philadelphia

View of “Ruffneck Constructivists,” 2014. From left: Tim Portlock, Sunrise—the extended constructivists re-render, 2013; Kendell Geers, Stripped Bare, 2009; Rodney McMillian, Carpet (Office and Ollie’s Room), 2012; William Pope.L, Claim, 2002/2014.

“Ruffneck Constructivists”

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

View of “Ruffneck Constructivists,” 2014. From left: Tim Portlock, Sunrise—the extended constructivists re-render, 2013; Kendell Geers, Stripped Bare, 2009; Rodney McMillian, Carpet (Office and Ollie’s Room), 2012; William Pope.L, Claim, 2002/2014.

The wall of reeking bologna at the entrance sets the tone for guest curator Kara Walker’s exhibition “Ruffneck Constructivists,” on view through August 17: Simply confrontational at first glance, the show hugely rewards a long, thoughtful look. In her text for the exhibition Walker describes its eleven artists as “defiant shapers of environments . . . [who] build themselves into the world one assault at a time.” The title’s clashing references to “Ruffneck”—female rapper MC Lyte’s 1993 ode to the streetwise “dude with attitude”—and the revolutionary Russian avant-garde likewise suggest a certain shock value. But as William Pope.L’s bologna wall, Claim, 2002/2014, establishes from the outset, the provocations here are polemical only through many ambiguous layers, and aggressive only in their restraint—not unlike Walker’s own work.

Walker recruited artists with a

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