A REVIEW OF ‘A PLACE FOR ME: FIGURATIVE PAINTING NOW’

The ICA’s new must-see exhibit


By Darcy Gallagher

The Institute of Contemporary Art’s new exhibition, A Place for Me: Figurative Painting Now, “celebrates a new generation of artists.” David Antonio Cruz, Louis Fratino, Doron Langberg, Aubrey Levinthal, Gisela McDaniel, Arcmanoro Niles, Celeste Rapone, and Ambera Wellmann are the eight artists featured in this breathtaking exhibit.


These artists offer a refreshing approach to the portrait by depicting themselves - women, queer people, people of color - and other individuals in their communities. The viewer is drawn to diverse scenes of everyday life, as opposed to portraits of unrelatable figures in other museums. Each figurative painting in A Place for Me is alive and full of vibrant colors. The viewer feels a sense of intimacy when walking through the exhibit.


Artists such as Cruz and Rapone were influenced by the pandemic when creating the works showcased in the ICA’s exhibit. One piece that particularly stands out when immediately entering the exhibit is Cruz’s depiction of a “chosen family,” a term that describes the “nonbiological bonds among individuals and based in mutual acceptance, support, and love.” These gatherings were important to maintain during the pandemic, and are beautifully portrayed in Cruz’s work.


In addition, Cruz’s other works in the exhibit depict queer activists, and members of his social circle, exploring concepts of desire, intimacy, and the gaze, as well as honor “the celebration of life, of being.”


The vibrant colors throughout the entirety of the exhibit is what truly stands out. Langberg, Levinthal, McDaniel, Niles, Fratino, and Wellmann utilize color to depict a range of emotional states, and showcases subjects with the goal of highlighting humanity, queerness, personal memories, womxn, and non-binary people of color.


Niles added glitter to the intense and rich color in his paintings, providing the viewer a glimpse into small moments of everyday life. McDaniel’s work focuses on the processes of healing for womxn and non-binary people of color who have survived personal and historical trauma. Her work seems to jump out of the frame, as the colorful and sometimes physical elements of the art pull in the viewer’s attention. Langberg’s use of color is exquisite, as the canvas is covered in a sweep of emotion while introducing its subject to the viewer.


Overall, the artwork in A Place for Me reflects numerous styles and approaches to contemporary art in today’s world. The artists showcase moments in real life, which is an aspect of the exhibit one can appreciate. The viewer is able to relate to the work, and may even see themselves in some of the subjects.