Category: Venice Biennale

Christian Marclay's 'The Clock' wins Gold Lion at Venice Biennale

June 6, 2011 | 11:43 am


"The Clock" -- the art installation piece that uses snippets from films and television to keep real 24-hour time -- has earned its creator, Christian Marclay, the Gold Lion for best artist at this year's Venice Biennale. The prize was announced over the weekend by a five-member jury including Hassan Khan, Carol Yinghua Lu, Letizia Ragaglia, Christine Macel and filmmaker John Waters.

Marclay is a California-born artist and composer who has explored notions of synchronicity among music, film and video in his works. "The Clock" runs for 24 hours and features a montage of clips from such diverse films as "High Noon," starring Gary Cooper; "Titanic," with Leonardo DiCaprio; and the Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie "Eraser." Times shown on screen in "The Clock" are synchronized with real time.

"The Clock" is currently on view through July 31 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which acquired the work earlier this year.  The museum held a free 24-hour screening of "The Clock" in May.

This year's Venice jury bestowed the Gold Lion for Best National Participation to Germany. The Silver Lion for a promising young artist went to Britain's Haroon Mirza. The jury also gave special mentions to artists Darius Mikšys and Klara Lidén.


GrandcanalNotes from the Venice Biennale: Thomas Houseago

Notes: What does it mean to be an American artist anyway?

Notes: Hot-rod gondolas in the Grand Canal and L.A. art in a 15th-century palazzo


-- David Ng

Photos, from top: Christian Marclay. Credit: Christine House / For the Los Angeles Times. The Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. Credit: Andrea Merola / EPA


Notes from the Venice Biennale: What does it mean to be an American artist anyway?

June 3, 2011 |  5:19 pm

They call the Venice Biennale the Olympics of the art world, acknowleging the way it brings together artists representing many different countries.

But many artists and their curators in Venice seem more conflicted than most athletes about waving their national flags. Click here to read a report on how this year's participants from the U.S., Poland, India and more are reframing the Biennale's "national pavilion" model and rethinking notions of homeland.


Thomas Houseago's can't-be-missed sculpture at Palazzo Grassi

Anish Kapoor's Ascension falls flat before big crowds

Venice in Venice: Hot-rod gondolas in canals and Light and Space art in a palazzo

Mapping the Madess

-- Jori Finkel

Photo: Jordan Fairley runs atop upside-down tank in Allora & Calzadilla's "Track and Field" in front of the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Credit: Jori Finkel / Los Angeles Times.

Notes from the Venice Biennale: Thomas Houseago's can't-be-missed sculpture at Palazzo Grassi

June 2, 2011 |  3:02 pm


When Los Angeles-based sculptor Thomas Houseago sat down for an interview with the L.A. Times last fall, the fact that he was making a massive new work for French billionaire François Pinault's palazzo-museum in Venice was supposed to be a secret. As in: some sort of confidentiality agreements had been signed, and we got slightly panicky phone calls about the matter before we went to press with an article that mentioned the project.

Now the sculpture could not be more public. The striding figure (called "L'Homme Pressé," which roughly means "man in a hurry") looms large over the Grand Canal, visible from many spots on the ground as well as the stream of water taxis and buses.

It's part of the exhibition "The World Belongs to You," selections from Pinault's permanent collection curated by Caroline Bourgeois. The theme of the show is not entirely clear from the title or the press release, but you will notice a lot of hyperrealistic sculptures and installations that are dizzying in their mirroring or doubling of images. Thank you, Charles Ray, Urs Fischer and Maurizio Cattelan, for making the museum a superbly uncanny, deeply Freudian, philosophically dangerous place.

Maybe that's what Houseago's hulking man is rushing away from?


Anish Kapoor's Ascension falls flat before big crowds

Venice in Venice: Hot-rod gondolas in canals and Light and Space art in a palazzo

Thomas Houseago's shape-shifting world

-- Jori Finkel

Photo: Thomas Houseago's "L'Homme Pressé," 2010-11, bronze on steel, stands in front of the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. Credit: Jori Finkel / For The Times

Notes from the Venice Biennale: Anish Kapoor's 'Ascension' falls flat before big crowd

June 1, 2011 |  2:04 pm

Kapoornosmoke2 Anish Kapoor's "Ascension" simply did not rise to the occasion.

The popular British-based artist has done a version of the project before in secular spaces, but this week marked his first go at a sacred space. The idea was to rig the historic Basilica di San Giorgio to create a column of smoke, or shaft of light, that appears to rise from a central well of his own design and ascend all the way to the vaulted ceiling.

But by the time the piece opened last night for the crowds, it looked more like a wisp of steam escaping from a pot of pasta, as in the image at right. The work, one of several dozen "collateral" projects connected to the Biennale, was clearly on the blink.

You might think anyone on the busy Biennale circuit would quickly move on. Think again.

The technical problems, now said to be resolved, didn't stop a steady stream of visitors from claiming the pews near the figment of an artwork and staring into space, as though some revelation were in the making.

After leaving the basilica, Rani Singh of the Getty Research Institute called it a classic case of the contemporary-art emperor wearing no clothes. "What I found humorous was watching all the people pay such close attention to this thing--to nothing."


