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City Among Nations: Los Angeles at the Venice Biennale

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The Propeller Group, The AK-47 vs M16, 2015. AK-47 and M16 bullets fused and encased in ballistic gel, on metal support and LWS platform, 128 x 43 x 17 cm; single-channel HD video, color, no sound, c. 12'. 56th International Art Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia, All the World's Futures. | Photo: Alessandra Chemollo. | Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia.

The Propeller Group, The AK-47 vs M16, 2015. AK-47 and M16 bullets fused and encased in ballistic gel, on metal support and LWS platform, 128 x 43 x 17 cm; single-channel HD video, color, no sound, c. 12′. 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, All the World’s Futures. | Photo: Alessandra Chemollo. | Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia.

What’s notable about “We Must Risk Delight” is precisely that none of the artists included are international luminaries, of which Los Angeles undoubtedly has its share. Rather, the exhibition presents the city’s immeasurably talented working-artists, ranging in age from 30-70 and representing a broad range of ethnicities, as well as a slight majority of female artists. “Our participation in art conversations on an international level can not be reserved only for superstar names: not if our interests as a community are to keep growing and keep relevant,” curator Elizabeta Betinski explains. “Too few of us get the kind of opportunity we just experienced at the Venice Biennale and I truly hope to see that change for Los Angeles artists within my lifetime. ‘We Must Risk Delight’ was created in an effort to affect that change.” The exhibition has been a labor of love for the curator and the artists, who continue to seek financial support for their endeavor. “Democratization is, to me, an issue that needs to be addressed,” says Betinski. “We can either complain about — and thus contend with — the ‘art market’ and its inherent elitism, or we can give effort to expanding the playing field and creating opportunities for more than just a select few.” She continues, “L.A. has one of the most vibrant and exciting contemporary art scenes in the world — yet, our perspective on being a part of a larger world is still very myopic and out-of-sync with the amount of creative talent and diversity L.A. has to offer.” Such diversity, while not the cause of the show’s success, is important because it reflects the progressive values of a city that is increasingly hailed as a crucible for working artists, as well as being notable for its multicultural and gender-balanced community and presence of multiple generations of artists all supporting one another.

Walead Beshty, 56th International Art Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia, All the World's Futures.  | Photo: Alessandra Chemollo.  | Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia.

Walead Beshty, 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, All the World’s Futures. | Photo: Alessandra Chemollo. | Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia.

Thematically, the exhibition’s focus is transcendence of real-world limitations, and the art on view speaks to the possibilities of fantasy and imagination to lift us above our daily challenges. That utopian spirit is also typical of Los Angeles, a city that is in many ways an impossibility, wrested from the desert that perpetually threatens to reclaim it. The artworks on view take a variety of forms, from Tanya Batura’s surreal ceramics suggesting organic growths made of eyes, to Robbie Conal‘s nostalgic portraits of 1960s pop icons Bob Marley, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix. Kenturah Davis’ contribution, four large-scale drawings depicting African-American subjects whose images are comprised of written text describing their aspirations, speaks to both the challenges and the ambitions of L.A.’s creative class.

"We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles." Collateral Event of the 56th la Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Arte 2015. Curated by Elizabeta Betinski. Presented by bardoLA in collaboration with Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia. Panorama view of installation with works by (L-R) Ben Jackel, Frank Ryan, Tony de los Reyes, Jamison Carter, Amir H. Fallah, Sherin Gurguis, Alexis Zoto, Carolyn Castaño.

“We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles.” Collateral Event of the 56th la Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Arte 2015. Curated by Elizabeta Betinski. Presented by bardoLA in collaboration with Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia. Panorama view of installation with works by (L-R) Ben Jackel, Frank Ryan, Tony de los Reyes, Jamison Carter, Amir H. Fallah, Sherin Gurguis, Alexis Zoto, Carolyn Castaño.

