By Amy Cavanaugh

Do you ever look at the furniture in your house and see a work of art? For Jessica Jackson Hutchins, everyday objects are an important part of her work. In her eponymous show at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Hutchins takes a couch and transforms it into something so much more.

“I had worked with Jessica before, when I included her work in two different exhibits at my previous institute, the ICA Philadelphia,” says Senior Curator Jenelle Porter, who joined the ICA Boston in January. “This is the first time I’ve been able to work with her for a solo presentation and it’s her first solo museum presentation. It gave me a chance to work with her in a really focused way. All the works are new and are focused around specific ideas that are moving through her work right now.”

Hutchins’ recent work Symposion will anchor the show.

“This piece is a big three-seat, peacock blue couch that she encircles in a huge, black papier-mâché form,” Porter says. “It’s almost like a cloud circling the top of a mountain. ‘Symposion’ is the Greek word for a drinking party where people gave speeches, ate food, had sex—it’s where the word ‘symposium’ comes from. The piece evokes people lounging on couches like you see on Greek pots.”

Supplementing the sculpture are works on paper, which Hutchins makes by taking paper pulp and attaching it to a sheet of paper in shapes like commas, exclamation points, and question marks.

jessicajacksonhutchins andubeing Jessica Jackson Hutchins At ICA Boston

Jessica Hutchins, And U Being, 2011, Cups, ink, paper pulp, and spray paint on paper, 34 1/2 x 30 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches, 87.6 x 77.5 x 6.4 cm (Courtesy the artist and Laurel Gitlen, New York; Photo by Dan Kvitka)

“These are very three-dimensional and framed in deep frames,” Porter says. “Her ideas have to do with making and crafting as well as speaking and language and how we use those tools to convey ideas.”

Porter says that Hutchins is “doing things with materials that other artists are not.”

“She has a wonderful touch with sculpture, papier-mâché and ceramics, which are traditionally more known as craft materials,” she says. “She’s bringing these crafty materials in line with sculptural concerns.”

But it’s not just craft materials that Hutchins is transforming.

“Jessica uses the stuff of regular life,” Porter says. “She drags the kitchen table that she feeds her family at into the studio and makes it a pedestal for her artwork. Papier-mâché is changing newspapers into art, and clay is something that is one material at one moment and put into a kiln and completely changed. Her work is the transformation of regular life into art.”

The show runs through March 4. For more information, visit

Institute of Contemporary Boston

100 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA
Hours: Tue. and Wed. 10 am – 5 pm; Thu. and Fri. 10 am – 9 pm; Sat. and Sun. 10 am – 5 pm; Closed Monday
$15 general admission; $13 seniors; $10 students
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