Critics’ Picks

Nidaa  Badwan,  One  Hundred  Days  of Solitude; Code:3,  2014, C-print, 24 x 39".

Nidaa Badwan, One Hundred Days of Solitude; Code:3, 2014, C-print, 24 x 39".

Richmond, VA


Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University
601 W Broad St
April 21–September 9, 2018

This museum's inaugural group exhibition, “Declaration,” is a weighty one, taking on issues surrounding community activism, gun violence, race, marginalized voices, land rights, and the environment. While local or of-the-moment artists such as Titus Kaphar seem logical to include, the parameters for inclusion in the show are otherwise opaque. Still, the works seem tethered to the ethos of Richmond, a city with a Janus-faced reputation in which outsiders see its history as the capital of the Confederacy rather than its status as a progressively minded art town.

Yet rather than endeavor to only represent its setting, “Declaration” seeks to give agency to visitors. Kate Just, with her hand-knitted wool and acrylic yarn depictions of women holding protest signs, reclaims craft material from the domestic and feminine to signal a fierce empowerment. Nidaa Badwan's photographs in the series “One Hundred Days of Solitude,” 2014, imagine an existence sequestered from the harsh realities of public life in Gaza. Climate change is addressed in Hope Ginsburg's Land Dive Team: Bay of Fundy, 2016, while the importance of solidarity on a local scale can be gleaned from both Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.'s Passin' on to others, 2018—screen-print images of words shared at salons and barber shops—and Marinella Senatore's Estman Radio: Richmond, 2018, which invites Richmonders to record or email their histories, respond to the exhibition, or communicate however and whatever they like. Throughout, this show suggests—in fact, declares—that in times of increasing social uncertainty and political closed-mindedness, the possibility of engaging multitudinous viewpoints is always open.