Painting is everywhere, most of it boldly colorful. Amir H. Fallah exhibits two paintings from a recent series in which he reconstructed the lives of a married couple based on diaries and objects procured from an estate sale in East Los Angeles. Alexandra Grant and Sherin Gurguis, two artists currently featured in the COLA award exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, are represented with exuberant works on paper that dazzle against the brick walls of the magazzini space. Grant shows two works from her “Century of the Self”series, proclaiming “I was born to love not to hate,” and Gurguis contributes intricately patterned cut-paper works that riff on traditional Islamic screen work. Gurguis also contributes a large, ornamental cut-out sculpture alongside sculptural works by Ben Jackel, Margaret Griffith, Rebecca Niederlander, and Jamison Carter. Carole Silverstein, Mark Licari, and Shizu Saldamando also dazzle with color, though on a smaller scale. These three artists each embody a distinct Los Angeles vernacular in their very different bodies of work: Silverstein working with pattern and landscape, Saldamando in figuration to describe local archetypes, and Licari bringing the psychedelic perspective.

"We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles." Collateral Event of the 56th la Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Arte 2015. Curated by Elizabeta Betinski. Presented by bardoLA in collaboration with Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia. Works by Kenturah Davis, Carole Silverstein, Margaret Griffith, and Shizu Saldamando.

“We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles.” Collateral Event of the 56th la Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Arte 2015. Curated by Elizabeta Betinski. Presented by bardoLA in collaboration with Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia. Works by Kenturah Davis, Carole Silverstein, Margaret Griffith, and Shizu Saldamando.

Despite L.A.’s international stature as a film capital, the moving image is less prominent in the show, although animations by Stas Orlovski and Carolyn Castaño, and Natasha Prosenc Stearns’ sculpture and video installation, ensure it is not left out of the discussion. Photography is also less visible, though well-represented by Brandy Eve Allen’s intimate portraits. Alexis Zoto is the only artist to respond directly to Venice as a site, creating an installation in dazzling gold around a large chandelier that evokes the ersatz Baroque aesthetic of Venice’s many palazzos, while incorporating pre-Columbian geometries that speak to the contemporary hybridization of culture across place.

Charles Gaines, "Notes on Social Justice: Dey's All Put on De Blue," (1880), 2013. Each 86.4 x 71.3 cm. Detail. | Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.

Charles Gaines, “Notes on Social Justice: Dey’s All Put on De Blue,” (1880), 2013. Each 86.4 x 71.3 cm. Detail. | Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.

Reflecting that hybrid reality and the broadest possible scope of geographies, the 2015 Biennale encompasses pavilions from 87 countries as well as 42 collateral exhibitions. Still, no other city occupies a footprint comparable to L.A.’s this time around. In addition to “We Must Risk Delight,” L.A. artists figure prominently in Okwui Enwezor’s main exhibition. The Giardini’s Central Pavilion features legendary Angeleno artist and CalArts faculty mainstay, Charles Gaines, with an installation of his recent “Notes on Social Justice” and plexiglas ‘Librettos’ works (the latter also on view at Leimert Park’s Art + Practice until May 30). The Biennale’s live program – one of three key thematic areas or “filters” – also features monthly live performances of Gaines’ master composition based on five “Notes on Social Justice” texts. The first of these featured a male and female vocalist in duet, accompanied by a string quartet. Future performances over the course of the exhibition will layer and multiply texts and compositions from the five source texts. Both the installation and the live performance use canonical documents from the history of social justice movements as their basis, building on a body of work that has incorporated the words of Susan B. Anthony, Stokely Carmichael, and Malcolm X. By appropriating these texts whole and treating them with visual and auditory lyricism, Gaines defuses the oft-leveled criticism of political art as aggressive or alienating, instead drawing viewers in with beauty and warmth while allowing the eloquence and commitment of the original speakers to come through with clarity.

Charles Gaines, "Notes on Social Justice: Dey's All Put on De Blue," (1880), 2013. Each 86.4 x 71.3 cm. Detail. | Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.

Charles Gaines, “Notes on Social Justice: Dey’s All Put on De Blue,” (1880), 2013. Each 86.4 x 71.3 cm. Detail. | Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.

