• Sigmar Polke

    West German Pavilion, Biennale

    Sigmar Polke’s installation in the West German Pavilion was experimental in the truest sense of the word. The title of the project—“Athanor,” the alchemist’s kiln—indicated its alchemic thesis. However, the radical character of Polke’s undertaking sharply distinguished it from the casual treatment of this theme in the Biennale exhibit “Arte e Alchimia” (Art and alchemy). Polke’s alchemic art has little to do with the systematic pursuit of a hermetic science; it is meant, rather, as a metaphor for a way of understanding reality that is truly receptive and hospitable to the unknown. The goal of

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  • Daniel Buren

    French Pavilion, Biennale

    An international art biennial, a city like Venice, summertime, a pavilion in a park—this was the setting into which Daniel Buren placed his work. This context played a major role in the festive character of the work, and functioned as a background against which the intellectual concepts behind the work could materialize into sensual form. It was like a frame into which Buren put his "pictures,” using as his visual tool alternating stripes in various colors and materials. These in turn drew their own contextual web over the given setting, for Buren’s stripes, which he has been using for over 20

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  • Frank Auerbach

    British Pavilion, Biennale

    Frank Auerbach’s 24 oil paintings and 8 drawings on display in the British Pavilion were done between 1977 and 1985. Their repetition of the same subjects and a coherent pictorial form testifies to the tenacity with which the artist has developed his formal language. The theme of the human figure is brought to the limits of representability, while Auerbach’s method of working is brought to the limits of obsession.

    The faces and busts portrayed appear deformed in a superficially expressionistic manner. What actually lends some validity to this construction of form is an untamed pictorial practice

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  • Costas Tsoclis

    Greek Pavilion, Biennale

    Amid the quite often didactic and scholastic seriousness pervading the Venice Biennale, the Greek Pavilion stood happily apart. Costas Tsoclis used the pavilion’s ample space as a public forum in which to reflect on two distinct entities: darkness and light. Within this space he set up a game of mirrors, sinking images and objects into the depth of illusion. Both the real and the reproduced met at an intangible threshold that defied the senses and logic. Underlying Tsoclis’ esthetic is a precise control over the potential of fiction: the mythical tale dissolves into ordinary reality short-circuiting

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  • Isamu Noguchi

    United States Pavilion, Biennale

    It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate centerpiece for Isamu Noguchi’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale than Slide Mantra, 1986. This sweeping white marble spiral incorporates many of the central influences on his work of the past 50 years, including Modernist biomorphic abstraction and the carefully considered, meditative naturalism of Japanese gardens. It demonstrates as well his profound sensitivity to the sensuous properties of materials, and reflects the dual role Noguchi has taken for himself as a sculptor: as a creator both of formally expressive objects and of environments for people

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