Love it or hate it, modern art stands boldly on the art scene, both in general and at Penn. In a city dominated by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, modern art must eke out its own existence from in between the likes of Cezanne and Winslow Homer. Despite its scant presence, modern art defiantly thumbs its nose from this side of the Schuylkill River via Penn's own Institute of Contemporary Art. From now until March 26, the ICA will continue to push the boundaries in its new exhibition "Gone Formalism," a display that explores and pushes the boundaries of artistic expression.
"Gone Formalism" represents the heart and soul of the ICA's new spring gallery season, but more importantly, the show serves as an examination of our commonly held notions of what "art" really is. More specifically, "Gone Formalism" is a collaboration of several crafted pieces that represent the primacy of form. Many of these sculptures and paintings remove ordinary objects from their context and juxtapose them in unusual ways, leaving only their form and none of their function. The bottoms of bottles and miniature playing cards all of a sudden transform into a complex mosaic of household items. An undulating mass of blue papier-mache seems to rise from the whiteness of the tiles that surround it, while seven-foot pillars of detritus stand in the visitors' way. Circles, squares, curves and lines abound throughout the exhibit, while lights project the image of the sculptures across opposite walls in an eerie sort of shadow puppetry. In a combination of natural and industrial materials, six artists allow the visitor to envision and understand the importance of structure. As a final touch, the ICA places the display within the confines of a nearly empty white room, thus heightening the ethereal aura of the exhibition. The visitor cannot help but notice the predominance of structure and how the pieces break down the formal confines of art to its most basic and simple components.
"Gone Formalism," poses a simple question to the average ICA visitor: what should be considered "art?" This question arises in many modern art galleries, but the quirky, eerie nature of "Gone Formalism" especially emphasizes the issue. Whether you are a fan or ardent critic of modern art's message, this new exhibition will almost certainly make the most cerebral person pause, stare and wonder.