'Venice in Venice' brings hot-rod gondolas to canals and Light and Space art to palazzo

Mapping the Madness

--Jori Finkel, from Venice, Italy

Photograph by Jori Finkel / Los Angeles Times

Notes from the Venice Biennale: Hot-rod gondolas in the Grand Canal and L.A. art in a 15th-century palazzo

May 31, 2011 |  3:52 pm

Artist Billy Al Bengston's bright gondolas

Installation of "Venice in Venice" at the Palazzo Contarini Dagli Scrigni showing an acrylic on ceramic sculpture by Ken Price, "Bags," from 2003  and an Untitled (Blue) resin on wood plank by John McCracken from 1985

If all goes as planned, a pair of gondolas unlike all others will glide along the Grand Canal in Venice on Wednesday. Instead of the usual, hearselike black, one will be painted in a bold Ducati red and the other in a light chartreuse -- a flashy makeover by veteran L.A. artist Billy Al Bengston.

"It's blasphemy for the gondoliers' society to have anything but black," says New York collector-dealer-curator Tim Nye, who has organized the gondola project to promote "Venice in Venice," a show he curated with Jacqueline Miro for the Venice Biennale, featuring art by two dozen L.A.-area artists. He says the gondoliers' group made an exception only because it was an art project.

"My first thought was to get a hot-rod pin-striper to do a gondola. But I realized Billy Al was the perfect person to bring Venice to Venice," added Nye.

Bengston, who has painted surfboards and furniture as well as artworks in the past, worked with local boat builders in Venice this time around. He calls it "a marketing product, not an artwork," adding that Nye has a way of talking him into things. "But I think it's great to draw a little attention to the wellspring that came out of Venice, California."

One of many events affiliated with the international art exhibition held every two years, "Venice in Venice" runs from June 1 to July 31, with Courtney Love scheduled to perform at the opening night party. Apart from a few offsite attractions like the boats in the canal and a skate pipe to be set up in a public square, the show takes place in the Palazzo Contarini Dagli Scrigni, a recently restored 15th century mansion in the Dorsoduro district.

"I really like the idea of playing with nonpristine space," said Nye. In New York his gallery occupies a Victorian townhouse on West 20th Street. Here works that are largely minimal in nature play against the ornate chandeliers, marble floors and classical busts lining the corridors.

The palatial entrance features some signature Robert Irwin light works, new and old. Around the corner, Laddie John Dill has taken over a cavelike space with his own early light pieces -- argon tubes he called "light sentences."

On the second floor, a mottled pink Ken Price ceramic is perched not on a pedestal but on top of a piano, with a marbleized blue "plank" by John McCracken leaning against the heavy wooden door nearby.(McCracken, who died earlier this year, also figures into the gondolas in one way -- Bengston said he used solid colors instead of stripes in homage to McCracken.)

 Nye's tattoo reads "VinV," for "Venice in Venice." A former dot-com entrepreneur, Nye believes that several of these artists, who made their breakthrough work in the '60s, are still undervalued and underexposed. He is trying to change that on many fronts. Last winter he co-curated "Primary Atmospheres," a critically acclaimed show on the era, for the David Zwirner gallery in New York. Last month, he got a tattoo on the inside of his left wrist that says "VinV" -- a "painful gesture," he says.

He is also teaming with Lexi Brown to open a gallery in Culver City this fall. First up will be "a big show on car culture" that, like "Venice in Venice," is loosely pegged to "Pacific Standard Time," the Getty-funded celebration of the roots of California art.

As for the relationship between Venice and its California namesake, Los Angeles dreamer/developer Abbot Kinney and his vision for Pacific Coast waterways provides the most obvious historic link. But Nye sounds interested in more subtle -- or should we say fluid -- connections between the artists in the two cities, describing the "inevitable concern with water" and "unique luminosity" they share.

"Tintoretto was maybe one of the first Light and Space artists, but he was depicting light and space," says Nye. "These guys from California were working with it experientially."


Venice Biennale: Mapping the Madness

-- Jori Finkel

Photos, from top: Artist Billy Al Bengston's bright gondolas reimagine a Venetian classic; installation of "Venice in Venice" at the Palazzo Contarini Dagli Scrigni showing an acrylic on ceramic sculpture by Ken Price, "Bags," from 2003  and an Untitled (Blue) resin on wood plank by John McCracken from 1985; Tim Nye's tattoo reads "VinV," for "Venice in Venice." Credits: Kristin Jai Klosterman; David Brendel; Jori Finkel / Los Angeles Times 

Notes from the Venice Biennale: Mapping the Madness

May 30, 2011 |  4:28 pm

Christie'sbiennaleapp Sometimes billed as the Olympics of the art world because it draws together so many different countries, the Venice Biennale does have something of a competitive edge. On Saturday, when the sprawling exhibition officially opens to the public after several days of previews and press events, the 89 different countries participating will be looking to see who is awarded best pavilion for 2011.

But today, when many curators and artists were fresh off the waterbus and busy checking into their hotels, the real contest was to see which iPhone/iPad app was worth downloading. For this year, has two apps for the Biennale: an official guide created by the event organizers (iBiennale) and another created by Christie's (Christie's Bienniale). Both are free.

This one is easy to call. The official Biennale app is so heavy on background information and light on anything interactive that it might as well come in pamphlet form -- and probably does.

Christie's offering is just the opposite. The program has Google-powered maps of the national pavilions (there are 89 this year, scattered throughout town), the officially sanctioned related events (39) and also restaurants. All of the maps can detect your current position, or alternately can be read in list form. And it comes with sundry tips, mainly from Christie's specialists, for what to see and do.

Christie's is not a sponsor of the Biennale, celebrated as one of the few international art events today free from concerns about selling art. But the auction house managed with this small piece of programming to splash its name all over this year's program, making one wonder about the market subtext.

It also raises another, perhaps more fundamental, question: Could modern mapping technology take all the fun out of the age-old tradition of being lost in Venice?

James Franco is James Dean in next art-world project

-- Jori Finkel, from Venice


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