Venice: Pre-Biennale - MUST SEEs - Le Stanze del Vetro - Fragile? exhibition. The Fragile? exhibition, until July 28, curated by Mario Codognato, at the new glass museum Le Stanze del Vetro on the magical island of San Giorgio Maggiore just across from San Marco features 28 works of art by internationally renowned artists. In the context of Venetian glassmaking and its peculiar craft connotations, Fragile? aims at taking a different yet equally important aspect into account, namely the use of glass as a found object, with specific metaphorical and linguistic features.
Above: Giuseppe Penone – Barra d’aria, 1969-1996. The work Barra d’aria is a glass parallelepiped through which the artist stimulates a perception different than that of the noises of the city. The air it contains becomes the constructive material of the work, to which one thus attributes, as would latter also be the case for the celebrated work Soffio, (1978), sculptural value and an automatic process.
Mona Hatoum – Drowning Sorrow (wine bottles) 2004, detail. Drowning Sorrow is an installation comprised of two hundred wine bottles that seem to be set in cement, in an elegant circular arrangement. The glass bottles, the transparency of which creates the plays of light and shadow often present in her work, if on the one hand clearly refer to the bitter habit of drowning one’s sorrow in alcohol, on the other hand, caught in a flow that has crystallized their position, can be read as a metaphor for a shipwreck or romantic drift since they are potential ferrymen of anonymous messages.
Gilbert and George - Reclining Drunk, 1973. The work Reclining Drunk directly calls to mind the widespread problem of alcoholism in London, previously addressed in other works. Pursuing the credo of the total superimposition of art and life, the banal gin bottle crumpled by heat, or better, by suffering, rises to a work of art and becomes a metaphor for the existential suffering of humanity.
Ai Weiwei – Dust to Dust, 2009. Dust to Dust is a simple glass jar, like one you could buy at Ikea, a symbol of the conformity of modern industry, it contains within it the pulverized remains of an ancient ceramic vase from the Neolithic period, destroyed by the artist himself, who with this irreverent act transformed an ancient urn into a modern one. Condensing the memory of history into a handful of dust, translating the container into the contained.
Le Stanze del Vetro - Fragile? exhibition. Instead of the precise traits of manufactured artworks, other aspects are sought, such as symbolic transparency, fragility and resistance, imprecision and smoothness, along with the construction of elements that draw inspiration from reality and contemporary artistic language. “In the 21st century, because of the historical avant-garde movements, visual arts cease to be a sole mimesis of reality through painting and sculpture, states curator Mario Codognato (above), by using objects and materials taken from the real world and industrial production, a new metaphoric, yet tautologically concrete, dimension is born. Glass, thanks to its widespread use in architecture and its double nature of transparent medium and at the same time barrier, becomes a new linguistic tool through which to create images”.
Artist and the exhibitions’ art director Laura de Santillana and chairman of Pentagram Stiftung Marie-Rose Kahane.
Joseph Beuys – Terremoto in Palazzo, 1981, detail. Terremoto in Palazzo is a disturbing installation, loaded with memory and collective pain, made by the artist right after the 1980 earthquake in Irpinia on invitation by the Neapolitan gallerist Lucio Amelio, who dedicated an important contemporary art exhibition to the tragic event. The symbolic power of exploded glass in the center of the installation reflects the fragility and transitoriness of existence and contrasts with the precariousness of the still-intact jars that support the furniture, a metaphor for a civilization in delicate balance.
On the scientific committee David Landau.
Fondazione Giorgio Cini Onlus, general secretary Pasquale Gagliardi.
Marcel Duchamp – Air de Paris, 1919-1939. Duchamp’s sarcastic irreverent practice is also present in the work Air de Paris, a classic pharmacy cruet that the artist paradoxically claimed to be full of air from the French capital. The transparency of the glass container underlies the inconsistency of the assumption, that it is the presence of air, which is obviously invisible and above all the immateriality of the work itself, the value of which resides fundamentally in the artist’s assertion.
Damien Hirst – Death or Glory, 2001. Death or Glory is a title which carries within the ambivalence of the artist’s work in the precise desire to give rise in the public to a double reaction of attraction/repulsion, to attempt a representation of human transitoriness and at the same time to proclaim the victory of science over flash. The fascination of Hirst’s work lies in the contradiction of the message even before the provocation of the language, in the capacity to formalize the anxiety of contemporary humankind through tangible visions.
Cyril de Commarque (above) – Migrants, 2013. In the installation Migrants, bottles are on the one hand a metaphor for the forced voyage in the desperation for survival of the African populations constrained to travel the waters of the Mediterranean to cross invisible boundaries of Europe in a makeshift way and, on the other hand, the symbol of a limbo, a condition at once both uncertain and hopeful. In a composition organic in tone and emulating the vascular system, glass bottles contain throbbing forms similar to a heart or lungs that fill the room with the sound of voices, anonymous and confused messages that create a sensation of disorientation, a state of precariousness, of tension and finally of personal involvement in this collective drama.