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Posted inArt

Art That Thinks Inside the Box

What is it about boxes that is so fascinating? I was thinking this as I went into Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art to see Pandora’s Box, a show that displays artist Joseph Cornell’s signature assemblages alongside the works of artists who allegedly were inspired by him or who were in artistic sympathy with him. I can think of historical precedents: medieval reliquaries; Victorian memento mori, which often look strikingly like Cornell’s miniature worlds. But these forebears don’t quite explain the combination of weirdness and visual beauty of something made by Cornell, nor the undoubted fascination with him since his death. His boxes frame the objects in a different way than a conventional picture frame, of course; they concentrate the viewer’s attention; but there’s something else, which finally came to me after I’d seen this show.

Posted inArt

Seeing Through the Crowds at the 2011 Venice Biennale Part I: The Giardini and Pavilions

Editor’s Note: Peter Dobey published a series of photo essays (1, 2, 3) about this year’s Venice Biennale at the beginning of June. This is a long-form essay (to be published in three parts) that explores the work at the Biennale.

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PARIS — It is difficult to write about Venice, just like it is difficult to really SEE Venice. Individual experiences of art fade away into the oversaturation that is the Venice Biennale in the same way the city of Venice is sinking into the Adriatic. There is the ontological experience of Venice and the problem of one’s ability to encounter it. Then there is the physical impossibility to see everything the Biennale offers you and all the things it doesn’t, especially when in Italy.

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Photos from the 54th Venice Biennale, Part 1

The voluminousness of the Venice Biennale can be overwhelming, much like the city of Venice itself. Talking with Venetian friends, I heard the city described as a “creature,” a labyrinthine monster that will suffocate you if you don’t know how to find the campos, or other open-air spaces where you can stretch out and breathe. Inhabited by more tourists than actual residents, the city is shaped by the pre-conceived notions of its visitors; in short, Venice is a place that does not fully exist. The same feeling follows you into the exhibitions of the Biennale.