Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi, Adelita Husni-Bey
Il mondo magico
The Italian pavilion will this year be totally different from the museum-style overview with a wide variety of Italian artists at previous Biennale editions. Curator Cecilia Alemani decided to turn it into a magical place with a limited selection of three artists. This gives more freedom to the artists to realize an ambitious large-scale project, and gives the visitors the opportunity to explore in-depth the work of a few artists. You can read more about Cecilia Alemani and her decision in my post ‘The balancing act of the curators at the Art Biennale 2017’.
The artists Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi and Adelita Husni-Bey not only share a fascination with magic, but they were shaped by a similar background. All of them were born in Italy between the 1970s and the 1980s, and came onto the national and international scene at the start of the new millennium. They belong to the first Italian generation to grow up in a cosmopolitan, international climate: their art and their languages are global, yet closely tied to Italian culture.
Their works reinvent reality, sometimes through fantasy and play, sometimes through poetry and imagination. This is not an escape into the depths of irrationality, but rather a new way of experiencing reality. They see themselves not just as producers of artworks, but as active interpreters and creators of the world, which they reinvent through magic and imagination. The three projects that will be shown at the Italian pavilion are specifically commissioned and produced for ‘Il mondo magico‘. They will only be revealed at the opening of the Art Biennale.
The installations of Giorgio Andreotta Calò are vistas of ruin where factories and industrial sheds have been stripped down to their skeletons: carcasses of an obsolete era that the artist invests with a new aura of magic. His works range from large-scale environmental installations and sculptures of monumental size to imperceptible modifications of architecture. Andreotta Calò always juxtaposes artificial materials with natural forces or elements, especially water and fire. One of the recurrent themes throughout his artistic practice is the lagoon landscape of Venice, his hometown.
Roberto Cuoghi has always been interested in the theme of metamorphosis and in the presentation of identity as a constantly evolving process. Through a range of tools, such as video, animation, sculpture, painting, and sound installation, he constructs a complex poetic vision. Cuoghi also builds experimental sculptures, exploring the process of metamorphosis of various materials to create growths and excrescences that resemble giant termite mounds or coral reefs undergoing some wild mutation. He is also passionate about Assyrian culture, rituals, legends, languages, and beliefs.
For Adelita Husni-Bey, the magical world is the utopia of a future where politics and fantasy, struggle and play, engagement and flights of fancy, can live side by side. She is interested in the relationship between the present – with all of its social and political conflicts – and the infinite ways that both past and future can be rewritten through imagination and participation. Her projects draw inspiration from anarchist educational theories, innovative teaching practices, and a deep sense of social responsibility. They are also often the outcome of collective creative processes, such as role-playing, workshops, and group tasks.
The title of the exhibition ‘Il mondo magico’ (The magical world) is borrowed from Ernesto de Martino’s book ‘Il mondo magico’, which was written during the Second World War and published in 1948. A new book with the same title, but curated by Cecilia Alemani, will accompany this exhibition. The volume includes essays from Cecilia Alemani, the three artists as well as many other personalities. It also shows a selection of images such as archival pictures, works by the invited artists and iconography that inspired their projects for the Italian Pavilion.
“The work of Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi, and Adelita Husni-Bey suggests a new faith in the transformative power of the imagination. These three artists all see art as the construction of parallel universes where personal cosmologies merge with collective utopias. Through myriad references to magic, fancy, and fable, Andreotta Calò, Cuoghi, and Husni-Bey turn art into a tool for inhabiting the world in all its richness and multiplicity. Their works reinvent reality, sometimes through fantasy and play, sometimes through poetry and imagination; it is a story woven from myths, rituals, beliefs, and fairytales. For the invited artists, these references are not an escape into the depths of irrationality, but rather a new way of experiencing reality: it is a tool for inhabiting the world in all its richness and multiplicity.”
Cecilia Alemani, curator
Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Giorgio Andreotta Calò was born in Venice in 1979. This is his second participation to the Art Biennale. In 2011, his work was presented at ILLUMInazioni/ ILLUMInations, the 54th Art Biennale, directed by Bice Curiger. He had many solo exhibitions in Italy and worldwide, and also participated in many group shows. One of these was Wanderlust, curated by Cecilia Alemani at High Line Art in New York in 2016.
After studying sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice and the Kunsthochschule in Berlin, Giorgio Andreotta Calò worked as an assistant to Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. He was artist in residence at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam and at the Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Villa Arson in Nice. In 2012, he won the Premio Italia for contemporary art, sponsored by Museo MAXXI, Rome. In 2014, he won the Premio New York, sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Roberto Cuoghi was born in Modena in 1973. He recently presented his work in a retrospective project at the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva, Switzerland that will also include exhibitions at Museo MADRE in Naples, Italy and at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany. He has already participated in two editions of the Art Biennale: Il Palazzo Enciclopedico, the 55th Art Biennale in 2013, directed by Massimiliano Gioni, and Fare Mondi/Making Worlds, the 53rd Art Biennale in 2009, directed by Daniel Birnbaum. In both cases, he received a special mention from the jury. He has been featured in many solo exhibitions and group shows across the world, such as Sequence 1 at Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 2007.
