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Kara Walker, ...calling to me from the angry surface of some grey and threatening sea. I was transported., 2007

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Art in Venice
July 11-24, 2007

Directed by super-curator Robert Storr, the massive group exhibition at this year's Venice Biennale tackles war and death with both gravity and gall. We discuss the show, interview one of its standout talents, Italian artist Luca Buvoli, and cover the Biennale's best national pavilions. Our One to Watch, David Altmejd, fills the Canadian Pavilion with a mash-up of animal and human body parts and shimmering structures, and we consider a posthumous monograph about the elegiac, transitory work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who holds down the American Pavilion. Beyond the Venetian canals, we cover exciting new shows from Armen Eloyan in London, François-Marie Banier in LA, and Zhang O in Beijing.

Johnson's Glass House Goes Public
(TIME, June 28)
A new mecca for modernist architecture, Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, recently opened its transparent doors to the public. Completed in 1949, the Glass House rests on a 47-acre plot dotted with other Johnson buildings. Now under the supervision of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, visitors can tour the estate (though tours are fully booked through the end of the year). While other modernist buildings have recently been threatened, National Trust president Richard Moe said, "What we're trying to do is encourage appreciation for the best of modernism, which is now coming of age historically."

Street Art Spurs Pranks, Controversy
(New York Times, June 28)
NYC pranksters have declared war on street artists profiting from the welcoming art market. A stink bomb was set off at the opening of a show by the art collective Faile in Nolita, and Shepard Fairey's opening in Dumbo was marred by the arrest of James Cooper, who was apparently trying to light a similarly pungent device. Local graf art and posters have been defaced and splattered with paint, with several bearing scrawled messages recalling the French situationists of the '50s and '60s. One such missive decried the "bourgeois-sponsored rebellion" of street art, lambasting its role in the gentrification of New York neighborhoods. Times critic Michael Kimmelman has taken the contretemps as a sign that "art can still matter."

Govan's Plans for LA
(LA Weekly, June 20)
Shortly after he helped open Dia:Beacon, Michael Govan was brought out west to become the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In a recent interview, Govan laid out his thoughts on the expanding LA art scene, insisting that LACMA was not going to become "a contemporary art museum," that it was going to try to install Jeff Koons' enormous train sculpture from its ceiling, and that area institutions need to work harder to make sure that donated LA art collections stay local.

Monumenta Signals Parisian Revival
(International Herald Tribune, June 12)
With Anselm Kiefer's installation of painting and sculpture at the Paris Monumenta garnering international acclaim, Paris is once again enjoying the attention of the art world. A clutch of new galleries — nine have opened on Rue Saint-Claude in the last year — and fairs such as the Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain (FIAC) have reinvigorated the slumbering indigenous art scene. Gallerist Olivier Robert stressed that a Parisian presence at international fairs is essential to maintaining a Gallic art profile, saying, "Ten years ago, collectors would come to Paris and make the round of galleries… Today, we need to push our way onto the global market. To reach an international buying public, we must go where the collectors are."

Artist claims Hirst copied his skull idea more »

Fire destroys Richard Prince's Second House more »

A former madam's mansion becomes a San Francisco gallery more »

Photography curator John Szarkowski, 81, dies more »

Asymptote building avant-garde condos in NYC's West Village more »

Two new Chicago shows spotlight Mexican art more »

MASS MoCA makes a mess of Büchel's installation more »

Contemporary sales catching up to Impressionists more »

Attempting to create a national museum for Palestine more »

Are starchitects crowding city skylines? more »

Brooklyn artists' installation mixes hip-hop, Nirvana, smoke machines more »

Arte povera sculptor Luciano Fabro, 71, dies more »

Princeton shows off Pop Art more »

More galleries, fewer artists for Beijing 798 more »

Indianapolis suburb to be home of Midwest Museum of Contemporary Art more »

Chipperfield unveils plan for Berlin's Museum Island more »

Di Suvero's 17.5-ton sculpture is the newest addition to the Philly landscape more »

First International Manga Award given to Hong Kong artist working with a message of peace more »

Praise for Lisbon's new contemporary museum more »

Jeffrey Vallance enshrines self more »

Artpace founder Linda Pace, 62, dies more »

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[ Venice Biennale ]


Tomer Ganihar / Dan Perjovschi / Sophie Calle / Isa Genzken

The Venice Biennale is one of the art world's biggest events, with 77 nations officially represented and a dizzying array of collateral shows included in this 52nd edition. Artistic director Robert Storr sets the tone for the Biennale with his international exhibition, Think with the Senses — Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense. Many of the exhibited artists touch upon hot topics such as war, death, and politics, and several, such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres representing the US and France's Sophie Calle, appear again in their countries' pavilions, while Africa and Turkey are also provided unique showcases.

