Yep, that’s Hannibal Lecter roller bladin’! Laura Rollins (for The Biennial Project, Atlantic Works) gives us the scoop on Francisco Bassim’s Gran Interior installation of paintings at the 54th Venice Biennale: GET THIS GUY A SHOW IN THE USA IMMEDIATELY IF NOT SOONER!!!
To read the press materials about the Venezuela Pavilion in the 54th Venice Biennale is to be underwhelmed to say the very least. To sum it up, the Pavilion is described as having three “contemporary art projects in a single show, two of which are individual projects and the third a collective one.” The writing that appears in both the press release and in the official catalogue goes on to say that the show entitled, “Espacios, emerges from the idea of studying and analyzing the interaction and encounter between the artist (artwork), spectator (who activates the artwork), and the vessel (the space that is susceptible to or facilitates this encounter), which in other words are three readings of the sine qua non-relation-condition of visual arts” …
have you started pounding the tequila shots yet to alleviate the numbing of your brain from such boring drivel????
If I had read either the press release or the catalogue before visiting the Venezuela Pavilion I would have missed one the highlights of the 54th Biennale—the energetic, riveting and hilarious work of Francisco Bassim’s Gran Interior installation of paintings. Set in a great open room of the Carlo Scarpa-designed buiding that was constructed in 1954, Bassim has created a number of acrylic-on-canvas-instantly-recognizeable-figures from the 20th and 21st centuries. The cartoonish characters, looking equally like paper dolls and refrigerator magnets with a mix and match approach to the heads and bodies, fly, float and zoom along the walls of the great room.
Many of the great heroes and anti-heroes of the last 100 years make an appearance.
A fanciful Hannibal Lecter is on roller blades and a Jack Nicholson (Batman) Joker with a cherubic body sits on the lap of His Holiness, the Pope.
Mona Lisa kicks across the wall as a karate kid. Frieda Kahlo swoops down in a little girl’s sailor outfit wearing a pair of those kid shoes that have little miniature wheels on them. Michael Jackson appears in an enigmatic outfit—it could belong to a cheerleader or a basketball player—offering a bouquet of roses to the viewer. Albert Einstien is a kind-of-buff-yet-starting-to-go-slack-old-man that pants creepily at the audience from his place on the great wall.
Of course the usual modern political suspects are there too. Barrack Obama has the body of a vulnerable naked child protecting his private parts. Adolf Hitler looks like a cliff diver swooping down on Obama while Joseph Stalin innocently swings through space dressed as a child but sporting a pair of Mary Jane shoes. George W (the younger) seems lost in reverie (uh-hmmmm!!!!) dressed in a polyester-esque circa 1974 roller derby outfit. He hovers above one of the Queen’s corgis. Mao sits nearby in similar costume—also seemingly lost in his own thoughts.
Both Bush and Mao have sweet un-bequiled expressions on their faces …
who would believe that either one could be an evil-doer …
Glaring over the shoulders of both W and Mao is Lady Liberty. Her face is unmistakably masculine and worried/hurt/angry though her clothes are of a young girl who might be attending a Sunday school party. Her body language clearly suggests that she is offended.
The Gran Interior—which mixes recognizable characters with numerous anonymous cherubs that are also flying and floating on the walls is clearly a nod in general to the great historical paintings of the Italian Renaissance masters—many who worked in Venice.. The press release also suggests that the installation “refers us directly to rich and controversial conceptual boundaries between painting and decoration, which are of course present in Tintoretto’s work for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice.”
For me, Francisco Bassim’s random, playful, but yet often ironic creation of such historically loaded characters was fascinating. Ultimately the fanciful mix and match treatment resulted in a great equalizing factor—whether the “celebrity” had been considered a hero or a villain prior to my encounter with the installation, I was left with the notion that they all, ultimately, had been children once …
As a post script, The Biennial Project had the pleasure of meeting Francisco during the opening week of the Biennale. We shockingly learned that he has not exhibited in the US.
ATTENTION JILL MEDVEDOW AND HELEN MOLOSWORTH OF THE ICA—–>SCOOP THIS ARTIST!!!
His work truly is not to be missed.