The Institute Of Contemporary Art Debuts A Duo Of Major Shows Exploring Black Art

A visual art and music exhibition paired with pop-up improvisational performances...

Ever since Andy Warhol and his entourage caused a near-riot here in 1965, the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) has been shaking up the city with shows hitting on progressive and poignant trends in contemporary art.

This fall, a dynamic interactive exhibit examines the impact of the 1960s Chicago black arts scene on today’s culture and an accompanying improv performance series uses music and dance for social engagement.


  • The Freedom Principle and Endless Shout are on view at ICA through March 19.
  • The exhibit explores the lasting cultural impacts of two Chicago arts troupes formed in the 1960s.
  • Admission to the ICA is always free.

The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now and Endless Shout, two compelling shows focused on African-American culture, music and aesthetics, are now on view at ICA

What to Expect

A rich exhibition filled with musical artifacts from civil rights-era Chicago, vintage posters and a multimedia listening station, The Freedom Principle was named for a 1984 book by renowned jazz critic John Litweiler and conceived in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). The exhibition comes to Philadelphia after premiering at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago last year.

A large-scale group exhibition, work from the ’60s and ’70s — Roscoe Mitchell’s Panoply, Nelson Stevens’ 1971 Uhuru and retro photographs — share the space with modern pieces by artists like Lisa Alvarado.

Museum-goers should expect to do more than just observe The Freedom Principle, though. The interactive exhibition features banners and flyers from the 1960s, clothing created by Jae Jarrell, a listening station and more.

During the run of the exhibition, socially engaging improvisation performances will take to the floor for the accompanying display, Endless Shout.

(Photo courtesy ICA)
Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Freedom Principle explores the black avant-garde creative culture of 1960s Chicago and its impact on modern-day culture.

History of Freedom Principle

During the Civil Rights-era of the 1960s, an avant-garde jazz and art scene sprung up in Chicago spearheaded by AACM and the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA). Both collectives included artists like co-founders Muhal Richard Abrams and Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu and Gerald Williams.

The artists and their collectives melded black avant-garde with social justice issues of the time surrounding the era to create experimental sounds and images that still impact arts culture today.

(Photo courtesy ICA)
Look for works like Wadsworth Jarrell’s Revolutionary, which depicts an Afro-coifed Angela Davis and an excerpt from a speech that begins, “I have given my life to the struggle….”

Endless Shout

To accompany the exhibition, ICA also hosts a boundary-pushing interactive improvisational performance series: Endless Shout.

Five individual performers and one artist-duo will either organize or participate in various improvised actions with an end goal: to ask and assess how an audience engages such a performance on social, political, individual and collective levels.

The non-traditional performing arts project turns all of the ICA museum floor into a stage as the artists gauge how participants interact with the performances on a social, political, individual and collective level.

Endless Shout takes its name from participant and AACM member George Lewis’ jazz composition of the same name. Lewis’ composition borrowed the title as an adaptation of Roaring ’20s era jazz pianist James P. Johnson’s “Carolina Shout.” The piece is thought to be the first-ever recorded jazz piano solo.

Check out the video below for a look at what’s in store for audiences. For a schedule of events, check here.

A multi-artist performance project, Raul de Nieves, Danielle Goldman, AACM member George Lewis, Fred Moten, The Otolith Group and taisha paggett were chosen to execute Endless Shout.

Dance, lecture, poetry, music, self-presentation and teaching, with references to topics like race and community, are all explored via Endless Shout.

Each of the artists has a history of working with blackness, and the production demonstrates the ties between performance and African-American aesthetics.

For a six-month stretch, The Freedom Principle and Endless Shout give ICA attendees the chance to be a part of the art they admire.

The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now

When:September 14-March 19
Where:Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 South 36th Street



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