Gatherings at the ICA

Richmond space offers contemporary art and much more.

Studio image from Guadalupe Maravilla’s installation, Disease Thrower.

Photo courtesy of Guadalupe Maravilla

In the year it has been open, Virgina Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) has proved to be a vital player in Richmond’s lively art scene. “The ICA has become a gathering place for Richmonders of all backgrounds,” says Dominic Asmall Willsdon, the institute’s executive director. “No doubt the appeal of the space and diversity of the programming are two reasons, but it’s also because we are a meeting place and event space for so many amazing community organizations.” 

The ICA, also known as the Markel Center, presents an ongoing roster of programs that reflects its deep engagement with social justice and the surrounding community, and its commitment to contributing to the ongoing discourse on contemporary art. Among them are the ICA Cinema Series on Wednesday evenings, lectures, artist conversations, and monthly First Friday receptions with refreshments. January and February programming highlights include a performance and screening by Ghanian musician and filmmaker Blitz the Ambassador in conjunction with the National Day of Healing (a collaboration with the Richmond-based nonprofit Initiatives of Change); a talk and performance by sound artist Marcus Fischer (a collaboration with VCU’s Department of Kinetic Imaging); and opening events for the upcoming The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis, including a talk with the artists and discussions about Octavia E. Butler, black feminism, and science fiction. 

In the exhibition space, the dramatic True Farr Luck Gallery is currently home to VCU professor Guadalupe Maravilla’s installation, Disease Thrower, curated by Amber Esseiva. The work incorporates drawing, sculpture, and performance to reflect Maravilla’s struggles as a child immigrant who fled El Salvador alone at the age of 8. Maravilla’s legacy of that experience has been illness, but with Disease Thrower, the artist has transformed the space into a place of ritual, dialogue, hospitality, and healing for both body and soul.

Opening Feb. 22 in the main exhibition space, The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis considers questions of alienation, intimacy, and human adaptation to change. The Otolith Group was established in 2002 by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun, who live and work in London; their art includes moving images, writing, and installation. The show’s title refers to a trilogy by the African-American science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, which deals with human extinction, mutation, and planetary metamorphosis. This is the only U.S. presentation of the exhibition, which was organized by the Van Abbemuseum in The Netherlands.

ICA admission is free; some programs require advance registration. ICAVCU.org


This article originally appeared in our February 2020 issue.

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