Thursday, September 27, 2007

the Venice Biennale

If you really want in-depth info and images of the Biennale, blow by blow, nothing provides it as the blog of Contessanally. I discovered the blog via Anaba and it was as good a resource for preparing to see that show as anything I had read in the regular art rags.

I read in Art in America that the exhibition was “heavy in painting and in Americans,” but to this American west coast painter, it did not feel like that at all. Too bad I don’t have many Venice Biennales to compare it to, but I saw so much variety that it was not just a breath of fresh air – it was like a hurricane.

And I didn’t really expect that. Don’t know what I expected but I recall – I think it was Jeff Jahn – who said that biennials are designed to raise a certain amount of ire and disagreement. I felt the same; can’t say I ever saw one I didn’t say “but” to. That all changed in Venice.

- I’m willing to believe that location helps! But it’s not just that town; it is also the way they have built those pavilions over time, special places for very particular art goings-on. I loved the approaches, the venues, the graphics, the drying, fading gardens, the room upon room of immense visual bombardment. The seamless marriage of old and the very new is what this place did better than any place I have ever been.

It was that general bombardment-feeling which overwhelmed me most, and when Patrick Rock, of Rocksbox, asked me about various artists and pavilions, I was embarrassed at how general my impressions were, and how inarticulate I was. Of course it might have been jetlag… I stumbled into his incredible space on Interstate hours after coming home, completely sleep deprived... and he asked me: “Who represented the United States?”


As to painting (and so many other things), what I found interesting was the way spaces were used. A lot of works stretched into installation, like the works by Odili Donald Odita above. It was cool to see what this artist did, because previously I have only been able to view work in a magazine or online, but I have been interested in this artist for years now. Yes. Yes.

The circular works by Guillermo Kuitca of Argentina were absolutely wonderful. Every piece was singular and had different approaches. This was also some really great painting presented in an expansive way. (My photo is not the best; check out the post by Contessanally.) These works by Riyas Komu of India below stretched out in one long line and again, did not feel like merely a room full of paintings.

There were of course entire rooms of painting, hung in a style we’re more accustomed to - like Elizabeth Murray, Richter, Kelly and Ryman. It was all good to see, but none of it was very surprising, save maybe Richter, who never fails to amaze me. From a distance, the work looked all brown and maybe uneventful, but up close, watch out. A lot has been written about the work of Sophie Calle there and it’s all true – you felt like you walked into a very private moment and in a church or a home, not a gallery. I also liked the British Pavilion with Tracey Emin...

The room of Jason Rhoades (above) was one of the best, hands down. We were not supposed to take any pics, but my mate sneaked one in before the numerous guards took notice.

There were works out of doors near the pavilions and all over town. This installation above by Morrinho Project of Brazil looked great from a distance. It did not hold up as well once you got close, but then neither do most shanty towns.

The work of El Anatsui of Ghana is almost beyond description. It’s all made of found materials but glitters like a Gustave Klimt. (The Fortuny Museum also had a huge work draped across their entrance. More on that mind blowing exhibition Artempo at that museum later. Jen Graves called it “the Best Art Show Ever” – I think she’s right.)

Many rooms benefited from the practice of montage: I saw whole walls collaged, as in Paulo Kapela in the African Pavilion above. Below is an overview of Emily Prince’s montage of drawings called American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (But Not Including the Wounded, Nor the Iraqis not the Afghanis).

There were even more traditional, small photomontages (below) of a political slant with Adolph Hitler, Stalin, et al, which were oddly comforting, even soothing to see. I believe that they are by Zoran Naskovski of Belgrade.

There was a ton of video. I am not one to spend a lot of time in front of a screen when time itself is so short, but there was one piece in particular which really struck me – called Democracy. The Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli created a character named Patricia Hill who was running for president. She was played by Sharon Stone.

Could one have a better birthday than spending all day at the Venice Biennale, and then power-drink through Harry’s Bar?


Carolyn said...

This all must have been so inspiring. Thanks for posting about your trip, I am armchair traveling.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Carolyn. When I was planning the trip, I kept thinking: "This is the only time I'll go, so I don't care what it costs. etc etc.."

But I can't imagine not returning, especially during the Biennale.


Gabriela Palavicini said...

I also went to last years Biennale and literaly fell in love with the location not to mention the art. Considering that I live in Lugano, Switzerland it was a short trip to Venice that i will never forget. I would love it if you posted more pictures if you happen to have any. Are you considering going to the architecture bienalle this year?

Anonymous said...

Hi Gabriela,

Venice this year is not possible but maybe next year. I LOVED it there and stayed also for a week not that far from where you are - in Varenna on Lake Como.

I took a lot of pictures but not that many great ones. All of it was 35mm. Next year I'll bring a digital camera (if indeed I can go...) and then it will be easier to post pictures.

Thanks for visiting!