At the massive Arsenale — a former dockyard — Paris-based Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed, awarded this year's Benesse Prize, paces the exhibition with his glowing Exil signs, offering subtle commentary on the diasporic condition. Other standouts include El Anatsui's monumental hanging sheets made from bottle caps and copper wire and Nedko Solakov's mixed-media pieces relating the dispute between Russia and Bulgaria over royalty rights to the AK-47 machine gun.

The other half of the exhibition is displayed at the Italian Pavilion in the Giardini, site of many of the national pavilions. Here, Sigmar Polke's new, supersized abstract paintings hold a central gallery, while Bruce Nauman contributes an eerie, minimal installation of water spouting from casts of his own face. Japanese artist Tabaimo provides a grotesque animation featuring giant hands bursting into a dollhouse, and Indian artist Nalini Malani's miniature-inspired watercolors receive their own gallery.

The national pavilions in the Giardini offer their share of spectacle. For the French Pavilion, Sophie Calle enlists 107 women — and artist Daniel Buren, filling in as the pavilion's curator — to analyze and interpret a former lover's maudlin break-up letter through dance, theater, and even a trained parrot. Tracey Emin brings her star power to the British Pavilion, having asked art-world luminaries such as Jay Jopling and Julian Schnabel to supervise her installation of drawings, sculpture, and neon text pieces.

Isa Genzken's German Pavilion, which had hour-long lines during the Biennale preview, sensationalizes with Oil. In the Dutch Pavilion, Aernout Mik recreates a detention center atmosphere by scattering vinyl mattresses and bunk beds among his video projections exploring the relationship between Citizens and Subjects. Australia's impressive three-pronged approach is spearheaded by Daniel von Sturmer at their permanent pavilion, with off-site projects by Callum Morton and Susan Norrie.

Beyond the Giardini, visitors can walk Venice's winding backstreets to track down the Argentine Pavilion, featuring paintings by Guillermo Kuitca; Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's interactive media installation for the Mexican Pavilion; or Northern Ireland's presentation of Willie Doherty, whose meditative films have been a quiet hit among art-world intelligentsia. Also not to be missed is Italy's first official representation at Venice (the actual Italian Pavilion is dedicated to the international exhibition), featuring Democrazy, Francesco Vezzoli's raucous take on American political advertising, and stunning sculptural interventions by Giuseppe Penone, who covered two massive tree trunks with leather and carved gouges into a marble floor. (AM)

The Venice Biennale is on view through November 21.

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Zhang O: Daddy & I

Pékin Fine Arts
Now through July 31

  Zhang O's portraits of adopted Chinese daughters and their Caucasian fathers feel much of our cultural moment, humanizing conceptual divides between East and West and the ever-changing constitution of the 21st-century family unit. Zhang's digital prints present her subjects in manicured public parks — under cherry blossom trees, next to garden paths, and in front of spraying fountains — underscoring tensions between nature and nurture. Some grammar-school-aged girls hug their middle-aged fathers by the arms and legs; others warm in their fathers' embraces. All of the subjects share complicated looks of love that scale the thorny walls of cultural politics and negotiate fuzzy boundaries of personal identity — looks searching for a place called home. (ML)

François-Marie Banier
Los Angeles

Gagosian Gallery
Now through August 10

  Throughout his long career, French artist François-Marie Banier has used a variety of genre-bending techniques to tell stories in both words and images. His surreal, witty gestures include erasing the head of an elderly woman in the otherwise classically styled black-and-white photograph Boulevard Raspail, Paris, 2005 and applying handwritten text to portraits and landscapes in the ongoing series Written Photographs. Tightly cropped and set against a glimmering white carpet of snow, the hypnotic, monumental Jardin du Luxembourg captures a staggered row of silky, sturdy black tree trunks, the contrast heightened by the print's dark ink. Banier's portraits are malformed but sensual, like Weston's sweaty bell peppers, offering glimpses into a realm that transcends the merely visible. (SND)

Tim White-Sobieski

Pilar Parra & Romero
Now through July 20

  Seven years into his ongoing photo-video project Deconstructed Reality, Tim White-Sobieski pauses to present his latest works at Pilar Parra & Romero. Ostensibly set at night, the seven dizzying, multi-layered images on display result from White-Sobieski's travels to major world cities. Cobbled together from long exposures of moving traffic, blinking advertisements, whirling carousels, and illuminated buildings, these abstract compositions coalesce through complex computer algorithms, depicting a chaos of sensory impressions stripped of familiar landmarks. In a separate room, the eight-channel video New Orleans, After the Flood is projected onto the walls and hanging screens. Here, images of a post-Katrina landscape dissolve and reassemble, anchored by the inert, pensive figure of a lone teenager. (HGM)

Armen Eloyan

Parasol Unit
Now through July 20

  Fast-rising Armenian painter Armen Eloyan's first UK solo show relates brutal and desperate moments from human life, made bearable through the unconventional use of cartoon-like characters. Brash brush strokes and raw style give Eloyan's paintings their immediate impact, but they also reflect classic painterly technique and close attention to composition, perspective, and lighting. The 21 large-scale paintings on display include several portraits, such as that of a comical male figure dressed in military regalia from a bygone era. In another work, anthropomorphic sausages glare suggestively at a kitchen knife, while another piece strikes a tragic note, depicting the floating heads of two white ducks joined together by shackles and chains. (MS)

