ICA exhibits work by photographer Zoe Strauss

Work by acclaimed Philadelphia photographer Zoe Strauss will be on display at Penn’s Institute of Contemporary Art from June 4-22 in an exhibition titled “Zoe Strauss/Andres Serrano: Works 1983–1993.”

Organized by Grace Ambrose, an ICA Spiegel Fellow and a 2011 Penn alumna, the exhibition is part of “ICA@50,” an ongoing celebration of the museum’s 50th anniversary.

“When the curatorial team sat down to organize ‘ICA@50,’ we didn’t just assemble a greatest hits survey of the last 50 years at ICA,” Ambrose says. “Instead, we used the exhibitions and events of the past as jumping-off points for new projects.”

“Zoe Strauss/Andres Serrano” consists of a slideshow of photographs Strauss took of disenfranchised voters in Florida in the weeks leading up to the 2012 presidential election. On Wednesday, June 4, at 6:30 p.m., Strauss will discuss the exhibition along with Florida-based portrait artist Ashley Thompson, who will also show some of his work. Ambrose will moderate the discussion, the second in the ICA’s series of intergenerational conversations made possible by the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Program in Contemporary Art.

Strauss credits her visits to the controversial 1994 ICA exhibition, “Andres Serrano: Works 1983–1993” with “informing her decision to become an artist.” When she began her formal art career in the early 2000s, she photographed people on the streets of Philadelphia, and the images were not all glitz and glamour. The snapshots revealed the city’s gritty underbelly, with images of children playing on trash-strewn sidewalks and impoverished people hard at work. She originally sold her artwork under the I-95 overpass in South Philadelphia.

The ICA was extremely supportive of Strauss’ early art career. In 2006, her first solo museum show was organized by the ICA and held in the museum’s ramp space. In the years since, her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the International Center of Photography, among others, and was recently included in the 2013 Carnegie International. Strauss is currently a visiting professor at the California Institute of the Arts.

“ICA was definitely an early incubator for this success,” Ambrose says. 

“ICA@50” continues through Aug. 17 with a range of activities from dance performances and film screenings, to lectures and new installations in the galleries and public programs nearly every Wednesday.