Adjacent to the Gaines installation is a gallery of recent works by L.A.-based Walead Beshty, whose works include a number of “Aggregate” sculptures (2013) constructed from production discards from Guadalajara’s Cerámica Suro, a long-established industrial ceramics producer and exporter. The sculptures, covered in thick, drippy paint, are as vulgar and chaotic as Cerámica Suro’s wares are precise. These works, accompanied by collaged sculptures made from cut-up Guadalajara tabloid newspapers draped over metal poles, respond to the official and unofficial economies of globalization by foregrounding the commoditization of human bodies and folk cultural traditions for casual consumption by Mexico’s elites and their wealthier neighbors to the north.

Additionally, CalArts graduates Matt Lucero and Tuan Andrew Nguyen are included at the Arsenale with their collective, The Propeller Group, whom Angelenos may remember from their humorous video installation commenting on global corporate culture at 2012’s Made in L.A. Biennial at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. In Venice, they are represented by a block of ballistic gel containing an AK-47 bullet and an M-16 bullet shot at one another, which upon fusing come to represent a merger of American and Soviet military histories in the aftermath of the Cold War — think Afghanistan or Syria for some real-world examples of how this plays out. The AK-47 vs M16 (2015) also includes a slow-motion animation of the bullets passing through the gel, which creates an abstracted forensic map of contemporary global conflict.

Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia. Walead Beshty, "¡La Voz de Jalisco El Periodico Que Dice Lo Que Otros Callan Más Noticias Más Deportes! (Miércoles, 7 Agosto 2013: Metro, La Prensa Jalisco, Express Guadalajara)," 2013. Daily newspapers, dimensions variable.

Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia. Walead Beshty, “¡La Voz de Jalisco El Periodico Que Dice Lo Que Otros Callan Más Noticias Más Deportes! (Miércoles, 7 Agosto 2013: Metro, La Prensa Jalisco, Express Guadalajara),” 2013. Daily newspapers, dimensions variable.

Another notable Angeleno at the Biennale is Vanessa Beecroft, an Italian-born artist whose installation “phantom limb stone garden” at the Italian Pavilion made up of figurative sculptures in bronze and shades of stone reminiscent of the range of human skin tones. One of her most ambitious and successful sculptural installations, the work cannot be viewed in its entirety as it is intentionally blockaded by large, rough-sided marble slabs. The fragmented viewpoint of the observer and the truncated female bodies within make reference to Marcel Duchamp’s final work, Étant Donnés (1946-66), a Surrealist-inspired tableau referencing both theater and early cinema, which prefigures Beecroft’s more than twenty years of work responding to the tropes of contemporary high fashion.

Los Angeles’ emergence within the international contemporary art landscape speaks to the city’s position at the forefront of worldwide trends. While the Biennale’s pavilions appear to celebrate nationalism, increasingly one finds within them artists from many countries (Spain and Belgium being notable examples this time). Los Angeles exemplifies a future in which metropolitan areas are in direct dialogue with one another, around the globe, through cultural as well as commercial exchange. Comprised of residents from all parts of the planet, Los Angeles boasts a majority-minority demographic that other European and American cities are destined to share. The city is shaped by its national context, but also shapes it, and acts as a hub for international cultural exchange. L.A. is uniquely positioned to serve as a model for the world’s cities going forward, being already invested in seeking ways to develop more equitable, sustainable, and liveable conditions for its citizens. Given how the city’s contemporary artists reflect and promote those concerns, it’s no surprise that they are so prominently represented at a global exhibition focused on the future.

"We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles." Collateral Event of the 56th la Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Arte 2015. Curated by Elizabeta Betinski. Presented by bardoLA in collaboration with Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia. Installation view.

“We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles.” Collateral Event of the 56th la Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Arte 2015. Curated by Elizabeta Betinski. Presented by bardoLA in collaboration with Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia. Installation view.

Top Image: Walead Beshty, 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, All the World’s Futures. | Photo: Alessandra Chemollo. 

