Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse

An image of a corridor with blue boxes and a patterned ceiling is projected on a standing screen backlit by yellow light.

Ericka Beckman, Switch Center, 2003. 16mm film transferred to HD video, color, sound, 12:00 min. Courtesy the artist. Installation view of Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse at MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2019. © Ericka Beckman. Photograph by Peter Harris Studios.

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Ericka Beckman
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Since the mid-1970s, Ericka Beckman (b. 1951, United States; lives and works in New York and Boston) has forged a signature visual language in film, video, installation, and photography.

Often shot against black, spatially ambiguous backdrops, her moving image works are structured according to the logic of child’s play, games, folklore, or fairy tales, and populated by archetypical characters and toy-like props in bright, primary colors. Throughout her work, Beckman engages profound questions of gender, role-playing, competition, power, and control. Emerging out of the fertile environment of CalArts in the 1970s, Beckman developed the cornerstones of her vocabulary in her early Super-8 films, which are distinguished by their energetic pacing, the performers’ repetitive, ritualistic actions, deceptively simple special effects, and chanted and percussive soundtracks.

 A tightly focused survey, Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse underscores the artist’s ongoing interest in mining connections between games and gambling, the larger structures of capital, and the often gendered conditions of labor. The exhibition features four major films, including her milestone You the Better (1983) and the recent Tension Building (2016), in installation settings with sculptural elements and theatrical lighting, providing the first opportunity to more fully survey Beckman’s contribution in a US museum.

Ericka Beckman’s work has been shown at festivals, museums, and galleries around the world, including solo exhibitions at KANAL–Centre Pompidou, Brussels (2019); Zabludowicz Collection, London (2018); Secession, Vienna (2017); Kunsthalle Bern, Bern (2013); Le Magasin, Grenoble (2014); the Tate Modern, London (2013); and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (1989). Group exhibitions and screening presentations include The Pictures Generation 1974-1984 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2009); four Biennials at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; MOCA, Los Angeles; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and many others. Beckman’s works are in the public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The High Museum, Atlanta; Anthology Film Archives, New York; the British Film Institute, London; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus; and the Centre Pompidou, Film Collection, Paris. She is a Professor in Film and Video at MassArt, Boston.

Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse is organized by Henriette Huldisch, Director of Exhibitions & Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with contributions by exhibition curator Henriette Huldisch and others, published by Hirmer Verlag.


Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Fotene Demoulas & Tom Coté, Audrey & James Foster, Idee German-Schoenheimer, Joyce Linde, Jane & Neil Pappalardo, Cynthia & John Reed, and Terry & Rick Stone. In-kind media sponsorship provided by 90.9 WBUR.  Additional funding for Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Council for the Arts at MIT; Philip S. Khoury, Associate Provost at MIT; the MIT School of Architecture + Planning; the Mass Cultural Council; and many generous individual donors. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.