T he Venice Biennale exhibits the best art from around the world and honors artists who interpret the dynamic world we live in. From 2 August through 26 September, Sotheby’s Aspen is presenting “Venice in Aspen,” featuring artists currently showing in Venice. This exhibition seeks to bring the international and diverse spirit of the Biennale and satellite exhibitions to the cultural mavens of Aspen. Exhibited are artists such as Louise Lawler, Ruth Asawa, Barbara Kruger (who are in the exhibition “The Milk of Dreams,” curated by Cecilia Alemani), Francis Alÿs (who represents the Belgian Pavilion) and Marlene Dumas (on view at Palazzo Grassi in an exhibition entitled “open-end”).
Marlene Dumas, The Hatred of Others
Marlene Dumas is known for challenging the historical canon of portraiture. Beginning in 1994, her “Rejects” series is a selection of anonymous portraits as well as figures inspirational to Dumas. Often painted in lose gestural strokes, the works are about the tensions between medium and imagery. Set against a neutral background, the figure in The Hatred of Others fills the paper like a ghostly hallucination. Dumas’s delicate blooms of ink breathe life into the visage. Tiny capillaries seep from the mouth and eyes into the watery shadow of the figure’s head, drawing the viewer’s attention to these subtly expressive features. Dumas’s fluid use of media reflects the ambiguous sexuality of subjects — her gestural characters are charged with latent desire.
Included in “open-end,” curated by the artist and Caroline Bourgeois at the Palazzo Grassi, Dumas’s work is a highlight of the exhibitions surrounding the Venice Biennale.
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Time Is Money)
Since the 1970s, Barbara Kruger has redefined the visual language of conceptual art through her use of stylized text and photographic images that speak to the influence of mass media. Often featuring slogans in oblique, sans-serif typefaces, Kruger’s work appropriates the language and sensationalism of mass media, framed a direct address to her audience. Untitled (Time Is Money) suggests that under modern capitalism, even time is for sale. The work implicates the viewer, as they’re confronted with their own assumptions about the social construct of value.
Kruger’s immersive installation in “The Milk of Dreams” includes a three-channel video featuring imploring phrases, such as “PLEASE CARE” and “PLEASE MOURN.”
Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.479, Hanging Tied Wire, Closed Center Double Sided Multibranched Form Based on Nature)
Ruth Asawa’s personal history is woven into her signature artistic practice. The artist began making sculpture as a child, while imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp, and blossomed at Black Mountain College, where she studied under Josef Albers. Untitled comes from Asawa’s “Tied-Wire” series, in which she sought to draw Death Valley with wires suspended in space. In this exemplary work, the delicate, branching form floats in space like a dandelion in the wind, its seemingly weightless appendages casting a web of shadows.
Eight of Asawa’s wire work are on view in the Arsenale in Venice.
Georg Baselitz, Nach unten
A seminal Neo-Expressionist, Georg Baselitz’s work, at once abstract and figurative, subverts formal representation. His experimentations with rendering figures through form, color and disrupted perception challenge the way we perceive the body. Nach unten confronts the limits of mark-making. Paint is smudged, dripped and applied to the canvas with vigor and movement; a skeletal form can be discerned among the shadows. Baselitz’s work is informed by his experience growing up in Germany after the Second World War, and his characteristic disruption of traditional artistic portraiture is inspired by its horrors and the havoc it wrought upon collective cultural history.
In tandem with the Venice Biennale, a group of new sculptures and paintings by Baselitz are currently on view in “Georg Baselitz: Archinto” at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani.
Danh Vo, Sweet Oblivion
Danh Vo’s practice exists at the crossroads of art and objecthood: he uses found materials and other ready-mades as signifiers of identity, personal history and migration. Vo’s emigration from war-torn Vietnam to Denmark is visible in his use of materials and his commentary on capitalism, religion, war and colonialism. In Sweet Oblivion, gold leaf on cardboard elevates a recycled object to gilded devotional relic. (In fact, the gilding was done by artisans in Thailand who work on temples and devotional objects.) Through this craftsmanship, the cardboard box, an artifact of the global economy and a representation of physical labor, is transformed into a work of art of completely different value.
Coinciding with the Biennale, Vo curated an exhibition of his work alongside Isamu Noguchi’s and Park Seo-Bo’s at the 16th-century palace Fondazione Querini Stampalia.