vancouver. Photo by Jeff Mclane, courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter, Los Angeles.

Sadie Barnette, <em>Easy in the Den</em> (2019). Photo courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco.

Sadie Barnette, Easy in the Den (2019).
Photo courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco.

Hank Willis Thomas, <em>Kama Mama, Kama Binti (Like Mother, Like Daughter)</em> (1971/2008) from "Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America." Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Photo by Aaron Wessling Photography.

Hank Willis Thomas, Kama Mama, Kama Binti (Like Mother, Like Daughter) (1971/2008) from “Unbranded: Reflections in Black by
Corporate America.” Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Photo by Aaron Wessling Photography.

Carrie Mae Weems, <em>The Blues</em> (2017). Collection of Jeffrey N. Dauber and Marc A. Levin. Courtesy of the Dauber/Levin Collection.

Carrie Mae Weems, The Blues (2017). Collection of Jeffrey N. Dauber and Marc A. Levin. Courtesy of the Dauber/Levin Collection.

Lauren Halsey, <em>Untitled</em> (2021). Photo by Allen Chen, courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

Lauren Halsey, Untitled (2021). Photo by Allen Chen, courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

Traci Bartlow, <em>Girl Boss</em> (1996). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Traci Bartlow, Girl Boss (1996). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Helina Metaferia, <em>Headdress 1</em> (2019). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Helina Metaferia, Headdress 1 (2019). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Carrie Mae Weems, <em>The Blues</em> (2017). Collection of Jeffrey N. Dauber and Marc A. Levin. Photo courtesy of the Dauber/Levin Collection.

Carrie Mae Weems, The Blues (2017). Collection of Jeffrey N. Dauber and Marc A. Levin. Photo courtesy of the Dauber/Levin Collection.

Ebony G. Patterson, <em>...they wondered what to do...for those who bear/bare witness</em> (2018). Photo courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Ebony G. Patterson, …they wondered what to do…for those who bear/bare witness
(2018). Photo courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Resting Our Eyes” is on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco, 901 Minnesota Street, San Francisco, January 21–June 25, 2023. 

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ICA London Director Stefan Kalmár on How British Politics—and Right-Wing Attacks—Sparked His Departure From the Museum


Stefan Kalmár, the first-ever non-British head of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, is stepping down from the role after five years.

Kalmár, who said there should be fixed term limits for museum heads, said he was also leaving over concerns of the effects of Brexit, and increased government oversight at museums.

“What’s happening in the U.K. is worrying,” Kalmár told Midnight Publishing Group News. “The historic arm’s-length principle between the government and cultural institutions that it directly funds… [is] being undermined.”

Kalmár said the museum was subject to several “rightwing complaints” during his tenure, in which some claimed it was acting as a political entity.

“My favorite quote from one particular critic was: ‘Promoting anal sex and polyamory to fight Nazism is just another day’s work for the ICA’s press department,’” he said.

His biggest concern for the future of museums is that they can become too dependent on a director’s financial connections.

“One runs [into the] danger that the director becomes indispensable as the financial health of the organization relies on them,” he said. (The ICA gets 21 percent of its budget from the government.)

The Institute of Contemporary Arts London. Photo by Rob Battersby.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts London. Photo by Rob Battersby.

“It seems strange that while public offices are—for good reasons—often termed, leading public cultural institutions are less so,” Kalmár said, noting that he believes that turnover in leadership roles is essential to a museum’s growth.

The ICA reopened on July 6 after having been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic. But while the challenges presented during lockdown were significant, the situation also led Kalmár to reflect on the institution’s goals, particularly in light of conversations regarding diversity and inclusion.

“If problems are structural, then change must also be structural,” Kalmár said. “Unfortunately, organizations of this size and scale adapt—rightly or wrongly—too slowly. Or at least, too slowly for me.”

Kalmár also said personal reasons led him to his departure.

Former American soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning poses ahead of her talk at the Institute Of Contemporary Arts London in 2018. Photo by Jack Taylor, Getty Images.

Former American soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning poses ahead of her talk at the Institute of Contemporary Arts London in 2018. Photo by Jack Taylor, Getty Images.

“My own biography as a son of a Hungarian immigrant to West Germany has been defined by borders,” Kalmár said. “As a child growing up in East Germany, I was not able to see my dad regularly for the first five years of my life, and it defined my belief that we must fight nationalism and racism wherever we come from, and wherever we live.”

During Kalmár’s tenure, the ICA held retrospectives for Kathy Acker, Julie Becker, and Seth Price, among others, and hosted speakers including whistle-blower-turned-activist Chelsea Manning and Spanish philosopher Paul Preciado.

Kalmár previously helmed New York’s Artists Space and the Kunstverein München in Munich.

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