The Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, presents the first major US exhibition of artist Ree Morton (b. 1936, Ossining, New York; d. 1977, Chicago) in nearly four decades. Ree Morton: The Plant That Heals May Also Poison was recently awarded a commendation by the inaugural Sotheby’s Prize.
Ree Morton produced a prescient body of work rich in emotion and philosophically complex. Long celebrated by peers and younger generations, Morton’s influence on contemporary art remains considerable yet muted, her legacy widely underrecognized. Gathered in this exhibition are works produced during her short but prolific career that span and expand mediums and materials; reimagine tropes of love, friendship, and motherhood; and radically assert sentiment as a legitimate subject of artmaking.
Though the eclectic arc of Morton’s practice was rooted in Postminimalism, a poetic approach to language and symbolism progressively distanced her work from easy categorization in the early to mid-1970s. Her inclusion of personal narrative—through literary, philosophical, and autobiographical references—along with use of bold color and theatrical imagery, infused these objects with sly humor and a prescient concern with the decorative, generating a feminist legacy increasingly appreciated in retrospect. Morton’s conceptually rigorous work can seem esoteric at times, yet her intention is ultimately one of generosity towards the viewer, and it is this spirit of generosity, playfulness, and joy, which this exhibition hopes to expand.
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