Lee Klein

The 58th Venice Biennale "May You Live in Interesting Times"

Running: May 11 - November 24. 2019
Part One
By Lee Klein

Photo Credit: LaBiennale.org (Biennale Arte 2019 | 58th Exhibition)

Photo Credit: LaBiennale.org (Biennale Arte 2019 | 58th Exhibition)

Oscar Wilde, never did declare, that he had nothing to declare, but, his genius which is not to say he had nothing to declare...

It is fake news; alternative facts all over again, given a different name in a different context from satire or a byline owner attempting to proprietize a zinger from another word slinger. Therein when Ralph Rugoff the curator of the 58th Venice Biennale selected for his phrase of departure "may you live in interesting times", an ancient Chinese proverb which it turns was not an ancient Sino saying at all, he went straight into alternative practices, mirroring alternative facts, with one set of work by each main exhibition Biennale artist in each of the two main pavilions respectively; the Arsenale, and the Giardini.

This all sounded superb to this future viewer of the exhibition while watching the press conference on youtube while on an exercise bike at the New York Sports Club elite gym on East 23rd street after going on a thrift shop safari run and acquiring super size blue linen Ralph Lauren polo pants to be worn in Venezia.  Once onsite it just seemed like a neat way to repackage curation and offer an avenue to see a more in depth selection of each artist's works . .i.e. less artists more pieces per practitioner then in the exhibitions which immediately preceded this one....

Having been (being) an obsessive-compulsive wikipedian it goes that a few of the artists in the survey 's English online encyclopedia pages are ones which I created.  This gave this person onus to stay and watch Alex Da Corte's 57 varieties (title and numerical count taken from Heinz by an artist obsessed with Ketchup who did time in the Ketchup city of Pittsburgh and who doesn't love someone who loves ketchup look at me I am playing ketchup all the time) series of video vignettes.   Rugoff has described this piece as monumental (think perhaps in a manner ala Christian Marclay's "Clock" which turned back time at the 2011 Biennale or "66 Scenes from America" by Jorgen Leth which is very close to Da Corte's artistic heart as for it is from whence Warhol's Burger King Super Bowl ad came and you guessed it in which he is playing ketchup). This work includes, among other episides, Elphaba the wicked witch of the West joining a silent Oscar the grouch on screen to croon blue over you and a reclining daisy self plucking ...

But a Mexican artist brought a wall; Teresa Margolies in the Giardini pavilion implanted a found object taken from a school in the city of Juarez where four young women died in drug related gun violence.  This can be read as a reminder (as is the character based on Joseph Beuys in the stellar German film "Never Look Away" talking of the Berlin Wall and how it is [was] almost art) that it is a symbol of today which we cannot avoid. In the meantime the artist Laure Provost within her work "The Deep Blue Sea Surrounding You"  announced in her movie in the super popular French pavilion "welcome immigrants" while looking down and talking to tidal fish.

Lee Klein on Cathedral of St. John Divine

The Phoenix's by Xu Bin fly through the hollow halls of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine like Dragons above the hallowed grounds of Harry Potter's Hogwarts, though the sculptural creatures are in fact stationary and fill up most of the overhead space.  Phoenixes mythically rise from the ashes and these were were created by the aforementioned Chinese artists detritus found at a construction site at which he witnessed conditions he deemed unsafe.  Perhaps these giant birds having taken suggested flight. Also speak to New York City's great unfinished cathedral or the Gotham after 911 soaring anew and then again most likely Christ arisen as per their being placed in the seat of the Episcopalian archdiocese of New York.  

Another Venetian tour in three parts by Lee Klein

The 55th Biennale d'Arte di VeneziaJune 6 - November 24, 2013

photo (2)

Another Venetian tour in three parts by Lee Klein

For Sir Anthony Caro the 2013 55th edition of the Venice Biennale was to be his finale, for the Maldives forecasters have predicted impending doom in the form of an over wash (and their spillover here was to be competing exhibitions), do we taste the scent of our demise as Hemingway once did fish?

Welcome to La Serenissima 2013 seventy degrees plus Fahrenheit in November in NYC the once mighty Christine Quinn was going, going, about to be gone (at least from public office) in the Piazza San Marco the Marc Quinn was gone as well.

The first part of main exhibit in the Arsenale, curated by the New York situated Italian curator and associate director of the New Museum of Contemporary art, Massimiliano Gioni offered large sections of many of the included artists work in spaces within a space redone by the architect Annabel Selldorf….But this was the “Encyclopedia of the Mind”, based on the architectural model for an impossible dream never realized by the late Italian born Pennsylvanian American resident, Marino Auriti., The aforementioned practitioner whose original piece was placed here as this exhibition's centerpiece at its entrance would if alive have seen his attempt at a mad caveat mixed in with contemporary art, instillations, curiosities and artifacts. The exhibition meanwhile meant to be frivolous (which it tended to be more so of in the Italian pavilion) as it continued here in the Arsenale was a bit heavy; especially so when it came to whole huge chambers filled with works like “The Venetians” by Pawel Althamer.

While the life masks attached to the Pole’s blue wiry metal skeletons were very effective, it became a huge monochromatic assembly, wherein one could get lost before beginning to get ahold of this whole thing. Here say marrying John Ahearn to kinetic art it might trounce the memory of more sublime efforts, though through and through it was lyrical in its moments as well (as if were any of the Venetians he had chosen some of the same Venetians you had seen on the streets and the canals of city by the sea as in you have two artistic subjects in common).

