David Antonio Cruz solo exhibition at the ICA in Philadelphia

David Antonio Cruz - Puerto Rican Pieta en la calle de la Fortaleza, 2006. Photograph: ICA/David Antonio Cruz/Monique Meloche Gallery

When the Children Come Home is an artistic milestone and homecoming for painter and performance artist David Antonio Cruz (born 1974, Philadelphia, PA; lives New York, NY). Born and raised in North Philadelphia by parents who migrated from Humacao, Puerto Rico, Cruz embraces a sense of home that defies conventional definitions. For him, home can be conjured through the bonds of community and chosen family, sustained by a sense of possibility and belonging that comes from being among those you love.

Cruz’s rich multidisciplinary practice encompasses paintings, drawings, sculpture, and performance. Centering Black, brown, and queer communities, he combines personal history with art historical, literary, fashion, and pop culture references to reinterpret classical modes of figuration. Posing, in particular, is an act of resistance, play, and belonging in many of his dreamlike and stylized paintings. For example, in Puerto Rican Pieta, Cruz transposes himself and his mother into the iconic Catholic image.

nothatsummernight,theywashaway,theywashitallaway,away,theyalwaysgoaway (2021)
Photograph: ICA/David Antonio Cruz/Monique Meloche Gallery

Alongside the monumental portraits for which Cruz is best known, When the Children Come Home features recent work that references deeply and personally meaningful sites in Philadelphia. Drawings that camouflage the figure in intricate, ancestrally significant backgrounds represent the artist’s expanded exploration of home and its intersections with geography, diaspora, LGBTQ+ culture, and autobiography. The exhibition also includes an immersive site-specific installation as well as a performance incorporating original scores, costumes, and live music. 

When the Children Come Home is the result of Cruz’s ongoing collaboration with curator Monique Long, who also grew up in North Philadelphia. Together, Cruz and Long have created an exhibition that represents the artist’s deep commitment to community, home, and joy.

David Antonio Cruz - today,tomorrow,andyesterday; maybewe’llfindawayholdingthesun, 2019 Photograph: ICA/David Antonio Cruz/Monique Meloche Gallery

David Antonio Cruz: When the Children Come Home is curated by guest curator Monique Long and organized by Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.

When the Children Come Home is on view at the ICA in Philadelphia until December 17, 2023. Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 S. 36th Street Philadelphia, PA 19104