Air, or better, new art in Venice
Text Rocco Moliterni
There is a lonely man sitting at a bar table with a bottle and a glass of wine. Then you realise that despite the jeans and duster, it is a wax sculpture and above all that it has a wick in the head: it will burn slowly as usually the works of Urs Fisher do: this is a 2001 work by the Swiss artist that welcome visitors to Punta della Dogana, in Venice, for Dancing with Myself, the group exhibition curated by Martin Bethenod and Florian Ebner, born from the collaboration between the Pinault Collection and the Museum Folkwang in Essen, where it was presented in a reduced version two years ago.
It is a long ride through the creations (photography is the master, but there are paintings, sculptures, videos and installations) of thirty-two artists from the 1970s to today. The common thread that binds them is the use of the body or the image of the artist himself as an object of representation: «we did not mind collecting works in which the artist prevails or expresses his own subjectivity, but works in which artist uses himself to tell the society and the world or the context that surrounds him» Martin Bethenod explains. So, for example, you can find We by Cattelan, where two mannequins with his appearance are on his deathbed, or various photographic series by Cindy Sherman, from the 1970s to today, in which the American artist becomes from time to time different people in different roles and social contexts (in some ways Sherman continues August Sander’s pre-war utopia). Before her attempt, even the real discovery of this exhibition, the “cursed” artist Marcel Bascoulard (son of a woman who had murdered her husband, then he was assassinated in 1978) had attempted a similar operation, who retreated himself in always different women’s dresses. Both the room with the great self-portraits by Rudolf Stingel and the central one with the works of the British duo Gilbert&George are striking.
There are the self-portrait by Alighiero Boetti and the social criticism images of artists like NanGoldin, LaToya Ruby Frazer, Paula Nazareth and Ade Abdessemed. Do not miss among others Damien Hirst, Giulio Paolini, Rori Horn. A reflection on the art world also comes from the videos in which Lili Reynaud-Dewar dances naked among the works of Pierre Huyge or between those of the Atelier Brancusi at Pompidou.
On this trip, however, there are also images by Martin Kippenberger, the German artist who was a friend and partner of Albert Oehlen, to whom the great personal exhibition curated by Caroline Bourgeois at Palazzo Grassi is dedicated (both exhibitions will open on Sunday 8 April). In the rooms of the historic building (unlike other exhibitions in the past, the large atrium usually filled with installations and sculptures is empty: last year it hosted the Gigante by Damien Hirst) more than eighty works are sumptuously furnished, only a part of them comes from the Pinault Collection. The artist, born in 1954, one of the great masters of German abstractionism, grew up at the school in Hamburg but today he lives and works in Switzerland. «Oehlen – Caroline Bourgeois explains – loves music as his colleagues and his art has many points in common with free jazz, so we tried to create an exhibition with a musical rhythm». And to do this more than on chronological order (Oehlen is an artist who often returns to the same themes and works by stratification), we focus on assonance and thematic references. In the catalog the art historian Jean-Pierre Criqui suggests «to see the works by Oehlen as territories. The secret law – never enunciated, unceasingly modified – that presides over these creations is that of the palimpsest, of the sedimentation, of the superimposed layers, very often also of the interference». Needless to say, the play of light and the reflections of the Grand Canal that interfere with the abstract signs of Oehlen make the exhibition even more intriguing.