I was a good artist in fifth grade. Really. That’s when I won my class’s cartoon contest and had my work displayed in the cafeteria with the other grades’ winners. Since then, though, I haven’t gotten to explore art as much as I would like to. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of art. I check out the PMA at least once a year (on Free Museum Days, exclusively), and whenever my photography-major roommate needs a model, I’m there for her. And, yeah, I’ve collected a couple paintings for my bedroom wall. Otherwise, though, my life is not nearly as art-filled as I would like it to be.
As an advocate of exploration, I must insist that you check out the Institute of Contemporary Art, as I did in my quest for artistic inspiration. The ICA seems to specialize in unique exhibits that challenge the typical perception of “art.” It’s a cool space – sparse and somewhat industrial with its concrete floor and its white pipes running along the high ceiling, yet also pure-looking in its bare whiteness. There are two floors, but I’ve only ventured through the first, where the single-artist installations are held.
The first time I visited the ICA was actually last semester when I saw a fantastically interesting fibers exhibit: floor-to-ceiling woven threads in the vague look of carpets, but much more whimsical and abstract. This time, though, the work of German artist Charline von Heyl was being featured. The artist is quoted in an ICA pamphlet as saying,
“It is about the feeling that a painting, or any work of art, can give – when you can’t stop looking because there is something that you want to find out, that you want to understand … Good paintings have this tantalizing quality. And once you turn around, you absolutely cannot recapture them. They leave a hole in the mind, a longing.”
This pretty much sums up the exhibit. I didn’t understand her work, and many of the paintings were very, very … weird. But as I stated before, though I have not studied art, I have an open mind, which is all you need to at least appreciate it. Her use of color and odd shapes captivated, forced me to stare at until I could feel something. No two paintings were alike. Each was far detached from conscious reality and any concrete object. And they had titles like “Poodle Pit” and “Lazybone Shuffle,” which alone should be enough to pique your interest.
The Institute for Contemporary Art is located on UPenn’s campus at 118 South 36th Street. Because the ICA is small, I’d recommend stopping by if you already happen to be in University City. It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesday but open every other day:
Oh, and admission is FREE!
Above painting: “Igitur,” Charline von Heyl, 2008. Her work will be featured at the ICA from now until February 19th.