Floating islands

Yutaka Sone Venezia 2013

Yutaka Sone, Venezia, 2013

Though I’d seen Yutaka Sone’s work before and found it fascinating, the work in his show at David Zwirner interested me more not just for the extraordinary accuracy of the marble cityscapes but for the places they represent. I think the only carved marble work by Sone I’d seen in real life before is Highway Junction 105-110 which depict freeway intersections in Los Angeles, a city I’ve never visited and only really know from films. The works felt a bit like architectural models, albeit it unexpectedly made of white marble. Here the cities are Venice, New York and Hong Kong. Admittedly I’ve only been to Hong Kong once, very briefly and a long time ago but the other two are cities I know well.

Sone has mapped the territory in incredible detail using methods as diverse as aerial surveillance and Google earth to gain as exact an understanding of the cityscape as possible before it is carved by hand into the marble.

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Suddenly last summer

Fischli Weiss, Roal Admundsen Asks for Directions to The North Pole from Suddenly This Overview, 1981-2006

Fischli Weiss, Roal Admundsen Asks for Directions to The North Pole from Suddenly This Overview, 1981-2006

Sooner or later I’ll change direction, I’m sure, but while I’m on a run of dog-related posts and while I’m drawing on the work I saw in Venice last summer (and autumn, though I managed less actual art that trip) it would seem a shame not to sneak in a post about Suddenly This Overview, Fischli Weiss’s collection of unfired clay sculptures, a body of work that always makes me laugh. I confess I was sure there must be a dog in there somewhere, and of course there is though the Husky in Roal Admundsen Asks for Directions to The North Pole is actually the only one I can come up with.

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Bronzed beauties

Lucas Venice 2013 bronze1

Sarah Lucas, in The Encyclopaedic Palace, Central Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, 2013

I’m a firm believer in the idea that art can come from anywhere and be made of anything. And that means that just as an artist can turn everyday materials into art, so they can also choose to materials that have been the stuff of high art for centuries. But, to state the obvious, there’s a bit of a difference between nylon tights stuffed with kapok and bronze. Sarah Lucas has been working with tights for nearly two decades now. Her Bunny sculptures of the late 1990s and the more recent Nuds – often oddly sexual abstract forms – can be both funny and a bit disturbing. Either way, I like them a lot.

Sarah Lucas, Bunny Gets Snookered #10, 1997

Bunny Gets Snookered #10, 1997

So what happens when Nuds meet bronze?

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Pregnant pauses

Marc Quinn, Breath, Venice, 2013

Marc Quin, Breath, 2012 (Isola de San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice)

My summer trip to Venice – being a holiday and all – included some things that simply weren’t part of the biennale at all. I’m no longer entirely sure why one of those things was visiting the Marc Quinn exhibition at Fondazione Giorgio Cini. I’ve liked some of Quinn’s work well enough in the past and I guess I was curious. Plus, the exhibition announced itself in that one of the works on show outside the Fondazione Giorgio Cini building was an 11m tall sculpture. Or, more accurately, an 11m tall inflatable version of an earlier Quinn sculpture. This time in a not at all fetching shade of pink.

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Light work

Bill Culbert, Bebop, 2013 (New zealand Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale)

Bill Culbert, Bebop, 2013 (installation in the New Zealand Pavilion in the Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà at the 55th Venice Biennale)

Ai Weiwei wasn’t the only artist using seating as the building blocks for an art installation in Venice last year. The works in the entrance to the New Zealand Pavilion – held in the Instituto Santa Maria della Pietà – featured suspended chairs and fluorescent tube lights. Culbert, whose work I didn’t really know very well before chancing upon the New Zealand pavilion and wandering in (admittedly I was hardly off the beaten track here, the space was on the waterfront almost no distance from Piazza San Marco), has been working with light since the 1960s. In the work on show in Venice, Culbert used light and domestic objects to create an extraordinary series of installations and smaller sculptural pieces that occupied the space in a really interesting way.

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An explosion of seating – nowhere to sit

Ai Weiwei, Bang, 2013 (installation in the German Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale)

Ai Weiwei, Bang, 2013 (installation in the German Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale)

The first thing that confused me about the German Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale was that it was in France. Well, not France the actual country, but in France’s pavilion: the two countries swapped buildings for the 55th Venice Biennale as a cultural exchange. Walking into the building the first work on show – in a large central space that generally dictates the tone of anything shown there – was Bang, an installation made of an exploding forest of wooden three-legged stools by the not even a bit German artist (and subject of my last couple of posts) Ai Weiwei. What did it all mean?

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Watching them, watching him

Ai Weiwei, S.A.C.R.E.D., 2013 (installation view,  Sant'Antonin Church)

Ai Weiwei, S.A.C.R.E.D., 2013 (installation view, Chiesa di Sant’Antonin, Venice as part of Disposition organised by Zuecca Projects and the Lisson Gallery)

Walking into a church in Venice and finding six large black crate-like boxes would be a fairly odd regardless but add couple of dozen other art lovers into the equation, wandering around the space and climbing on little black boxes to peer intently into the crates is a distinctly strange and somewhat unsettling experience. Like most churches in Venice, Chiesa di Sant’Antonin, a fourth century building extensively reworked in the Baroque style in the mid seventeenth century, has a rather ornate interior. The austere black boxes that dominate the floor of the space are an incongruous sight; once one gets beyond the immediate visual confusion, the context raises some interesting questions.

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