May 2011: In praise of doubt @ Punta della Dogana

Donald Judd, Installation view Punta della Dogana, 2011
Untitled, 1968, Stainless steel, 122 x 304,8 x 304,8 cm; Untitled, 1977, 4 units, Stainless steel; 148 x 148 x 148 cm each
Untitled, 1989, Plywood, 4 parts, each 50 x 100 x 50 cm, Courtesy Froehlich Collection, Stuttgart
Untitled, 1989, Douglas Fir plywood, 5 2 units, each 50 x 100 x 50 cm, Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Untitled, 1989, Douglas Fir plywood; 49.8 x 100 x 49.8 cm, Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Untitled, 1978, Cadmium red oil on American Douglas Fir plywood; 50.2 x 99 x 50.2 cm, Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Copyright ART Copyright Judd Foundation, by SIAE 2011; Copyright Palazzo Grassi, photo: ORCH orsenigo_chemollo


In praise of doubt
Punta della Dogana
Dorsoduro, Venice
10 April through 31 December 2012

Vernissages hosted by the François Pinault Foundation are always delightful events, but in this case even if you're not the recipient of any special invitation the show deserves a visit. It doesn’t even matter if you're not fond of the kitsch examples of Thomas Schütte, Jeff Koons, David Hammons, Maurizio Cattelan or Subdoh Gupta that are a recurring presence within this huge collection and, of course, within the show. There is something striking in Caroline Bourgeois’ presentation of In Praise of Doubt. Never before has the space has been used in such a wise, elegantly intense way; this time, the curatorial intentions really do not miss out on the opportunity to pose questions and involve the spectators. In light of this, the previous long-running show by Francesco Bonami and Alison Gingeras (Mapping the Studio) can be read today as a sensual exposure rather than an exhibition aiming to intellectually stimulate the viewer.

The “doubt” of the title refers to the meaning and boundaries of authorship in the field of visual arts, through a complex system of quotations integrating the “originals” by adding new meanings based on artist’s provenance and context. In other words: read the labels carefully and please avoid guessing who actually made the artwork.

In the twentieth century the first artist to more deeply analyze the status of the artwork - by destroying it through readymades - was probably Marcel Duchamp. In this sense it is useful to start our literal tour of the show with the artworks of by Elaine Surtevant. She “simply“ creates replicas of other artists work, as in Duchamp 1200 Coal Bags (1973-1992) which reconstructs the famous duchampian installation for the Surrealist show in 1938, or in Felix Gonzales-Torres AMERICA (2004) in which the cuban artist's impressive curtain has been removed from the show, replicating the recognizable light bulbs.

Sturtevant, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, AMERICA AMERICA, 2004
Installation, Light bulbs, rubber light sockets and cords; dimensions variable
Courtesy Sturtevant; Copyright Palazzo Grassi, photo: ORCH orsenigo_chemollo

The extensive use of quotation is also present in the site-specific installation entitled Appunti per una costruzione (“Notes for a Building”) by Tatiana Trouvé who is indebted to figures of Arte Povera (Jannis Kounellis, for instance). The concrete cube conceived by Tadao Ando in the core of Punta della Dogana’s space is occupied by two huge, stratified canvases by Julie Mehretu. They are reminiscent of CY Towmbly’s graffiti, but after a closer investigation one can distinguish different superimpositions of architectural elements with abstract calligraphic signs in crayon, pen or ink.

Roni Horn’s trompe-l’oeil Well and Truly (2009-2010) both echoes Rachel Whiteread's translucent structures and dialogues with Donal Judd's minimal works from the Seventies at the beginning of the show. Chen Zhen’s Crystal Landscape of Inner Body (2000) recalls Louise Bourgeois’ use of glass, although Zhen’s organs represent not a critique of feminine roles, but the sick organs of the artist himself, who suffered from leukemia.

Probably the artist least well-displayed is King Bruce (Nauman). But this is due to the fact that Venetian visitors still have in mind the perfect luminous presentation at the US Pavilion (Topological Gardens 2009) or at the Hamburgher Bahnhof (Dream Passages 2010). Instead of being located in a blindingly white space, 3 Heads Fountain (2005) has been sited in a dark room, mostly illuminated by the neon Perfect Door/Perfect Odor/Perfect Rodo (1972).

The most interesting installation is undoubtedly Roxy’s (1962) by Edward Kienholz. When looking inside this reconstructed brothel the viewer encounters different horribly transfigured sculpture-dolls and the experience is total: visual, theatrical and historical simultaneously. Kienholz has had an immense influence on many artists today such as Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley and Damien Hirst and this gives perspective on the importance of the installation for the Pinault Collection on the whole.

Edward Keinholz, Roxys, 1960-1961
Installation, Mixed media, 8 figures, furniture, bric-a-brac, incense, disinfectant, perfume, juke-box, clothing etc.
Copyright 2011 Kienholz. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery, New-York & L.A. Louver, Venice, California
Copyright Palazzo Grassi, photo: ORCH orsenigo_chemollo

Julie Mehretu, Untitled, 2011
Ink and acrylic on canvas; cm 455,9 x 345,4 x 5
Courtesy the artist and Carlier | Gebauer; Copyright Palazzo Grassi, photo: ORCH orsenigo_chemollo

Bruce Nauman, Installation view Punta della Dogana, 2011
3 Heads Fountain, 2005, Epoxy resin, fiberglass, wire, plastic tubes, water pump, wood basin, ruber pond lined
Element (sculpture), 24,5 x 53,3 x 53,5 cm
Perfect Door, Perfect Odor, Perfect Rodo, 1965, Neon tubing with clear glass tubing, suspension frames
(3 parts); 3 x (54.4 x 73.3 x 5.7 cm)
B. Nauman by SIAE 2011, Copyright Palazzo Grassi, photo: ORCH orsenigo_chemollo

Chen Zhen, Crystal Landscape of Inner Body, 2000
Crystal, metal, glass; 95 x 70 x 190 cm
Copyright C. Zhen by SIAE 2011, Courtesy Galleria Continua, San Gimignano/Beijing/Le Moulin
Copyright Palazzo Grassi, photo: ORCH orsenigo_chemollo

Eleonora Charans

Eleonora Charans is a Ph.D candidate in Theories and History of Arts at the School of Advanced Studies in Venice. Her research is about the E. Marzona Collection.

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