2019 Ballast & Barricades II ICA Philadelphia


"Opening on September 13, 2019, the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA) will present the first major institutional exhibition of Philadelphia-based artist Michelle Lopez.

'We are thrilled to present bold, new, and recent work conceived by local interdisciplinary sculptor and installation artist Michelle Lopez. Her experimental approach to processes, intricately reimagined use of industrial materials, and deft craftsmanship will create a space inside ICA that interrogates the human condition, challenging our audiences to think critically about pressing social issues, including gentrification, race, and representation' said Amy Sadao, ICA Director. 'In Philadelphia, these very concerns, along with questions examining the impact of displacement, are particularly relevant. Through this ambitious program we invite the local community to engage in dialogue and be inspired.'

Known for creating sculptural works that subvert histories of minimalism through a feminist lens and deconstruct symbols of nationalism, power, and identity through a process of formal reduction, alchemy, and violence, Lopez transforms the ICA gallery into a meditation on our fraught political moment through Ballast & Barricades. Blockades, borders, flags, and natural elements meticulously crafted by hand bleed together as distinct yet interconnected symbols within the space. Fragments of construction sites, scaffolding, large boulders and architectural structures are positioned within the wider work to create a delicate system of counterweights and counterbalances, permeating the immersive installation with a sense of precariousness. The aggressive sound of a flag and its rope hitting a flagpole from the artist’s earlier work Halyard (2014) enhances the sensory nature of the experience and heightens the sense of disorder presented through sculptural means.

'My practice has evolved to examine debris and the aftermath of violence, while my process continues to build inversions of cultural iconography in order to investigate notions of human failure,' reflects Lopez. 'I’ve explored abject forms of violence and entropy through subcultures ranging from skateboards to epic-related action figures and models; monolithic Minimalism to national flags. I’m invested in the history of sculpture and what it means to make objects and figures in these uncertain times. My installations have become spare structures of which bodies may have traversed, so my work suggests the history of bodies and of violence in the absence of figuration.'

'Lopez imbues her formalistic approach with symbolism, creating visually striking works that are infused with multiple meanings,” said Alex Klein, the Dorothy and Stephen R. Weber (CHE ’60) Curator at ICA. “Ballast & Barricades offers a range of interpretations rooted in histories of sculptural practice to explore political and social issues within a built environment, drawing on the local Philadelphia landscape to raise questions around displacement, gentrification, urban decay, and the dangers implicit in the construction of borders, both physical and imagined, within our increasingly nationalistic context.'"

-Michelle Lopez: Ballast & Barricades, ICA Philadelphia, September 13, 2019 to  May 10, 2020 excerpts from the press release.

ICA Philadelphia

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57"  x 80.5" x 62"
walnut, paint, steel, reflective fabric, paracord,  and street rubble

24" x  16" x 6"
bronze, 10K white Monarch gold leaf


6  multi-channel stereo-sound installation: 11 min. loop, speakers, sound  software, rope, steel cleat, 40 foot aluminum flag-pole puncturing roof of  gallery

2.5' x  2' x 10'
mirrored aluminum, automotive paint, and matte-white aluminum powder-coated  paint


pure  lead, automotive paint, steel, gold leaf

steel, pure lead and chrome

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