The Art Section has just turned TEN years old and we have covered five Biennales di Arte in Venice Italy. The title of the current, 57th edition of the Biennale is Viva Arte Viva. I am sorry to report that Christine Macel, the curator for the Biennale has set herself up for failure with this lofty title, and fail this exhibition does. I viewed each of the nine “chapters” of this Biennale that the curator calls “trans-pavilions.” These are titled The Pavilion of Artists and Books, The Pavilion of Joys and Fears, The Pavilion of the Common, The Pavilion of the Earth, The Pavilion of Traditions, Pavilion of Shamans, The Dionysian Pavilion, The Pavilion of Colours, and The Pavilion of Time and Infinity. These big themes do not really add any value to the art that is shown. They do not elevate the art or define an interesting context for it. Macel has said, “Viva Arte Viva is an exclamation, a passionate outcry for art and the state of the artist. Viva Arte Viva is a Biennale designed with artists, by artists and for artists.” This is a great misstep on her part, considering the art she selected and the ways she chose to show it.
Fortunately, there are artworks and national pavilions in the Biennale that go beyond the lackluster Viva Arte Viva. Floriana Piqué has written about the Swiss Pavilion, titled Women of Venice, and the works of Carol Bove and the artist team of Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler. This is a remarkable exhibition; Piqué’s commentary leads us from the Swiss Pavilion in Venice to the Alberto Giacometti exhibition currently on view at Tate Modern in London (May 10 to September 10, 2017). At the Tate, one can see the head of Flora by Giacometti, which the Hubbard/Birchler installation makes resonant.
Following my personal tradition as an art writer, I have written about Mark Bradford’s exhibition in the US Pavilion. I began writing about art for Art Papers Magazine (I wrote for the publication from 1997 to 2007) with the second Biennale I attended. For Art Papers, I reviewed the Robert Colescott exhibition when he represented the United States. Bradford is only the third African American artist to be housed in the US Pavilion, and I found his blend of great painting with both social issues and context for his work to have the kind of reverberation and passion that deserves a response.
I have also written for this issue about Philip Guston and the Poets at the Accademia in Venice. This exhibition is on view through September 3, 2017 at Le Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia. This extraordinary exhibition sheds fresh light on Guston’s paintings by juxtaposing his work with both the poetry he loved and the Italian Renaissance art that was so significant to him. In a fourth article, I have written about many of the women artists whose work is in both national pavilions, auxiliary shows, collateral events and Viva Arte Viva, Macel’s curated exhibition.
Have a wonderful summer.
All my best,
Deanna Sirlin is an artist. Her recent book is She's Got What It Takes: American Women Artists In Dialogue was Published by Charta Art Books 2013.
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Installation view of Carol Bove's sculptures included
in Women of Venice at the Swiss Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale, 2017.
Courtesy of the artist, David Zwirner New York/London,
Maccarone New York/Los Angeles.