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Lynne Cooke

A SIMPLE WHITE PORTICO flanked by a pair of tall palms frames a picture-perfect view of the ocean. With its pristine, stripped-down classicism, more deco than totalitarian, the facade of what was once the Padiglione Italia (newly dubbed the Palazzo delle Esposizioni), as beguilingly made over by John Baldessari, instantly conjures Venice—Venice Beach, that is. Since notions of displacement, projection, figuration, and absorption take priority in Daniel Birnbaum’s exhibition over modernism’s once-dominant paradigms—critical participation, presentness, literalness, and self-reflection—the veteran Angeleno’s work (Ocean and Sky [with Two Palm Trees], 2009) serves as the show’s ideal point of entry.

In a characteristically clear and forthcoming statement outlining his curatorial approach, Birnbaum disavows any desire to implement a master plan for his contribution to the Fifty-third Venice

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