Belkis Ayón, Nuestro Deber, 1993. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale.
With its grand return following last year’s postponement, the 2022 Venice Biennale is shaping up to be an extraordinary lineup of the art of this extraordinary time. Those of us in the springtime showers parts of the world would gladly swap the umbrellas for a bit of Italian sunshine and unstructured linen, but with Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary Art Sales just around the corner, we thought it best to highlight a selection of artists exhibiting at a few truly remarkable events, and whose works also feature in our sale. Coincidence, antinomy, and the shrinking world are all motifs of the exhibition, so let us lean into them.
Day 1: Get Surreal
Curated by Cecilia Alemani, The Milk of Dreams will take place in the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale. The exhibition takes its title from a book by Surrealist painter and writer Leonora Carrington, a work in which change, transformation, and otherworldly magic alter the lives and imaginations of its characters. A guiding principle of metamorphosis informs the three themes of the exhibition: the representation of bodies and their changes; the relationship between individuals and technology; and the connection between bodies and the Earth. This showcase offers an opportunity for visitors to engage with some of today’s most wide-ranging artistic perplexities.
The exhibition embraces a series of meta-narratives, which, true to form, intertwine with the history of Surrealism and Carrington’s imaginative work in the context of contemporary ambiguity. These include the emerging world in the wake of the pandemic, environmental responsibility, human and non-human distinctions in technology and progress, and how signs and symbols denote meaning across a narrowing cultural landscape.
Who to See
Left to right: Belkis Ayón, Nuestro Deber, 1993. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale. Felipe Baeza, Xipe Tótec Morado, 2017. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale. Firelei Báez, Demetrea (from the series Geographic Delay), 2010-2011. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale.
Societal impositions and mythmaking run parallel in the compositions of Belkis Ayón, Felipe Baeza, and Firelei Báez. Ayón’s iconographic work opens the exhibition at the Arsenale, while frequencies of dislocation, belonging, and the politics of place unite all three artists. A collograph edition of Nuestro Deber is among the Ayón works on show at The Milk of Dreams.
Left to right: Jamian Juliano-Villani, Biking to the Garden of Eden, 2014. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale. Alice Rahon, Dans la nuit du commencement, 1944. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Morning Sale. Louise Bonnet, Untitled, 2017. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale.
Probing the absurdities of consumer culture, freewheeling American artist Jamian Juliano-Villani pulls no punches in her humorous, acerbic paintings. Combining enchanted imagery with hypnogogic abstraction, Alice Rahon provides historical counterpoint, along with a dreamlike haze of light and color. Rahon, like Leonora Carrington, was a French artist who lived and practiced in Mexico, where the Surrealist movement gained considerable traction after WWII. The exaggerated proportions or Louise Bonnet take on an almost waterlogged dimension, with cartoonish body parts and oversized figures drawing attention to the grotesquely comedic human body in movement, despite its cumbersome form.
Left: Tishan Hsu, Moon Goon, 1983. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale. Right: Louise Nevelson, Cityscape, 1986. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Morning Sale.
The ambient hum of the machine age resonates from the work of Tishan Hsu, whose organic forms operate in the margins of an increasingly foreclosed future, a dystopian vision awash in color. Louise Nevelson’s compositions absorb the external world into a set of shadows, spaces, and interior landscapes as embodied by her monochromatic sculptures. A pioneer in installation art, Nevelson’s inclusion marks the 60th anniversary of her debut at Venice, and those with a keen eye might see her all over the city: her portrait is adorned on walls and water boats to announce her presence at this and another dedicated exhibition.
Day 2: Collateral & Other Events
From the general arrives the particular, and after a day of exploring the wide-ranging implications of cybernetic futures and post-human societies, a return to the here and now – although no less vexing – offers a nice distinction for these single artist exhibitions.
Who to see
Claire Tabouret, Les deux amazones, 2015. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale.
Claire Tabouret: I am spacious, singing flesh
Palazzo Cavanis, Dorsoduro 920
April 23 – November 27, 2022
Organizing Institution: FABA Fundación Almine Y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte
Curated by Kathryn Weir, I am spacious, singing flesh is a survey exhibition of French figurative painter Claire Tabouret, exploring the concept of transformation through inner change, collective identities, and relationships between humans, ecology, and the supernatural.
Kehinde Wiley, Big Daddy Kane, 2005. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale.
Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence
Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore
April 23 – July 24, 2022
Organizing Institution: Musée d'Orsay
Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence reckons with American brutality and the living phantoms of global colonialism around the theme of the fallen hero. Curated by Christophe Leribault, the exhibition expands Wiley’s key inspirations in the context of contemporary mediums of violence, whether through police killings of Black and Brown people across the world, state control over bodily autonomy, international conflict, or the media with which these struggles become flattened against a backdrop of resilience and overcoming.
Hermann Nitsch, Untitled, 2012. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Morning Sale.
Hermann Nitsch, 20th painting action
Oficine 800, Fondamenta S. Biagio, Venice
April 19 – July 20, 2022
Organizing Institution: Zuecca Projects and Galerie Kandlhofer
Hermann Nitsch, who just passed away at age 83, originally created and presented his 20th painting action at the Wiener Secession, Vienna, in 1987. This exhibition organized by Zuecca Projects and Galerie Kandlhofer is the first time it has been shown since, with a massive 16-by 65-foot work surrounded by smaller canvasses, all from Helmut Essl’s private holdings. It is the artist’s only painting action that remains in a single collection.
Louise Nevelson,The Wedding Present, 1977-1979. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Morning Sale.
Louise Nevelson. Persistence
Procuratie Vecchie, Piazza San Marco 1218/B
April 23 – September 11, 2022
Organizing Institution: The Louise Nevelson Foundation
A landmark presentation of the artist’s work in the historic rooms of the Procuratie Vecchie in Venice’s Piazza San Marco, Louise Nevelson. Persistence, marks the 60th anniversary of Nevelson’s representation of the United States in the American Pavilion at the Biennale Arte in 1962. Featuring over 60 works created between the 1950s and the 1980s, the exhibition is curated by Julia Bryan-Wilson, professor of modern and contemporary art at the University of California, Berkeley, and will display Nevelson’s iconic, large-scale black sculptures in painted wood, as well as her painted white sculpture, including the multi-part columnar installation Dawn’s Presence — Three (1975), as well as works in gold, such as The Golden Pearl (1962). The exhibition highlights the relationship between Nevelson’s work as a sculptor and her lifelong practice of creating wall-based assemblage and collage.
Stanley Whitney, Untitled (#4), 2006. 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York, Afternoon Sale.
Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings
Palazzo Tiepolo Passi, San Polo 2774
April 23 – 27 November, 2022
Organizing Institution: Buffalo AKG Art Museum
For the first time, Stanley Whitney’s works return to their cultural birthplace. Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings spans the artist’s works across large and small-scale paintings and works on paper created at a pivotal time in Whitney’s practice as he worked in Italy during the early 1990s. Taking a deeper look at how important Italian art factored into the artist’s oeuvre, the exhibition is co-curated by Cathleen Chaffee, Chief Curator, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Vincenzo de Bellis, Curator and Associate Director of Programs, Visual Arts, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and will be accompanied by a catalogue to be published in Summer 2022.