Here in the historic boat parking lot whole sections were given over to rising art world phenoms like the Vietnamese born Danish performance art influenced instillation artist, Danh Vo and Phyllidia Barlow’s hanging detritus. Specifically the British art professor who left academe to pursue her own work piece’s blended right in with the scarred walls of the Arsenale. The segue had this oft voyaging re-canter thinking of our very own Shalom Neuman.. He who has very often offered the word “Fusion” for interdisciplinary work which attempts to well seamlessly well fuse (though more aptly converge and the Italian creation Fusionisimo works wonders) but these were at a broader confluence it is very much easier at close range in a Veruschka type of way Rothko , seamless.

The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America 1947-2000

Welcome to a magic-tragic carpet ride where all the stories of what made the desert oasis of Las Vegas the overblown Oz it is today come together as one.The story of Las Vegas and the story of it's making according to authors Roger Morris and Sally Denton is the story of America. This is the book that credits the entire cast: the cowboys, the mob, the miners, the Shepard's, the military industrial complex, the entertainers, the teamsters, the Mormon bankers, and the journalists-In fact almost everybody except Hunter S. Thompson and Dave Hickey.

I thought it would take until the turn of the century to read The Turn of the Century, the 659 Kurt Anderson novel on what it is like to be a middle aged post-millenial infotainment yuppie. In this tale set in the twelve-month cycle just after New Years 2000, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Zimbalist and her husband George Matcier beat a path through a mercenary infested jungle of avaricious do-gooders for themselves parading under the professions of media executive, financier, and boutique industry irreplacable....

Review of "Lunar Park"

So here this writer sits as if an upwardly flowing odalisque and on his futon types on his laptop in order to compare Jonathan Safran Foer's "Everything is illuminated" (as further illuminated by the movie version directed by Leiv Schreiber and starring Toby Maguire { a piece in which the author refers to himself as the writer or Jonathan Safran Foer who is a character in the story itself in the third person via the voice of a narrator a young Ukrainian man named Alex who travels with a dog) (a bitch he calls her) named Sammy Davis jr. jr.} to Brett Easton Ellis's "Lunar Park" (where the writer himself is the character in the first person living his life in what might have been or a duplicate reality (a what if?) which then is seamlessly blended in with strains based on reality and a chaser of a couple of shots of that which is otherwise embellished as well).


The virtual and partial symbolic representation for and replacement of the physical elements of human life are monumental alterations to the nature in which those with access and or witness to technology interact with and within the universe. As the time members of our species engage in and between simulated and physical realities fluctuates the pictures that our perception forms of the tangible elements of existence change. Moreover then henceforth artists' and viewers' respective expressions and or understanding of physical reality in the fine and applied arts in physical space and cyberspace evolve. Summarily one of the phenomenological progressions in this relatively new inter-dimensional dialectic addressing how both painterly and morphically responsive digital textures emerge with the facility of one paradigm translated into the dimension of another (as well as in what could be termed visually hyphenated hybrid forms) is "Hypertexture".

Reveiw of "The Corrections"

Far be it from this reviewer to sound like the book jacket blurbs on the hardcover edition of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections-.however it was a smooth ride. Through what terrain was the cruise control on you ask? Through the dispersing of a family and three of its five core members from Midwest to East Coast. The volume is about values and truth; lies, and what matters at closing time. Each time the emergency brake on the narrative of this volume is released it always manages to effortlessly return to its strident course. Meanwhile Franzen's wordy pour as fluid as petrol eventually leaves us off at the finale {which in the end remains perhaps the most questionable feature of this book}.


The All star corps of an exquisite corpse/becomes a corpse/What becomes an exquisite corpse most One should walk into "Desire unbound", the survey of work from the late Surrealist movement (which originated at the Tate Gallery in London and now at the time of this writing in a re-charted version at the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York); as one should walk into any exhibition -or for that matter into a dream. Therein having dropped as many preconceptions as possible one should in the best of all possible worlds at least try to re-examine what is before one under the new parameters set up for them to take in the art.


"Dada," was criticism of art in and of itself, so, to sit and criticize criticism is like the proverbial dust inheriting the wind. The movement was oh so brief!...and now the venerable venues the Metropolitan Museum and National Gallery of Art in WDC have tried to recreate the spirit of via its' objects its' films and to a lesser or greater degree it's now all but deceased personalities.

Review of "American Legacy"

How can one review a bequest but if by request? Just as per a collection of works not yet donated but expected to be bequeathed an exhibition of a donated collection or an amalgamation of different donors gifts is like a meal at a restaurant -the gift in the end is the purchaser's choice. So in reviewing "American Legacy" (an exhibition of works recently donated or otherwise coerced -just kidding) by members of the board of trustees of the Whitney Museum of American Art I will just speak on individual works and other movements in pieces.

Review of "The Cremaster Cycle"

The over the well of and over the railing wall of the museum jumbotron conglomerate with the Mathew Barney "Cremaster" retrospective startles you at the summit improper at the Guggenheim showplace on Fifth Avenue. Here the ultimate art stadium of winds; ascents, and descents is (and maybe now at the time of your reading-was) given forth to spectacle legitimized by the invisible critical faculty (as to whomever the spectator horde becomes that day might begin to drool over the ledge to the scenes of punk mosh pits; Richard Serra slinging sculptural porridge, and paralympian champion Aimee Mullins reconfigured as a cheetah -all from the Cremaster three installment of the five film cycle around which the entire exhibit centers?)