Corin Hewitt to debut ‘Shadows Are To Shade’ in June

Two-part exhibition located in his family home and studio and at the ICA at VCU

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Two trenches are dug in a grey floor.
Process image of trenches in artist’s home/studio. (Photo courtesy ICA at VCU)

The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University will present “Shadows Are To Shade,” a new project by Richmond artist Corin Hewitt, an associate professor in the VCU School of the Arts. Presented in two concurrent parts — a simulated archaeological dig in Hewitt’s home and studio and an immersive installation in the galleries of the ICA’s Markel Center — the exhibition will invite visitors to encounter real and fabricated findings from the artist’s excavation of his property in Richmond’s Fan District.

Combining the methods and language of archaeological inquiry with domestic life, Hewitt examines our relationship to material culture, family narratives, labor and Richmond’s history. “Shadows Are To Shade” will be on view from June 15 to Sept. 1.

“While grounded in one place and its specific histories of life and labor, ‘Shadows Are To Shade’ unfolds into what we might think of as alternate universes that Corin Hewitt reveals through excavation, layering and doubling across the two presentation sites,” said ICA Chief Curator Stephanie Smith. “It’s an ambitious work. As a new institution still exploring how best to connect with our communities, we are proud to produce this project with an internationally known artist, VCUarts colleague and neighbor.”

“Hewitt’s home/studio excavations will provide the public with the rare opportunity to experience the transformation of a private space into a living artwork, adding to the arts ecology of the city and contributing to a long history of American artists of the 1970s and ’80s that have converted private production spaces into sites for exhibitions,” said Amber Esseiva, assistant curator at the ICA.

Described by Hewitt as a “parafiction,” the project conflates his family’s daily life with his research on the last recorded landowner, a family who operated a city-block-sized farm on the site prior to the building’s construction in 1915. In his home, Hewitt has cut through the floor and into the soil, staging an installation in two parallel trenches that resemble archeological excavation sites, exposing sewer pipes and other objects of daily life embedded at various levels in the ground.Through juxtaposing real and fabricated artifacts, Hewitt compares two distinct familial histories across time. The installation on the ground floor of his home and studio will be open to visitors for limited hours during the run of the exhibition. 

Simultaneously, Hewitt will transform the distinctive V-shaped galleries on the second floor of the ICA into a pair of mirror-image installations. The immersive installations feature waist-high platforms and a series of walls made of earth-stained, translucent fabric stretched over wooden frames through which visitors will be encouraged to move. Connecting the exhibition’s two locations, a two-channel video displayed on desktop monitors will capture the slow transit of light and shadow across the trenches in his home.

 “Growing up in Vermont in a family where eight generations lived within 60 miles of each other, I think a lot about the complexities of place. After being in Richmond for nearly nine years, I decided to dig two holes in my floor. These trenches launch the beginning of using my home in Richmond and the ground beneath it as a focus for my work,” Hewitt said of his motivations for the work.

“Shadows Are To Shade” is the first phase of an ongoing project through which Hewitt will explore the lives of the 26 previous tenants of his home since 1915. Each project will result in an accompanying work that remains within the walls or under the floors of the home. As part of this slow transformation of his home into a permanent art installation, following the exhibition this summer Hewitt will entomb the trench installations and bury instructions for how to activate the artwork again for future audiences. Hewitt joins a long history of artists transforming their homes or studios into immersive and evolving works of art.