Bringing heat to the ICA

the ramp window covered with a Zoe Strauss photo of a woman smoking crack

The Candida Hofers haven’t yet gone up at the ICA (shipping problems? They’re expected to go up May 1–correction: May 3) but the big news for us Philadelphia fans (oh, we’re shameless) is local girl Zoe Strauss makes good, delivering her usual mix of art, charm and profanity.

Strauss is showing her photographs in the latest ICA ramp project. She’s has shoehorned in her slides, a giant translucent image on the big windows and about 200 photos mounted on planks on the long wall (they will be rotated in, with 33 up at a time).

Strauss on the ICA ramp (in the rose-colored shirt) talking about her work

On opening night, Strauss was sporting a rose colored shirt over her usual tee and jeans. Dressups. I can honestly say, without a bit of local boosterism, that the Q&A between Strauss and ICA Assistant Curator Elyse Gonzales, was the most entertaining moment of the members walkthrough.

Gonzales asked Strauss how she felt about being in so private a venue as the ICA. “It’s definitely not who my primary audience is. But the space does have lots of windows.”

Of the blowup of the crack-smoker on the window she said “It was fucking torture to do it.” But she said it was important for her that that image change the degree of visibility throughout the day. Both inside and out, people could look at and look through the photo at the same time.

Some of these photos will come down in the course of the show to be mounted on telephone poles around Philadelphia

Strauss said she will make public the 200 mounted photos included in the exhibit by nailing them to telephone poles throughout the city as they get rotated out.

Not that Strauss doesn’t want to be in the ICA. She said she did and added, “Who doesn’t want to be loved?”

Talking about the slide show, she explained that it started as a works in progress, but has evolved into a full-fledged art work at the same time that it remains in progress. “Keep looking at it because it’s really good and I think you’ll like it,” she said.

The slide show at the ICA; a rug is on the floor!

Talking about the issues in working with the ICA ramp space, she said, “It’s like a frigid icebox,” and then explained she meant, besides the geometry, both the temperature and the light. “Not much yellow comes in.” To warm things up a bit, she had carpet installed on the landing where the slide show is.

I don’t remember who asked Strauss the $24,000 question: How do you develop such intimacy with your subjects.

Strauss said, “I don’t have a good answer for that. …I always ask and there’s a little give and take,” which lasts perhaps five minutes. Almost every one of her subjects is a complete stranger. Probably the only answer to the question is talk to Strauss yourself for five minutes.

She said all the photos were taken with her annual under-I-95 installation in mind. If you don’t know about it, it’s May 6 this year, 1-3 p.m. at Front and Mifflin under the interstate, rain or shine, in which Ms. Zoe Strauss returns her street photography (why isn’t it called people photography?) to the street and the people.


I’m going back to the ICA once the Hofers are up. The stuff on the first floor and in the project room were full of documentary material. But on the fly, some highlights were the funny, nostalgic reconstruction of Nils Norman and Stephan Dillemuth’s artist-run space (above) and an Andrea Fraser video, both downstairs…

Sigardardottir (figure on the right) is talking about her portable landscape

and upstairs, Katrin Sigurdardottir’s unfolding landscape-in-a-box.