Last night I wrote about appreciating the variety of artists, works, scale, and ideas at The Encyclopedic Palace at The Arsenale. I especially loved the pieces that do not seem to fit neatly into the current art market trend that often ascribes value based on education/ exhibition/ sales. These artists work seem to trouble and defy definitions in a good way.
The gender erotica drawings of Yuksel Arslan defy definition and picture a world of infinite genders. Most galleries and museums probably would have disclaimers abundant surrounding the works. Rosella Biscotti’s minimalist, durational, and interventionist works (made from compost bricks, pooled rubbish from inmates of the women’s prison on the island of Guidecca, Venice) defy cool detachment and Arthur Bispo Rosario’s collections of objects, phrases and incantations that promised him a fulfilling afterlife are part junk shop assemblage of possible everyday household items served up with embroidered tapestry. He’s an “outsider, folk artist, untrained, unschooled, not graduated from the best MFA program, dead artist” whose work is right up there with anyone’s I’ve ever seen. I could look forever. Separately, they are small riff-raffy pieces that on accumulation become a world of their own. Somewhere else he’d have been segregated to the folk museum or in a special gallery for “outsider” artists. I hate all those categories. These works are serious and well wrought. The artist’s bio doesn’t matter when you’re presenting an archive, encyclopedia or a new Wikipedia entry for art.
Then today we saw a whole new set of shows. I was gobsmacked (pun intended) by Rudolph Stingel’spainting installation at Palazzo Grassi. While it wasn’t presented as an official part of the 55th Venice Biennale, the privately funded exhibition has garnered some attention. Three floors and every inch of wall are covered with a pattern of a photo-pixelated version of an “oriental” carpet that mimics Freud’s study with his plethora of carpet. Textiles are personal, everyday, often unappreciated items and here he’s used them to create an obsessive immersive piece that sets off the sensuous hand-dabbed texture of his abstract textile based paintings and reductive photo-realistic paintings. These paintings play to the public’s desire for traditional imagery in a very sarcastic way- or not.
To see all this expensive schlockery is quite a trick and it’s very good. The design, concept and execution works in a variety of great ways. But this is one of those over-the-top moments that also plays on a carnivalistic desire for a bit of serious nonsense, like that booth that references the grotesque with microscopes and gadgets while the crowd ooh’s and aah’s.
Rebecca Vaughan and I sat and had lunch after. We couldn’t help but compare it with the equally beautiful group exhibition, Welcome to Iraq at the National Pavilion of Iraq where the carpet was real, tea was served and the art was brought into the world out of necessity.