Thursday, June 11, 2009

World Wide Web

Day Two, continued:

Padiglioni de Italia, Giardini:

Although as I mentioned before, I found the "It's a Small World, After All" platitudes of the main thematic show underwhelming, I did like a number of the works. The broad groupings I noted were:

Gego meets Buckminster Fuller grids & rhizomes, small tchotchke assemblages (yarn, toys, ceramics, trash, etc.), and Concrete & Neo Concrete meets monochromes.

Here are some of my top works:
Tomas Saraceno - Gego's Reticularea meets Buckminster Fuller, you could walk through this enveloping web, it was lovely, disorienting, a failure of the web, a spatial representation of its disorienting and productive unforseen paths of possibilities.

Susan Hefuna - Gego meets Mona Hatoum: Grids of drawings of meandering, chaotic grids and webs. Some included labor-intensive passages where the drawn lines were enhanced by sewn-on yarn or string.

I have to acknowledge that the curator showed quite a few artists that I was unfamiliar with, from countries all over the world. But over all, I was not engaged either by the curatorial theme or by much of the work.

Roberto Cuoghi's installation in a garden featuring bamboo and other Asian plants and panels with speakers airing what sounded like Chinese Opera but was a 1930s Shanghai pop song sung in the manner of the classical form made all of my biennialista team long to linger, but the long march for art had to go on.

The Giardini Pavilions:

In the Russian Pavilion there was a fabulous installation by Alexei Hallima consisting of a room that was all white until you were surrounded by a projection of an image of a crowd - a soccer match? a political demonstration? and the deafening roar of the mob. The image was projected in black light, and I found the space sinister and hypnotic, I stayed for a few rounds.

Quite a few of the pavilions were closed, including the USA, France, UK, and Germany, thus freeing me from having to see Bruce Nauman. I realize that I could be fired for admitting this, but frankly I was more interested in the Mexican Pavilion. (more on that later)

Copito de Nieve, Barcelona's iconic primate

Feeling obligated by my Spanish citizenship to stop by our pavilion, I was appalled by the kitsch inside. When did Miquel Barcelo become the court painter of Spain? I was buffeted by a feeling of deja vous (not in a good way), remembering my student days in the 1980s, when a huge viscous rendering of a paella lorded over the entryway of Madrid's defunct Museum of Spanish Contemporary Art. Were we back in the time of the Movida? Why is Miguel Zugaza commissioning Barcelo to make works at the Prado, as if he were a latter-day Picasso. Are there no contemporary Spanish artists? Paintings of a white monkey from Barcelona's zoo, thickly impastoed mural sized canvases evoking the caves of Altamira and Cy Twombly's bloated gestural macho Eurocentric imperial nostalgia completed the ensemble.

Hitting a literal brick wall, we headed to the Arsenale.


Lygia Pape appeared twice, once in the Giardini, her Book of Creation was paired with a series of small monochrome paintings by Blinky Palermo, a pairing evoking one suggested by Lynn Zelevansky in her "Beyond Geometry" show at LACMA several years ago. And a breathtaking room installation made of wire also by Pape, that was practically impossible to photograph because the room was pitch dark and the wires glistened.

Gonkar Gyatso's works were invented charts and graphs having to do with tracking the relationship between Tibet and China (the artist is from Tibet), with beautifully intricate drawings.

Also in the Arsenale was the Latin American Pavilion - Instituto Italo Latinoamericano. My favorite work there was by Alberto Bayara, "Expedicion Venecia," an amusing send up of European ethnographic displays, as if Venice's crafts were exhibited in a anthropology museum.

Just like in 2007, when they first had their own pavilion, the PRC was at the Arsenale. I loved the branching floor installation on the grounds outside, made up of dominos, by Qui Zhijie.

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