When the Venice Biennale closes in November, the works of hundreds of artists will be packed and shipped back to countries around the world. But a small piece of the contemporary art circus that brings so many jet set art collectors to the Italian city will remain in the lagoon thanks to Bosco Sodi.
This is because the artist is giving away one of the works of art from his exhibition “Bosco Sodi: What Goes Around Comes Around”. Venetians will be able to take home the small 195 clay spheres surrounding a giant one We are onean interactive exhibition on display under a Murano glass chandelier at Palazzo Vendramin Grimani.
“The Biennale is very kind, in a way. People come, they walk around and then boom, everything disappears, “Sodi told Artnet News.” I think it’s important to leave something for the Venetians. “
The artist procured clay for his sculptures in Oaxaca, a few miles from Casa Wabi, Sodi’s studio and a non-profit arts center that houses an artist residency and children’s programs. (He baked clay balls on a makeshift oven on the beachfront property.)
During the show, visitors are invited to take a single sphere and roll it across the floor to create a space that changes slightly as each guest arrives. Each globe represents one of the nation states of the world, while the large one symbolizes humanity (the title means “We Are All One” in Italian). The opportunity to take one home will come on the last day of the show.
The gesture is in tune with the themes of the world trade exhibition, inspired by the centuries of history of Venice as a great maritime power.
The artist created new works for the exhibition using cochineal, an insect-based red dye that he brought to Italy from his native Mexico. Sodi hadn’t done a cochineal project for several years and had to track down a new supplier for the pigment, which pre-colonial Mexicans used to paint Mayan steles and other monuments.
“It’s an insect that grows in the nopales cactus and it’s a parasite,” he said of the insect. “Make a nest and the leaves are covered with white spots. The farmers scrape off the leaves and put them to dry in the sun ”.
“The interesting thing is that, depending on the lot, the color can change completely. It depends on the acidity of the insect. When the cochineal arrived here, it was embraced by all the classical painters of Europe. It does not fade away. He completely changed his approach to red and color, and he returned to Mexico and classical painting began to exist in Mexico. “
Adding an extra layer to the cultural exchange, Sodi set up a makeshift studio on the first floor of the building in preparation for the exhibition. She has combined red pigment with sawdust, wood, pulp, natural fibers and glue to make her textured canvases.
In his waterfront studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the floor is encrusted with excess material dripping from the edges of each painting, the colors of different works overlapping like a kind of artificial sedimentary rock.
But in Venice, Sodi found excessive amounts of liquid seeping through the canvas, which was looser than he was used to working.
“I was afraid it would stain the marble floor, so I cleaned it with the rest of the canvas that was left and started playing with it,” said Sodi.
He formed the canvases, now dyed deep red, in small bundles and left them to dry. The result was a group of simple but beautiful sculptures in the shape of roses, a shape that, coincidentally, echoed the rows of ornamental rose windows adorning the ceiling in the room in which they are now on display in Venice.
There are also new works made during the lockdown at Casi Wabi. During a trip to the local fruit and vegetable market, Sodi was intrigued by the sacks used to transport food and began to use them as makeshift canvases. He ransacked a warehouse full of materials left by former residents, finding tubes of oil paint and using them to mark the bags with simple red, black and orange circles.
Installed in the courtyard of the palace are a set of sculptures made with volcanic rocks, covered with a fiery red enamel that recalls their origins as molten lava. The series grew out of boredom a decade ago, while Sodi was in Guadalajara manufacturing an edition of individually made ceramic decanters for 1800 Tequila.
“I had nothing to do while I waited for them to dry. I said to the owner of the factory: ‘What happens if we put a stone in the oven and dispose of it?’ ”, Sodi recalls.
At first, the owner of the factory was concerned that the rock might explode. Then, a salesman stopped selling molcajetes, a Mexican mortar and pestle traditionally made from volcanic rock. If he had used a rock that had already been fire tested, Sodi realized, it was unlikely the furnace would be in danger.
He was soon leading an expedition to the Ceboruco volcano, about two and a half hours outside the city, in search of raw materials for his experiment.
“We went down the Mexican street, not with a crane, with two donkeys and 10 boys,” said Sodi. “I call it rock hunting. I choose the rocks I like, clean them and do the glazing. I totally respect the shape of the rock “.
The result is a fusion of art and geology. Sometimes, the rocks still shatter in the heat of the furnace, revealing the raw interior, an accident Sodi has embraced.
Inside the palace works have been installed among the historical furnishings. The Grimani family owned the house from 1517 to 1959 and the original interior remains largely intact, with neoclassical frescoes, damask wall coverings, ornate tapestries and terrazzo floors.
There is also a collection of decorative fans, which Sodi brazenly enriched with contemporary fans purchased in Mexico and Venice that he painted to match his other works on display.
Curated by Daniela Ferretti and Dakin Hart, the exhibition is the first contemporary art exhibition at the palace, open to the public in 2021 and managed by the Golden Tree Foundation.
On the ground floor are other clay works: another giant sphere, cracked towers of large cubes, and a stack of neatly stacked bricks. The sculptures are located just beyond the doors that open onto the Venetian canal, where deliveries to the house and its residents would historically have been made.
“We wanted to present the works as if they were unique possessions from America: these red paintings that may have been found in the Amazon, these clay cubes that were part of a pyramid discovery,” said Sodi.
But he also believes that these works have a universal quality.
“Clay was part of the evolution of man. If you go to a museum in Rome or Egypt or India’s Korea or Peru, the first figurines are all very similar, because it’s the essence of man, ”Sodi said. “Clay is in our DNA.”
“Bosco Sodi: What Goes Around Comes Around” is on display at Palazzo Vendramin Grimani, San Polo, 2033, 30125 Venice, April 23 – November 27 2022.
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