Philadelphia

Ree Morton, Signs of Love (detail), 1976, acrylic, oil, colored pencil, watercolor, and pastel on nitrocellulose-impregnated canvas, wood, and canvas with felt, dimensions variable. Photo: Constance Mensh.

Ree Morton

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

Ree Morton, Signs of Love (detail), 1976, acrylic, oil, colored pencil, watercolor, and pastel on nitrocellulose-impregnated canvas, wood, and canvas with felt, dimensions variable. Photo: Constance Mensh.

Ree Morton’s first large-scale US museum exhibition since 1980, “The Plant That Heals May Also Poison,” at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art, captures the unparalleled, heartbreaking hot streak, from 1971 to 1977, that constitutes her brief career. She got a late start: She was married with three kids by age twenty-five, and her subsequent pursuit of an art education was as arduous as it was anomalous. And then she died tragically, in a car accident, when she was just forty. So all of her work is early work, and in this show curated by Kate Kraczon, we see her in flux, forging her secret code, each major installation representing an astonishing leap forward on her sui generis path.

Wood Drawings, 1971, the earliest work on view, looks a little like one of those rock-climbing walls punctuated with footholds. Sixteen small units made of cast-off wood, marked in various

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