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The ICA's 'Art on the Harbor Islands'
By GREG COOK  |  August 1, 2007
VOROMURO: What compels attention is not the sculptural object itself, but its manipulation of light.

‘Art on the Harbor Islands’ | Institute for Contemporary Art | 100 Northern Ave, Boston | On Georges, Lovells, and Spectacle Islands in Boston Harbor | Through October 8

Last week, I sat on the top deck of the Harbor Islands Express with parents rubbing suntan lotion into kids seated next to cuddling tourist couples as the boat backed off from Long Wharf and motored southeast, away from downtown Boston and Logan Airport, past the new Institute of Contemporary Art, and out to sea.

I was off to see the ICA’s “Art on the Harbor Islands,” temporary site-specific installations by Anna Schuleit, Teri Rueb, Ernesto Pujol, and the architectural firm Office dA on Georges, Lovells, and Spectacle islands in Boston Harbor. The project was organized by ICA curator Carol Anne Meehan. As is often the case when artists are asked to make work for a specific location or theme, the results are mixed. Still, it’s an amusing game and a welcome excuse for an outdoorsy adventure.

The sea air was cold and damp and foggy (bring a coat) as we rode to Georges Island. Sailboats and islands materialized in the mist and then evaporated. Somewhere in the fog, a ship’s horn sounded. Our boat answered and they honked back and forth at each other while Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon played over our vessel’s intercom.

Georges Island is dominated by Fort Warren, a massive earth-and-granite edifice finished in 1850 and decommissioned in 1947. It’s best known for housing more than 1000 Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. Monica Ponce de Leon and Nader Tehrani of the Boston architectural firm Office dA (one of four finalists for building the new ICA) have secreted their installation Voromuro inside an old powder magazine, a squat stone house sitting on the parade ground at the heart of the fortress.

From the door, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness inside, the abstract sculpture running down the middle of the long brick room resembled a rubbery wave or a model of hills covered with plastic fish scales. Upon closer inspection, the piece turned out to be a plastic honeycomb that spiraled around and at one end formed a sort of igloo. The form isn’t particularly original — picture hot-shot architects noodling with up-to-the-minute 3-D computer modeling software and you’ll be pretty close — but it’s fun to see. The best part is how Office dA handled the (sun)light, which enters the room only from the open door where you enter and from a single gun slit at the other end of the hall. The sculpture takes on different moods depending on whether it twists to catch the raking light, bends into shadow, or lets the light glow through it.

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