Bus from Verona to Venice, then water taxi (this photo just one of many I took along the way) to Hotel Danieli, all original 17th C, rather ornate – gold leaf Corinthian capitals, Murano glass chandeliers, lots of marble, terrazzo floors, brocade seating, stained glass windows, gilded ceilings in squares or various rosettes, frescoes above brocade curtained walls.
We were divided into three groups, ten each, for the gondolas and boats. I lucked out and was with our guide and the tour organizers. (M named our Group 1 the Borgias).
Gondola ride to Punta della Dogana museum. On the way an 11 meter tall blow-up sculpture of a lavender pregnant woman with no arms, Breath by Marc Quinn. (A larger version of the work was paraded in the opening ceremony for London’s 2012 Paralympics.) It is outside the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, which Venice’s patriarchate Don Gianmatteo Caputo is not happy about.
Here is a fascinating story of Lapper’s youth:
Tadao Ando, one of my favorite architects, created the Punta della Dogana museum from a former customs house, on the triangular section of land where the Grand Canal meets the Giudecca Canal. (Left photo from the Web.) There was another customs house on the land side of Venice.
In the days when Venice was a major commercial center, the Dogana da Mar, the Customs House of Venice, built by Benoni about 1677, controlled access to the [canals and] docks.
The existing structure was restored to its base construction, with centuries of partitions, passageways, and other additions eliminated. The exterior perimeter walls are still in the original red brick, restored to look imperfect and raw.
The 20 glazed water gates, each topped by an arched window, were replaced.
The new galleries follow the arrangement of the original bays. The original wood ceiling beams are restored to perfection, adding occasional skylights to let in daylight. In addition, high semi-circular steel windows let in light and offer framed views of the Grand Canal and the Giudecca island.1
The current show is Prima Materia.
Artist Lizzie Fitch put together this unusual set with which Ryan Trecartin filmed a video, Local Dock, Public Crop, Porch Limit, soundscape by Ashland Mines.
Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch’s hyper-charged, anxiety-inducing, immersive installation Local Dock, Public Crop, Porch Limit… a video with rapidly succeeding images charts the antics of a group of young people, some dressed in drag, as they stumble from party to party or broadcast their most mundane thoughts to a global audience via the internet. Surrounding the video screen is the garden furniture which was used as a prop to film it.
Marlene Dumas does portraits from photos that show her state of mind. A mother symbol, Mamma Roma, in the scream, a painting of Michelangelo’s Pietà, Homage to Michelangelo, Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.
Lyn Foulkes does paintings and collages. In Deliverance (with Mickey Mouse) she uses real jeans, cotton, a real doll (peeking through the window), real wood. Invest in Art has a real dollar in the hand. Then there is Pig, dedicated to Americans.
Polish artist Roman Opalka had a lifelong project, to paint all of the numbers from one to infinity. He started with a dark grey background, but later works have lighter backgrounds. He died before he got to a white background. I just took a photo of part of a canvas. He also took a self-portrait with each four-by-six-foot canvas to show the passage of time.
Horn’s Well and Truly consists of ten solid-cast glass parts, each measuring a yard in diameter and half a yard in height. The ten glass elements are cylinders in shades of blue and pale blue greens. These works bear rough, textured sides that evidence the process of casting used to produce them, and smooth, fire-polished top surfaces that are, from different angles, reflective and seemingly endless in depth.
Algerian sculptor Adel Abdessemed’s Décor consists of four life-size figures of Christ, done in razor wire, inspired by the Isenheim Altarpiece, painted in 1512-1516 by German artist, Matthias Grünewald. (Click on the photo for a detailed view.) Why four? One would make it religious, two would represent the Father and Son, three the Trinity, hence four, as décor, or decoration.
From Shusaku Arakawa’s Bottomless series, Bottomless 3, a diagram of the thought process.
These works typically depicted a square form diminishing in perspective, much like a funnel with an interior mapped by endlessly subdividing grids. These open-ended structures were intended ‘as visualisations of thought passages, and as such representations of some behaviour or aspect of the thinking field’.
