This year’s Venice Biennale has been curated by Tate Etc. magazine’s editorial director Bice Curiger. Laid out in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini, as well as the Arsenale, it features 83 artists from across the world. The title of the 54th exhibition, ILLUMInations, has the 16th century artist Tintoretto as its starting point, and the artist’s work forms an impressive initial focus in the Central Pavilion before you see the work by contemporary artists. Why Tintoretto? And why in the Biennale? As Bice explains: “In the work of many contemporary artists (the ones who interest me the most), I find the same search for light, both rational and febrile, that animates some of Tintoretto’s later works. Tintoretto too was worried about overturning the conventions of his time, through a near reckless approach to composition that overturns the well-defined, classical order of the Renaissance. I am interested in the light in those paintings, which is not rational but ecstatic.”
Here we present a photo-diary of selected highlights from Bice’s Biennale.
At the entrance to the Central Pavilion, one of the first works you encounter is Philippe Parreno’s dazzling light piece Marquee which hangs above the door that leads into the room of three Tintoretto paintings.
On a small side room near Parreno’s work is Gianni Colombo’s installation Spazio Elastico (1967-1968), recreated for the Biennale and made up of a beautifully illuminated three dimensional cubic grid of elastic bands, through which you could (with a bit of difficulty) walk around. The picture above is taken from waist height looking up into the room. Colombo was fascinated by kinetics, and many of his works explored the visual expression of movement and light. Spazio Elastico won Colombo a prize at the 1968 Venice Biennale.
Urs Fischer’s wax sculptures at the Arsenale includes this life-sized male figure, an office chair, and a replica of Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women. They are, in fact, three giant candles that will remain lit for the duration of the Biennale, or at least as long as they take to melt away.
Nathaniel Mellors’ Hippy Dialectics (Ourhouse), 2010, with moving parts and voices…
One of the great new features of this Biennale is the introduction of special ‘para-pavilions’ in which four artists (Monika Sosnowska, Franz West, Song Dong, and Oscar Tuazon) have created strucutres in which to present works by other artists. Here is a picture of Polish artist Monika Sosnowska’s para-pavilion Antechamber (2011) in the central pavilion of the Giardini, which includes David Goldblatt’s photographic series Ex-Offenders at the Scene of Crime (2010) produced in his native South Africa.
Loris Gréaud’s sculpture of a big whale Geppetto Pavilion is installed in sand at the Arsenale. Taking his inspiration from Moby Dick and the story of Jonah, Gréaud ‘s 55 foot fibreglass sperm whale wants the the viewer to imagine being swallowed whole, and confined to a life in the belly of the whale…
Here is an installation view of Yto Barrada’s photographic series The Telephone Books (or the Recipe Books) (2011) showing the notebooks used by Barrada’s illiterate grandmother who created her own system of communication with her familty through images and symbols.
Chinese artist Song Dong rebuilt his family home at the Arsenale, and the para-pavilion was used as a space to bring together the work of Frances Stark, Cyprien Gaillard and Yto Barrada.
Is it a snake? Or a dragon? South African born Nicholas Hlobo’s Iimpundulu Zonke Ziyandilandela (2011) is made from rubber and ribbon.
The underrated Californian-based artist Llyn Foulkes born in 1934, shows one of his painting in the Giardini.
Winner of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 54th Venice Biennale (along with Sturtevant), Franz West created a Extroversion, a recreation of his kitchen in Vienna, but turned inside out - with the ‘exterior’ showing a mix of artworks by his friends.