Adelita Husni-Bey was born in Milan in 1985 and has a Libyan-Italian background. Even though she is the youngest artist in this exhibition, she has already received considerable recognition abroad. Her most recent film, After the Finish Line, was screened in January 2017 at the Whitney Museum in New York as part of Dreamlands, curated by Chrissie Iles. She received a Graham Foundation grant for 2016 and is currently working with the educational department of the Serpentine Gallery, London on the project Dependence, Independence, Isolation, to be developed further in 2017. In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Premio MAXXI, an award sponsored by Museo MAXXI, Rome, and won the Premio Illy Under 35 at the 16th Art Quadriennale d’Arte, Altri tempi, altri miti, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome. Husni-Bey took part in the Whitney Independent Study Program in 2012.
The Italian pavilion is the largest national pavilion at the Arsenale. It opened at its current location in 2009, and includes 1,900 m² of indoor space, the two Tese delle Vergini, and about 1,000 m² of outdoor space, the Giardino delle Vergini. Before 2009, Italy used the central building at Giardini as their pavilion. This was designed as the ‘Palazzo Pro Arte’ by Enrico Trevisanato in 1895. It became the ‘Padiglione Italia’ with the current façade by Duilio Torres in 1932.
Viva Arte Viva
Giorgio Andreotta Calò will participate in the ‘Tavola Aperta’ (Open Table) project where artists and visitors will have a casual lunch together to discuss the artist’s work. You can attend this lunch on September 14, at the Sale d’Armi in Arsenale. Reservations are required.
Italy will also be represented at the ‘Viva Arte Viva exhibition’ of Christine Macel by 5 artists: Salvatore Aranciao, Michele Ciacciofera, Giorgio Griffa, Riccardo Guarneri and Maria Lai.
Salvatore Aranciao’s artistic signature is photo-etching, but he works across a range of media such as sculpture, collage, animation and video. His main interest lies in the potential of images, especially in how the images and their meaning can be reframed or reviewed. He always plays with symbols to retain a certain ambivalence in his work. You can discover already some of his work in the video he made for the Artists Practices Project.
Michele Ciacciofera studied landscapes for many years and he is especially interested in the relationship between man and nature. His works deal with existential themes and then shift to more political and social aspects, through a complex visual language of strong symbolic power. He uses sculpture, photography, drawing and painting. You can take a look at what you might expect in his video for the Artists Practices Project.
Giorgio Griffa is an abstract painter who is known for his intense paintings which are reduced to their essential components: canvas, colours and brushstrokes. Griffa’s painting transcribes an idea of rhythm, sequence and the repetition of minimal gestures onto unprimed and unstretched canvases. When not exhibited, the works are folded and stacked, which results in creases that create an underlying grid for his compositions. If you’re curious to see what this means, you can watch his video for the Artists Practices Project.
Riccardo Guarneri has already exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1966. Geometry, signs, rhythm, transparency, stamps and shading are key elements in his acrylic and watercolour paintings. On the surfaces dominated by white and organised in asymmetric compositions, you can see alternating sequences of squares, stripes, strips and diamonds as well as traces of pencil. You can discover some of his work in the video he made for the Artists Practices Project.
Maria Lai, who passed away in 2013 at the age of ninety-three, was born in Sardinia. Even if she spent so many years between Venice, Rome and Cagliari, she found in her native village a solid focus and a source of inspiration. Maria Lai left us a great number of works, such as drawings of landscapes and of working women, portraits, small sculptures, books, sewn canvases, looms, environmental activities and projects. She also dabbled in poetry, cinema, and theater, as she was an extremely curious and capable woman. If you would like to know more about her before you’re heading to Venice, take a look at the video which was made for her.
There are also 2 collateral events of the Art Biennale which include Italian artists. The first one is ‘Alberto Biasi, Sara Campesan, Bruno Munari e altri amici di Verifica 8+1’ at the Istituzione Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa on the San Marco square. The second one focuses on Michelangelo Pistoletto, an Italian painter, action and object artist, and art theorist. He is one of the main representatives of the Italian Arte Povera. You can watch this exhibition in the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore.
Review by The Venice Insider
Thanks to the decision of Cecilia Alemani to limit her selection to 3 artists, you have now ample opportunity to admire the structure and the beauty of the Italian pavilion itself. To emphasize this even more, each artist has created only one installation. Cecilia Alemani could hence be considered the fourth artist at this pavilion.
As for the other artists, I was mainly fascinated by the ‘Imitazione di Cristo’ installation of Roberto Cuoghi. The reproductions of Christ statues are spread across the inflatable structure, as if they are waiting to arise. There are also several body parts laying in an oven, while other parts are mounted to the wall. It almost feels as if you are intruding a secret place where you’re not supposed to be. The atmosphere is difficult to transfer on text, so I suggest you take a look for yourself either in the pavilion or at the pictures below.
Katia – The Venice Insider
If you want to know more about the Art Biennale 2017 and the other national participations, this overview page is a good starting point or you can read my post ‘What to expect from the Art Biennale 2017’. If you want to be informed about new pavilions being added to the site, you can subscribe to The Venice Insider biweekly newsletter.
(Picture in banner: Senza titolo (Laguna Sud) – Giorgio Andreotta Calò – 2007, immagine documentativa dell’azione, Laguna Sud, Venezia, Italia)
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