Cristina Ruiz: Punta della Dogana looks to the past

This exhibition, entitled "Prima Materia", is worth the trip alone for the spectacular juxtaposition in its central gallery of Arte Povera works by Giulio Paolini, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto and others, with work made by artists of the Japanese Mono-Ha [School of Things] movement who used the same humble materials as their European counterparts at almost exactly the same time. "Although the two groups were aware of one another they evolved independently," says Martin Bethenod, the director of Punta della Dogana. Kishio Suga's Gap of the entrance to the Space, an installation of zinc plates and rocks, originally made in 1979, and Nobuo Sekine's Phase of Nothingness—Water, two lacquered steel tubs of different shapes which contain exactly the same amount of water, first made in 1969, are two highlights of a display which instills a supreme sense of calm.

In the foreground, Kishio Suga, Gap of the Entrance to the Space, 1979-2012. On the wall, Nobuo Sekine, Phase of Nothingness, made of cloth and stone (right), 1970-1994, and a Giuseppe Penone tree (left)

On the opposite end of the Zen spectrum is Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch's hyper-charged, anxiety-inducing, immersive installation Local Dock, Public Crop, Porch Limit, (2011-2013) which takes over the entire first gallery of the exhibition. A video with rapidly succeeding images charts the antics of a group of young people, some dressed in drag, as they stumble from party to party or broadcast their most mundane thoughts to a global audience via the internet. Surrounding the video screen is the garden furniture which was used as a prop to film it.

Installation view of Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch's Local Dock, Public Crop, Porch Limit, 2011-2013

From this chronicle of the self-obsessed, over-tanned, you-tube generation we travel through a succession of solo presentations devoted to artists such as Marlene Dumas, Roman Opalka, Theaster Gates, Adel Abdessemed and others until we reach the quiet, contemplative 1960s heart of this show. It's a neat journey which leaves you yearning for the art of generations past.

"Prima Materia" is curated by Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Pinault's in-house curator Caroline Bourgeois.

The Venice Biennale may be the greatest show of contemporary art in the world but expect to see much art from the 1960s and 1970s on display this week as curators seek inspiration from a more idealistic, less market-driven era than our own. Nowhere is this more evident than in this show, drawn from the collection of the French billionaire François Pinault at the Punta della Dogana.

Cristina Ruiz is the editor at large of The Art Newspaper

Published Tue, 28 May 2013 13:01:00 GMT

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Cristina Ruiz

Over the next six weeks, Cristina Ruiz, our editor-at-large, has taken up the challenge to try to visit all 11 Gagosian galleries showing Damien Hirst’s spot paintings. Follow her as she blogs about her travels here.