quot;I see aquot; cool new museum: Boston#039;s ICA

by Beacon Staff • February 7, 2007

Don't pass by, though, because the room reveals a surprising spectacle: projected images of shadows lie on the floor.,A small room off to the side of the permanent collection gallery at the newly opened Institute of Contemporary Art looks as if it were a place for a stairwell or water fountain.

Don't pass by, though, because the room reveals a surprising spectacle: projected images of shadows lie on the floor.

Various silhouettes of objects float up and down a telephone poll while its wires seem to blow with an invisible wind. Shadows of people fall to the ground, while earthly objects such as buses and eyeglasses eerily glide upwards towards the heavens.

Almost as interesting as the piece itself ("1st Light" by Paul Chan) are the faces of the people viewing it. Some sit on the floor and watch with their eyes wide. A small grin grows on their faces indicating that they understand or feel something.

Others stand around in admiration. Reactions like this can be found in almost every part of the ICA.

It takes a few circles around the new 65,000 square foot building before stumbling upon the small seam that distinguishes the glass door from the rest of the plate glass walls that seem to hold the building together.

Entering the large and brightly lit building feels like stepping inside a perfectly made machine. The floor is made of chrome, each wall is flawlessly white and the glass elevator that takes you to the galleries is about the size of a dorm room.

Once the massive elevator doors open on the fourth floor, an eerie silence seems to fill the room.

This silence is due to the consuming awe that takes over when stepping into a gallery. These galleries are filled with the most extraordinary things that must be recognized for their beauty, but that would never be found in an ordinary art museum. The ICA opened the doors of its new waterfront home to the public in December after relocating from its homey digs next to a firehouse on Boylston Street, and the new galleries dwarf the exhibtion space of the old museum.

Artist Kelly Sherman is responsible for "Seating Plans," an exhibit displayed in the east gallery in which seating plans and charts are hung on the walls to reflect family dynamics and emotion.

Artist Rachel Perry Welty stars in her own piece, "Karaoke Wrong Number," which is a TV screen mounted on a perfectly white wall, in which she mimics the voices that play through an answering machine. Some of these voices are sad and desperate, while others depict friends just calling to say hello. "Hanging Fire" by Cornelia Parker is displayed in the new permanent collection, where dozens of pieces of charred fire wood hang in mid-air as if they exploded and froze in place.

The gift shop visitor can find everything from your typical art museum souvenir goodies like T-shirts, hats and tote bags to beautifully decorated cheese graters, chopsticks and tea sets. There is also a jewelry section and an incredibly well-stocked bookshelf.

If you enjoy art, or are just looking for something to do, take a ride to the ICA for a great outing.

You won't find 18th century portraits or sculptures by Michelangelo. You will, however, find interesting pieces of art that evoke thought and feeling.

Get there by taking the Silver Line from South Station to the Courthouse stop. Walk down Seaport Boulevard toward the World Trade Center. Turn onto Northern Avenue and you won't be able to miss the large glass building. The ICA is also about a 25-minute walk from the Emerson campus and is open Tuesday-Wednesday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday-Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for students (discounted from $12), but free on Thursdays between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.