Ghada Amer: Le Salon Courbé

Francesca Minini
Now through July 28

  At Milan's Francesca Minini Gallery, New York-based Egyptian artist Ghada Amer investigates the contradictions and prejudices impeding dialogue between Arab and Western cultures. An introductory space features Arabic definitions of words such as "fear," "security," and "freedom" embroidered on canvases. The next installation, Le Salon Courbé, is a neoclassically styled lounge with a carpet and sofa, both embroidered with the word "terrorism" in Arabic script. The room's colorful wallpaper gathers together the word's different English meanings, including its etymological origins during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. In the video An Indigestible Dessert, Amer and longtime collaborator Reza Farkhondeh invite audience members to eat an enormous dessert shaped like George Bush and Tony Blair standing together. (CA)

Ghada Amer's work is also on view in the African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

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[ David Altmejd ]

David Altmejd

Decomposing werewolves often appear in David Altmejd's work, alongside other mutated animals, ambitious architectural models, and a medley of natural and manmade ephemera. The fusion of dismembered bodies and sleek structures is oddly beautiful, expressing the larger theme guiding his work: nature's refusal to be contained — at least for any great length of time.

Few can match the swift rise to fame Altmejd has enjoyed. After graduating from Columbia University in 2001, the Canadian artist was picked up three years later by New York's Andrea Rosen Gallery and currently represents Canada at this year's Venice Biennale. Inspired by artists such as Mark Dion, Kiki Smith, and even director David Cronenberg, Altmejd clearly feels an affinity for those mixing science and nature, mythology and narrative.

Not that Altmejd's work provides easy linear interpretations; his convoluted and surprising sculptures provoke multiple narrative paths and readings. The numerous mirrors used in The Index at the Venice Biennale, for example, create a fractured view of a man in a business suit sporting the head of a bird with a scrotum for a wattle. Altmejd doesn't tell us what this act means, asking only that his audience bring curiosity and an open mind. (PJ)

The Index is on view at the Canadian Pavilion in Venice through November 21.

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[ Luca Buvoli ]


Luca Buvoli

Italian-born, New York-based artist Luca Buvoli explores velocity and flight with A Very Beautiful Day After Tomorrow — Un Bellissimo Dopodomani for the Venice Biennale's international exhibition, Think with the Senses — Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense. Buvoli's 5,000-square-foot installation in the Arsenale includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, a mosaic, and five videos, taking as its point of departure futurism founder Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's optimistic words: "There will be a very beautiful day after tomorrow." Artkrush editor Paul Laster talks to the artist about the development of his work and the ideas related to it.
AK: How did Robert Storr discover your work?

LB: He knew my work from a 1997 solo show, Wherever You Are Not, at New York's John Weber Gallery and later bought two sculptures from the Not-a-Superhero series for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. However, he hadn't seen my new work — I'd been trying to have him visit my studio for years. I ran into him at the Venice airport on the way to the previous Biennale, and finally, he came to my studio last November.

AK: Were you already working on this new body of work?

LB: Yes, I was making the work I exhibited in a solo show — which had the same title and included some of the same work as the Biennale installation — at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia earlier this year. I've been revisiting futurism for four or five years, since exploring the theme in Adapting One's Senses to High Altitude Flying (for Intermediates), a 2003 solo show at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I had begun many works over the past two years, and my inclusion in the Biennale stimulated me to complete some of them. When I made my proposal, I had no idea the whole project would be accepted.

AK: What works do you have on display, and how do they relate to flight?

keep reading the interview »

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  Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Julie Ault, Miwon Kwon, Robert Storr, et al

Best-known for his evocative stacks of imprinted paper, strings of lightbulbs, and candy heaps, the conceptually minded, Cuban-born Felix Gonzalez-Torres burst onto the New York art scene in 1987 when he joined the political artists collective Group Material. He created an impressive body of work — much of it free for the taking — that continues to inspire through its mix of social concerns and personal, poetic messages. This elegant monograph, which was published in 2006, constructs one of the most compelling arguments for the importance of an artist. Edited by Julie Ault, a friend and Group Material collaborator, it features two-dozen essays, several interviews and artist statements, and an illustrated chronology linking his life — which ended in 1996 at age 38 from complications from AIDS — to specific works, friends, and world events. More than 160 of his works are reproduced in the book, including Untitled (America) and Untitled (Public Opinion), which are currently part of Gonzalez-Torres' posthumous exhibition in the American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. (PL)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres' work is on view in the American Pavilion and in the Venice Biennale's international exhibition Think with the Senses — Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense through November 21.

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Cover Art
Kara Walker
...calling to me from the angry surface of some grey and threatening sea. I was transported., 2007
Video still
Five-part video installation, 11 min. looped
Dimensions variable
Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

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