Loris Greaud’s Does The Angle Between Two Walls Have A Happy Ending? Four sets of fluorescent lights, on then off, and metal monkey fetuses on the wall and pieces fallen to the floor. Yeah – this was strange too.
The center of the building, a gallery dubbed the Cube, was left open for meetings, but it now holds an exhibition that has been up for two years; tomorrow is the last day.
Zeng uses two brushes held in one hand between different fingers to create his chaotic, wild strokes. Just as with a pair of chopsticks, one brush is held firmly with three fingers while the second one moves freely between two fingers. The first one creates deliberate thought out strokes, the second follows, freely creating whatever lines it wants. The first stroke is like our conscious, controlled thoughts, the second stroke like our wild, uncontrolled emotions allowing Zeng to create an abstract landscape of our inner psychological state.2
…the artist’s last piece, which focused on an intriguing ball of camel rope, placed like a fetish in a lush room covered in golden silk.
Suga is part of the Japanese Mono-ha movement, usually translated as School of Things, the name given to a loosely associated group of artists whose sculptures and installations incorporated basic materials such as rocks, sand, wood, cotton, glass and metal, often in simple arrangements with minimal artistic intervention. More experiential than visual, Mono-ha works tended to demand patience and reflection. Many were also ephemeral.3
The stunning black stones in the back, with their reflective water surfaces, are by Nobuo Sekine. One of them is also shown below, reflecting Mario Merz’s neon work.
One of the phrases that Mario Merz applied most in his neon works, Se la forma scompare, la sua radice è eternal (If the shape disappears, its root is eternal).
This blue neon aphorism mimics the artist’s own calligraphy. For Merz neon represented the light of human intelligence, the power of thought, and the inspirational force of ideas. The merging of the signifying medium (neon/thought) and of the spelt out words (title/idea/meaning) into an art object gives this work its peculiar economy, resonance, and, so to speak legibility.4
Then we left for Fondazione Emilio Vedova.
The Fondazione refurbished and restored the former studio of Vedova, with the aim of maintaining the artist’s spirit intact in the site. The project is by Atelier Traldi, with the supervision of Renzo Piano.
The exhibition consists of 45 works; it ranges from drawings, collages, sketches, wooden maquettes, bronze and a painted fiberglass sculpture.5
No photos were allowed, so here is just an example. (I had just seen a large exhibition of his work in January at the National Gallery in Washington, so I was acquainted with his sculptures, as well as his paintings.)
Waiting for our water taxi for the short (as a bird flies) distance across the Grand Canal to our hotel. A dog on the bow of one of the small motor boats going by, a second on the back of a boat – this one chained down. Birds – sea gulls, blackbirds (crows?) A nun in modern habit (mid-length skirt) and gym shoes walked by.
Regular water buses and water taxis are on strike today, but we’ve already paid ours, so it’ll show up. People changing their plans when a €30 ride becomes €100. (Striking boatmen will work if the remuneration is high enough.) A few women in our group who had booked a famous restaurant ($$$$) months ago cancelled due to the cost of getting there and back.
A dozen of us waited for the boat, the rest walked down to the Ponte Accademia. See map – they went from A to B, our hotel. In a city of canals, one has to find the bridges. It took them an hour and a half to get to our hotel! They were tired and soaked from the humidity. Glad I didn’t walk with my bad knees.
Tags: Adel Abdessemed, Alison Lapper, Breath, Fondazione Emilio Vedova, Hotel Danieli, James Lee Byars, Kishio Suga, Koji Enokura, Lizzie Fitch, Loris Greaud, Lyn Foulkes, Marc Quinn, Mario Merz, Marlene Dumas, Mono-ha movement, Nobuo Sekine, Punta della Dogana museum, Roman Opalka, Roni Horn, Roy Lichtenstein, Ryan Trecartin, Sherrie Levine, Shusaku Arakawa, Tadao Ando, Zeng Fanzhi