The 2015 Venice Biennale – Part 2

The 2015 Venice Biennale is drawing to a close. On November 23 of this year the Giardini and Arsenale in the Castello will once again grow sleepy and quiet until 2017, awaiting with anticipation what the next Venice Art Biennale will bring.

We have been to Venice several times, and have attended two Biennales. 2013 was perhaps the most enjoyable and enlightening art exhibition Barbara and I have ever attended. We were exhilarated, and returned home with a new perspective on art’s ability to transform and transport the viewer. 2015 was more troubling – with a heavy dose of the curator’s global-political agenda, but we came away wanting more. Our conclusion? Even a “bad” Venice Biennale is well worth experiencing! We had many stimulating conversations with our 2015 Arts Sojourn Venice group, discussing the pros and cons of this year’s exhibit and are looking forward to the next Biennale.

On my last blog post I shared a few of the many works of art we experienced. Here are a few more:

Melvin Edwards, b.1936 US

Melvin Edwards, b.1936 US

One of the first galleries at the main Arsenale pavilion contained various sculptures by the African-American artist Melvin Edwards. Although some of the more traditional works at the Biennale, these welded steel pieces were very powerful. Part of the artist’s series of Lynch Fragments, these works, reminiscent of African tribal masks hung at eye-level, fit the curator’s agenda, but had a presence that some of the more politically charged works did not have.


A (for us) unknown self-taught artist from Sierra Leone, Abu Bakarr Mansaray, presented a series of strange drawings of UFO-like killing machines done in graphite, pen and colored pencil. These highly detailed, eccentric drawings were  great flights of outsider imagination that demanded close attention.

"The Witch Plane"

“The Witch Plane”

IMG_0990IMG_0993There were also many large site-specific installations of varying degrees of success.

Ibraham Mahama's site-specific wrapped buildings at the Arsenale

Ibraham Mahama’s site-specific wrapped buildings at the Arsenale

Katharina Grosse's "painting" installation

Katharina Grosse’s “painting” installation

One of the most haunting pieces was by artist/musician, Jason Moran. Beautifully nuanced piano music filled that section of the Arsenale, obviously being played live, but when the piano came into view it was player-less although the keys and pedals were moving. This was like no player-piano in existence

Jason Moran's programmed piano

Jason Moran’s programmed piano

At the end of a second long day at the Biennale we sat at a bar across from our hotel in Cannaregio. I wrote in my journal – “Hot, tired, and totally arted out.”  A visit to the Venice Biennale leaves you feeling like you’ve just eaten an amazing meal and can’t take another bite, but wish you could. We can’t wait to see what 2017 will have in store.

[boilerplate – artssojourn]


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