In a kick in the teeth to the Biennale Costco crew, Pinault’s minions have practically emptied their beautiful exhibition space of everything. In fact the entire exhibit, “Slip of the Tongue”, is nearly invisible in the space of that building’s gorgeous interior. And that’s probably a good thing, because most of the the art installed is not the usual art fair anti-art, but the usual institutional non-art. It hardly exists at all. A couple of times I became very angry about the layout of the show – Sturtevant’s recreation of Stella’s painting hung on a crappy wall up on the second floor. If it had been hung elsewhere it might have been better able to make its point about originality and assimilation. The room that contained the Nancy Speros made them seem flimsy and tired, hung as they were on the brushed concrete walls. They needed more light, less grayness. Throughout the show unnecessary penises, vaginas and other tired bodily organs would occasionally pop into view trying to vie for your attention. A detailed toilet seat, a Rodin body cast, a tree stump, a piano covered in applied goop, a Picasso – it all sounds wonderful in theory, but visually the art on view couldn’t hold the walls in that building. Look, the truth is that building is a fucking monster – historic and contemporary at once it is layered with the life of an empire – and the work it shows has to be just as thick in visual associations or it just gets lost. A photograph of a hairy masturbator won’t cut it in that space. In the end I decided that this particular show would have been much more interesting in an easier space – more of a white cube experience. The Dogona made mince meat out of it. As I’ve said before – place is everything.
The other Pinault experience is at the Palazzo Grassi and it is far more enjoyable. The show is a retrospective of Martial Raysse’s work, an artist who I do not know. It covers the 1960s forward, and it mixes present and past with panache. You can pretty much suss out the 60s stuff straight away – that work is really of its time – photo based, advertising color and composition, very Euro Pop-pie. But as time went on he became a more “conservative” Pop-surrealist and the paintings are more personal and introspective in nature. Though many of the works suffer from the aging straight male artist thing – quirky depictions of louche behavior by younger sexy types – the work manages to get thicker visually. He is a painter, and you can tell he enjoys painting. There were a couple of vitrines containing some smaller works and drawings that held some wonderful images. I would have stolen one little painting of a nude – about 9” x 6” – where the image and the paint handling just clicked in an offhand and masterly way. Too bad the guard was practically breathing down my neck at that moment…. Or maybe not – I have no desire to be cooling my heels in a Venetian jail, thank you very much….
The show also presented a couple of Rayesse video presentations in half dark rooms – Surrealist inspired, psycho-sexual melodramas, that I spent no time with at all. My apologies if I’ve missed the artist’s intentions. In a particularly droll minute and a half that I spent in the first video room – a man in a wolf mask drags a desperate costumed woman up to a bedroom against her will. There was little doubt as to where this film was going. And there was absolutely no doubt that I would not be visiting the other video presentation. Ah, filmmaking…. Better to just stick with the goofy paintings for the rest of the exhibit.