Archive » July 26, 2007
By Carole Lieff
The Venice Biennale
I sure am glad that I can finally get rid of that therapist at $275 an hour.
Nope, no more therapy for me.
One four-hour session every two years at the Venice Biennale and I'm cured.
Let's start with France and the Sophie Calle exhibit. On the outside of the Richard Serra-like façade (ok, so it's red) are the words Prenez Soin de Vous. Hmmm…wonder what that's all about? Well, it’s all about The Break-Up letter. The Letter is all blown up, and plastered on every 70-foot-high wall, in fifteen languages. It's a garden-variety break-up letter from a garden-variety seducer-womanizer to a garden-variety victim-masochist. The "artist" has then, for clarification, photographed 170 women, her so-called friends, (would you do this to a friend?) reading The Letter. These "friends" are also blown up and plastered on the 70-foot-high wall in the thinly veiled primal scream room. But the coup de grace is the little therapy office with two chairs and two video monitors going simultaneously, one ostensibly revealing what the man's about, and the other ostensibly revealing what the lady's about.
At the end of these loopy loops, we find out the victim/lady has only been seeing the womanizer-guy for about an hour a month. Huh? How hard is this one? And then we had the African Pavilion. This was all from one African's collection, and it may have been bought with Darfur blood money. (Everyone's got a right to make a living.) This was about a black guy who got his green card in Sweden by marrying an older lady, so he could ostensibly get an education. But in addition to an education, he also got himself three kids (with no father around,) three live-in women (one a 12 year old) and one actual wife, and we got a long diatribe (and I mean long) about how the Swedish government forces this hypocrisy on the black man because that's the only way he can get a green card, and so what else is a man to do but knock up three women to rack up an education? Isn't that obvious? I mean, can you blame him?
There's a lot of fun potty talk, and on the perpendicular wall, and on another wall was a video of these distorted and very ugly white women (presumably Swedish.) No kidding, this guy has a bright future on network TV.
Then we had the Arts and Crafts section. There was Jason Rhoades (he's dead now, so no harm picking on him) and these neon signs with hats and shirts, and what-have-you, stuck all over the neon signs, and there were some unmade beds all over the floor, and all-in-all it looked like a big neon mess.
Another crafty little spectacle was the Christine Hill Show. Wow. Now this is talent. I used to do this in the third grade. Take little outfits of my mom's and organize them with their appropriate accoutrements into her steamer trunks. Kind of like playing dollhouse on the road. I sure as heck hope I didn't miss the Barbie exhibit.
Where to next? Let's go west, young man. Franz West. Now please. You couldn't find anything better than this swill for the Biennale, Franz? I refuse to even describe it. I'm sorry. Call me crazy. But should art be downright ugly?
Next, what do we do with the philosopher-intellectuals? The ones like Eric Duyckaerts (Belgio) and Dmitri Gutov (La Russie.) You can't dismiss them as dummies. But they aren't artists. They might be con-artists. Which I guess the art world has a place for. They are smart people with off-beat ways of getting us to think about things differently. And yes, that is one of the functions of art. But that is also the primary function of a professional thinker, you know like an essayist, a lecturer, or a college professor. I think these guys couldn't get tenure.
Anyhow, I didn't travel 7,000 miles to see unemployed non-artists trying to outsmart themselves. On the bright side, I'm putting in my application for the next Biennale. The awards for best of show go to 3 video and 3 non-video:
Switzerland: Yves Netzhammer's animated "Repetition" Russia: "The Last Insurrection," an animated film of androgynous adolescents in gorgeous, love/killing postures China: Yang Fudong's "Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest", exquisite black-and-white silent celluloid ; Nordic States: Abadin, whose video about tourism in Baghdad was clever.
Poland: Sosnowska, great woman sculptor; Cyrus: Harry Eipamuoude for his cool collage; Sigmar Polke: new paintings (too bad for you, I heard Francois Pinault bought the whole room, so selfish); Austria: Herbert Brandl had one monster colorist painting, and if you tell me Rothko ever did a better painting than this, I'm getting out the belt.
More On The Rothko Thing
Speaking of Rothko, I had a contentious debate (and an $80 string-bean salad) at Harry's Bar in Venice with Stuart Denenberg, an art dealer with double 800 SATs, who used to be my friend. The subject was rose,…I mean Lavender with a White Center, I mean Rockefeller, I mean Mark Rothko.
It started with my fairly innocent remark about how Rothko was kind of a Johnny one-note. He did the same painting over and over again for 12 years. I know, I know. They went into all those ecumenical de Menil Chapels, and even Bob Mnuchin had a chapel. That doesn't change the fact that Rothko did the same painting over and over for 12 years. When queried, Jeff Blumandpoe opined about Rothko being the bridge between Abstract art and Minimalism. Duh. So what? He still did the same painting for 12 years. One idea and your paintings fetch almost $100 million? I mean the guy went to Yale to be a labor organizer, for god's sake and he didn't even start painting until he was 25 (not Jeff Blumandpoe, Rothko.)
My theory is after he ditched Peggy Guggenheim, Mrs. De Menil, (who happened to be the richest collector in the world,) did a heck of a marketing job on him. And when the two of them came up with that whole Rothko Chapel thing well, all bets were off. I mean religion and art have always done a rad pas de deux. Religion and art and the richest (Schlumberger) collector in the world….well, my friends, now we're talking art trifecta.
At this point, I thought Stuart was going to punch me right in the nose. Instead of punching me, however, he just looked at me like I was an idiot, used a bunch of big words, and explained that I, clearly a nitwit, didn't understand the artist's intent.
"Oh, but I do! I've read all the same books you have (Seeing Rothko, for one) about his wanting the viewer to get all this metaphysical mishegas from the floating colors and all. And I've even consulted Jeff Blumandpoe, but I'm sorry, that doesn't change the fact that the guy did one painting for 12 years. I think Rothko is a lot of hype."
"That's not the point," says Stuart. "There's nothing wrong with doing the same painting over and over again for twelve years or thirty years."
Just out of curiosity, have you ever seen Rothko's "early" drawings? How about those ugly "early" paintings? Please. $75 million? Is everyone insane?
Ouch! That was a stone! I'm going to Basel before the police get here.
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