In fall 2023, ICA LA will present a comprehensive museum survey of Los Angeles artist Barbara T. Smith (b. 1931, Pasadena, US). A pioneer of the performance art movement of the late 1960s, Smith has long produced work that explores the self, sexuality, gender roles, physical and spiritual sustenance, love, life, and death. Assembling an expansive range of artwork and performance-related ephemera, the exhibition will survey Smith’s bold experimentation. While her groundbreaking performances have received critical attention, the objects Smith has made over nearly sixty years—many for, or as a result of, performances—are less known. This includes the artist’s radical Xerox works, mixed media assemblages, sculptures, artist’s books, drawings, paintings, photographs, and videos. Organized by ICA LA guest curator Jenelle Porter, this survey will celebrate Smith’s incomparable contributions to contemporary art, feminism, performance, and technology.
This exhibition builds on notable solo presentations such as Barbara T. Smith: The Way To Be (2023, Getty Research Institute), The Radicalization of a 50s Housewife (2011, University of California, Irvine), and The 21st Century Odyssey Part II: The Performances of Barbara T. Smith (2005, Pomona College Museum of Art). To accompany this singular presentation, ICA LA will publish Smith’s first survey catalogue, which will be designed by Kimberly Varella of Content Object (C/O) and released in the spring of 2024. Featuring an illustrated chronology of Smith’s life and artwork compiled by Jenelle Porter, the catalogue will also include commissioned texts by leading scholars Gloria Sutton, Catherine Taft, and Pietro Rigolo, on, respectively, Smith’s work as it relates to new technologies, ecofeminism, and the archive.
Jenelle Porter is a curator, writer and editor. Most recently she organized Kay Sekimachi: Geometries for the Berkeley Art Museum, Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design for the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, and Mike Kelley: Timeless Painting for the Mike Kelley Foundation at Hauser & Wirth, New York. She is currently co-editing An Indigenous Present with artist Jeffrey Gibson (fall 2023), and a monograph on Viola Frey (2024).
From 2011–2015, Porter was Mannion Family Senior Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, where she organized acclaimed thematic exhibitions such as Fiber: Sculpture 1960–present and Figuring Color: Kathy Butterly, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Roy McMakin, Sue Williams; as well as monographic exhibitions of Arlene Shechet, Erin Shirreff, Mary Reid Kelley, Jeffrey Gibson, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Dianna Molzan, and Christina Ramberg. Prior to her years in Boston, Porter was curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2005–2010), where she organized the group exhibitions Dance with Camera and Dirt on Delight: Impulses That Form Clay, as well as the first surveys of Trisha Donnelly and Charline von Heyl. From 1998–2001 Porter was curator at Artists Space in New York. She began her career in curatorial positions at both the Walker Art Center and the Whitney Museum of American Art.