View of Virgil Marti’s “Set Pieces,” 2010.

View of Virgil Marti’s “Set Pieces,” 2010.

Virgil Marti

Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania

View of Virgil Marti’s “Set Pieces,” 2010.

In the latest installment of the Philadelphia ICA’s guest curator program, locally based artist Virgil Marti has done a rare thing. He has put together an exhibition composed almost entirely of museum-quality historical objects within the walls of a kunsthalle much more accustomed to dealing with work by living artists. That this project was even allowed to take place says something about the close bonds between Marti, ICA curator Ingrid Schaffner, and Philadelphia Museum of Art curator Joseph Rishel. Such largesse has enabled the artist to construct strange theatrical tableaus, or “set pieces,” from the wealth of “oddball” (this is Marti’s word) objects in the PMA collection.

This unorthodox curatorial collaboration has no doubt given the purists fits. Of course, this is exactly the point. In an accompanying catalogue essay, the poet Thomas Devaney muses that seeing “Set Pieces”

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