Trash, neon and AR coyotes at the new ICA in San Diego



San Diego’s new Institute of Contemporary Art opens in Balboa Park this weekend featuring artist Gabriel Rico’s found objects, ethereal neon and taxidermy, with a complementary installation at Nat.

Credit: Courtesy of Gabriel Rico / ICA San Diego

Above: “The fish begins to stink through the head (La calibración del arma para matar a Dios), 2021” by Gabriel Rico is part of “Unity in Variety”, to be seen until January 23, 2021 at the ICA San Diego at Balboa Park.

In March, the Lux Art Institute and the San Diego Art Institute announced that they would team up to form the Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego (ICA San Diego). This weekend, the doors will open at ICA Central, the Balboa Park space.

What is an ICA?

ICA San Diego is the amalgamation of Lux Art Institute – which aimed to bring together the public and artists in the artistic process through residencies and education – and San Diego Art Institute, a contemporary art exhibition space generously sized in the heart of Balboa Park. As an institute of contemporary art, it aims to invite the whole region to explore contemporary art in a meaningful, local and accessible way.

ICA San Diego is free to the public, placing the institution on the short but growing list of museums in Balboa Park that eschew traditional admission fee models.

RELATED: Low-Cost, No-Fee Museum Entrance Aims To Improve Access

What is there to see?

The first exhibition at ICA Central is “Unity in Variety” by Mexican conceptual artist Gabriel Rico. Rico filled the gallery with neon lights, found objects, found videos, anthropomorphic sculptures, sand and taxidermy on loan from The Nat.

There are also a lot of things that appear to be garbage.

Using regional found objects (and trash) is how Rico creates meaningful work for an era, place, and its community.

“You can define a period of time with just one object. For example, a bottle of Coca-Cola. If you see a bottle of Coca-Cola, you can define a precise spatiotemporal situation, simply because before a certain point in time it is known that humans cannot have the ability to manipulate or create glass. Another example is a CD or USB port, ”Rico said earlier this year.

Neon works – groupings of figures, shapes, and symbols – hang from the expansive ceiling as you enter, but neon plays a role in Rico’s other works as well.

“Neon is that kind of a plane between the tangible and the ethereal. It’s a gas. So you’re talking about something that’s not really tangible, but we make it visually tangible. So for him, it’s this perfect support, ”said ICA San Diego. executive director Andrew Utt.


Gabriel Rico’s exhibition, “Unity in Variety” will be presented at ICA San Diego – Central (1439 El Prado, Balboa Park) until January 23, 2022.

A note opening reception for “Unity in Variety” takes place on Friday evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The hours without entrance to the gallery are from Friday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Rico built several stick-like sculptures using corrugated steel, found objects, ceramic art pieces and, in most cases, a screen positioned like a head. The six sculptures are part of the series “The fish begins to stink through the head”, and each invites to take a closer look, either with a video found, or with rotating holograms.

There is also an augmented reality coyote in the exhibit. With the museum app, you can follow a coyote through the gallery. Using AR is a big nod to interaction and accessibility. The coyote may be the primary means by which visitors interact with art and space, or it may be another layer.

How is Nat involved?

The San Diego Museum of Natural History let Rico browse its exhibit library and borrow taxidermy and other specimens like rocks or petrified wood to place in the ICA gallery. Creatures and birds are located on the sand-covered gallery floor, integrated into his exhibition, putting the human experience of nature at the forefront of his work.

Rico was also invited to install an accompanying work to Nat, in their exhibition “Unshelved”. Among the taxidermy specimens, Rico hung neon symbols and positioned the specimens to look at the light. A mounted skull is adorned with carefully positioned inflatable beach balls.

The neon symbols in The Nat installation are meaningful and a continuation of the hanging neon series at the ICA, Utt said.

“These are all connection symbols, symbols that refer to something else or connect ideas and thoughts. The ampersand literally stands for” and “and connects two ideas, the asterisk is a reference for more information The pound symbol, the hashtag, is to refer to more connectivity, ”Utt said. There is also an “@” symbol and a dollar sign – indicating transaction and consumption of objects.

What about the Lux Art Institute space?

ICA North is the former Lux Art Institute of Encinitas, and Artist residency of Christine Howard Sandoval continues until October 31, 2021.

Also on view at ICA North East “Salton Sea Vector Position“, a project in partnership with the Indian desert tribal community of Torres Martinez Cahuilla and Earth artist Hans Baumann. It measures the rate of disappearance from the Salton Sea, and the exhibition uses ceramics, videos and drawings resulting from the work of dozens of young people from the tribal community.This is visible until November 14, 2021.


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Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

Julia dixon evans

Publisher and producer of the arts calendar

opening quotesclosing quotesI write the weekly KPBS Arts newsletter and edit and produce the KPBS Arts calendar. I am interested in involving the people of San Diego in the diversity of art and culture created by the creators who live here.

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