Swoon at The ICA Boston

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The street artist known as Swoon was invited to create a multi-part installation at The ICA Boston in September of 2011, which is titled “Anthropocene Extinction.” However, the display will come to an end this holiday season after a splendid run of one year and three months. Swoon is relevant to the CARTWHEEL team in multiple ways because her works are part of our official collection, and she’s also one kick-butt female street artist in a world dominated by men.

Her piece at the museum begins as soon as you enter through the front door where a large figure sits cross-legged above a repeating pattern of masks and a backdrop of gold — all of which are done in Swoon’s signature style of  wheat pasting. If you’re unfamiliar with how it works, each print element in the design can take up to a month to create, since she has to first draw it out and then carve it from a block of wood or linoleum.  After the piece is carved, ink is applied to the surface of the block and then paper is pressed down onto it to transfer the design onto. The outlines of the drawing then have to be carefully cut out with an X-ACTO blade and finally the piece is ready to be glued to the wall in its proper place using a paste that’s comprised of wheat and other materials, hence the name wheat pasting, or standard wallpaper fixative.

As you follow the narrative Swoon created on the wall in the entrance way, you soon realize it jumps off via a paper chain that reaches all the way out to the glass elevator shaft. You then have to proceed to take the lift to the top floor to see what else she’s created: A towering 40ft tall sculpture made out of sustainable tree-based products like cardboard, bamboo, and paper. I just might be an elevator nerd, since I also love the Barbara Krueger designed one at the LACMA, but it’s really fun to take it at the ICA to multiple levels in order to see Swoon’s piece in its fullest.

I believe that the installation’s theme has to do with the extinction of our planet due to human causes, since anthoropocene is a loose term used to identify the era when humanity first began severely affecting its ecosystem. Plus, the structure in the elevator shaft almost seems like an allusion to Noah’s Ark, albeit in the form of a spaceship rather than a boat. I even initially thought of a ship’s anchor when I first saw the paper chain stretched out overhead that connected the wall to the structure in the elevator shaft and thought that the animals surrounding and leading up to it must’ve had some significance too without having looked into the name of the show.

The ICA Boston
100 Northern Ave
Boston, MA 02210
September 3rd, 2011 – December 30th, 2012



Masked character



















The character sitting on top of these masks is supposed to represent the last nomad, an actual person that Swoon met on one of her travels.




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