Anuradha Vikram is a curator, critic, educator, and Director of Residency Programs at 18th Street Arts Center.
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Thanks to OZON online and magazine for featuring my work Concept Of Since : 24 Options, 2014 in their review of Art Athina 2014.

My work was part of the annual residents show for SNEHTA artist residency.  The group show titled: Things Are Different Now”  Included past residents who have participated in the SNEHTA artist residency.

Click here for the whole article. 

10296174_476816305783975_1896722786469790853_o 10309337_1506298946265136_7694545771599548638_n 10339549_10154066985225316_1956882948861110285_nThis year has been going well for me in Athens with events unfolding from my time spent on the SNEHTA Artist Residency last Autumn.  This week saw the opening of Art Athina 2014.  SNEHTA used this art fair to showcase the second set of residents from their residency.

SNEHTA Press Release:

“Things are Different Now”
Snehta Resident Artists Annual Show (2013-2014)

15-18 MAY
Booth P13, Art Athina Platforms Projects, Faliro Pavilion (TaeKwon Do), 2 Moraitini Str., Faliron Delta

Participating artists:
Elliott Burns, Jack Burton, Catriona Gallagher, Boris Lafargue, Andrew Peter Mason, Dickie Webb

Organized by:
Irini Bachlitzanaki, Becky Campbell & Augustus Veinoglou for Snehta Residency, Athens

Things are Different Now brings together work by six artists who completed an artists’ residency at Snehta in
the past year and is the second annual show of residents. The works on show were either created in Athens
or shortly after the resident artists’ stay at Snehta. While they are the result of distinct artistic practices,
seen together they bring to the fore issues of location and dislocation, change and movement as well as the
experience of time and space and the way this is worked through and inscribed on an individual piece of art.

I made a new version of a work that I have continued to use as the basis of my thoughts since Athens, the work titled;

Concept of Since: 24 Options,

4 words

24 orders

Multiple meanings.

Merleau-Ponty described space, as having many meanings and it is only how it is phrased/spoken that gives it meaning.

The current Athenian landscape can be read in different ways by those who live/visit here. It has multiple meanings and like most cities and countries are hard to interpret. This work asks people to consider these short statements in relation to their current landscape, asking them to question their own experience of the here and now. Whilst some viewers will be hung up on the negative others will see opportunity in with each rendition.

Thanks for the SNEHTA team for organising this and making this a success.

Art Athina runs from 15th – 18th of May click here for the website.

Click here for SNEHTA website

 

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logo-art-athina

 

As one of the past artist in residents at SNEHTA I will be exhibiting at the upcoming Art-Athina.  This SNEHTA show will be co-curated by  Augustus Veinoglou, Becky Campbell and Irini Bachlitzinaki.  Six past artists have been invited to exhibit at this art fair who have spent time on the artist in residence program run by SNEHTA.  Art-Athina hosts Greek and International galleries and alongside these established galleries they also run a Parallel Programme which is what SNEHTA will be part of.  Over the next few weeks the work will be finalised and more information about this art fair will be released.  It is an exciting opportunity and I look forward to seeing what the curators and artists bring to the table create for this event.  

Launched in 1993 by the Hellenic Art Galleries Association, Art-Athina stands today as one of the longest lasting contemporary art fairs in Europe and as the largest annual visual arts event in Greece. A meeting point for international artistic creation, Art-Athina brings together significant Greek and foreign art galleries, cultural institutions, curators, collectors, art critics and art lovers.

Last year’s Art-Athina was held with great success from 16 to 19 May 2013 at Faliron Pavilion (TaeKwonDo Stadium) and was enthusiastically received by some 30,000 visitors!

Important art galleries from Greece and abroad were joined in harmony by cultural institutions, art publishers and media to present a full picture of the contemporary art scene. A number of important parallel activities reinforced the international character of the event with the participation of a large number of artists with a marked predominance of the younger generation. Concurrently, educational activities and historical retrospectives underlined the social role of Art-Athina.

For more information please follow these links:

http://www.art-athina.gr/parallel-programme/

http://www.snehtaresidency.org/