Critics’ Picks

Ed Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz, End of the Bucket of Tar with Speaker Trail No. 2, 1974, 
mixed media, 
104 x 61 x 34”.


“Venice in Venice”

Palazzo Contarini Dagli Scrigni
Dorsoduro 1057/D
June 1–July 31

This show is a herald of sorts for “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980”—the much-anticipated exhibition and cultural events extravaganza planned to commence this fall. Part of the Getty Foundation’s initiative to rediscover and anthologize the distinctive LA art scene, it was produced specifically for the Fifty-Fourth Venice Biennale, but unlike the Biennale’s many other collateral events, this particular show demonstrates an intrinsic connection to the host city. The show’s stated theme, “glow and reflection,” references water and light—two of the natural phenomena that are at the core of Venetian art—but the gathering presents work from the past fifty years made in the other, Southern Californian, Venice.

The seventy-one objects in the exhibition have found their places among the two floors of an early-seventeenth-century palazzo on the Grand Canal. The water-facing front hallway emphasizes the water’s reflection through Mary Corse’s Untitled (White Multi Inner Band, Beveled), 2010, in which reflective canvas panels are studded with glass microspheres in their acrylic. The adjacent dark rooms to the right of the canal entrance explore the possibilities of light, with Laddie John Dill’s reconsideration of natural and man-made matter in his juxtaposition of sand and fluorescent tubing, and Robert Irwin’s, James Turell’s, and Ron Cooper’s varied dematerializations of the object through light. The grand main floor is dedicated to the assemblage works of George Herms, Tony Berlant, Bruce Conner, the finish fetishists, Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, and John McCracken, who drew on the aesthetics and technology of surfing and custom car culture.

The curators, Tim Nye and Jacqueline Miro, have underscored many correlations between the two Venices by juxtaposing the older and the more contemporary—for example, placing Bell’s glass and steel cubes in the proximity of ancient mirrors, and siting Ed and Nancy Kienholz’s 1974 coffin-themed mixed-media installation in the chapel room. The final (or the starting) touch is the quintessential Venetian tropes—gondolas. Two of these vessels, placed at the canal entrance, were custom-painted by Billy Al Bengston in Ducati colors and dedicated to the memory of his friend John McCracken.