In 1993, author Lois Lowry disturbed a generation of children with the monochrome, dystopian setting of her science fiction novel, The Giver. For the main character Jonas, his ability to see the color “red” in a black-and-white world propels him into a simultaneously shattering and uplifting personal transformation.

Through February 19, if you walk into the Institute of Contemporary Art and make a sharp right, you just might find yourself in the midst of such sudden soul-slapping awareness. Being confronted with the paintings of Charline Von Heyl is rather like seeing color for the first time in a previously colorless existence.

Once your discovery of the color spectrum is complete, shapes will begin to take hold. It’s more than just a result of being the victim of pareidolia (the psychological phenomenon that causes you to see faces in clouds and the occasional Martian mountain). It’s an active investigation into perception almost as fun as childhood memories of searching for hidden pictures in a Highlights magazine.

If you venture upstairs, you’ll be confronted with the much darker world of Blowing on a Hairy Shoulder/Grief Hunters, on view through December 4, which presents work by twenty artists from Israel, Greece, Germany, Belgium, Britain, and America. Dealing with the themes of originality and origin, these works offer yet another investigative challenge. Navigating through the maze of video clips, sculptures, photography, and drawings will lead you on a journey simultaneously unsettling and humorous.

Be sure to take a few minutes to watch The 588 Project, a video by Gilad Ratman. While mud monsters may be the typical fare of campy horror films, the repetitive sounds and images of mud pool-submerged people and their musical instruments that double as breathing apparatus will leave you mesmerized. As it cycles slowly through clear tubes in the treetops, only to eventually emerge through a series of wooden pipes, mud takes on the transformative beauty of flowing water and musical notation.

Just two of the exhibitions currently on view at ICA, the works of Von Heyl and Grief Hunters will leave you happily balanced in a world between color and mud, formlessness and renewal.

Marc Salz

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