Press Release

First US Solo Museum Exhibition of Deborah Anzinger to Open at ICA in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA
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On April 26, 2019, the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA) will present the first US solo museum exhibition of Jamaican artist Deborah Anzinger. Deborah Anzinger: An Unlikely Birth brings together sculpture, video, painting, and installation, combining both synthetic and living materials, to consider geographical, ecological, and spatial paradigms. The exhibition reveals how the artist disrupts existing relationships and hierarchies as they pertain to the politics of land, the body, and space. Deborah Anzinger: An Unlikely Birth is curated by ICA Whitney-Lauder Curatorial Fellow Daniella Rose King and will be on view through August 11, 2019. 

Working at the intersection of black feminist thought, geography, and space while coalescing concerns Anzinger has long held, Deborah Anzinger: An Unlikely Birth explores a plethora of issues urgently facing our civilization—the environment, the economy, and human rights–and their aggressors, capitalism, and globalization. Through the work on view, Anzinger offers intimate networks and alternative ways of being in the world as possible answers to these intersecting problems. Thinking through reproductive labor, the transference of energy, and sanctuary, the artist compounds these fields with the testimony of individuals from Jamaica as a means of re-centering marginalized voices. 

“The tremendous talent and dedication of the curatorial team at ICA drives our mission and programming. Our Whitney-Lauder Curatorial Fellow program fosters the growth of emerging curatorial talent, which enriches our own curatorial capacity, culminating in some of the most exciting exhibitions on view at the Museum,” said Amy Sadao, Director of the ICA.

Deborah Anzinger: An Unlikely Birth builds on concerns mapped out in my first exhibition at the ICA, The Last Place They Thought Of  (2018), which investigated how geographical, ideological, and spatial paradigms determine and reproduce uneven social relations,” said King. “I am thrilled to work with Deborah Anzinger to explore her particular investments and inquiries in this terrain, which is at once a departure from and an expansion of these themes within her own distinct palette.”

The exhibition title, Deborah Anzinger: An Unlikely Birth, is taken from a major work in the exhibition and also speaks to the plantation as progenitor of capitalist economies, social organization, and environmental conditions, as well as the invisibility of reproductive labor. It is shown alongside a number of new commissions and works of varying scale. Located on ICA’s second floor gallery space, the installation explores themes of consumption and renewable energy, spectatorship, and participation. Botanicals and stand-ins for organic matter appear in paintings and other areas of the exhibition to troubling notions of the ‘natural’ and gesture towards the more nuanced nature of our relationship to materials.

Speaking to the range of media Anzinger employs in her work, she states “The materials I bring into the paintings (aloe, polystyrene, and mirrors) embody a more complicated understanding of existence and relation to the ‘other.’ By presenting alternative narratives that challenge their traditional associations and meanings, such as transforming polystyrene into support systems for living plants, I attempt to share the envisioning of new, more equitable paradigms for value and space.” 

Highlighting alternative models of being, Anzinger cites local ecological programs in Philadelphia and Kingston, including; alternative waste water systems; stormwater and rain gardens; and community gardens and urban farms undertaking important work around sustainable organic food production and composting. In the exhibition, the artist will amplify these approaches and models taking place on differing scales. 

In Anzinger’s work we see the erosion of boundaries between the body and the land, as well as a re-envisioning of geography through the lens of black feminisms. Her artistic approach facilitates a new way of interrogating, understanding, and reckoning with the realities of the current Anthropocene age, considered to be the first geographical period where human activity has irreversibly affected the environment, as both a psychological and social space. In Deborah Anzinger: An Unlikely Birth, Anzinger astutely and intuitively traces the interconnectedness of economy, subjectivity, environment, history, individual action, and societal responsibility in her work through an array of complex and multifaceted forms, textures, material, and environments. Works featured in the exhibition will burst open the seams of the conservative, regressive, and inherited beliefs tightly held throughout western civilizations, and offer openings and opportunities to rethink the challenges and catastrophes facing our present and future realities. 

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Deborah Anzinger, An Unlikely Birth, 2018, Acrylic, mirror, and synthetic hair on canvas, courtesy of ICA Philadelphia

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