And the Latest Nation to Join the Venice Biennale Is… Colorado

The "nomadic" art space Black Cube is taking its mission way beyond the streets of Denver.

Laura Shill, Trophy Wall, 2017. Image Courtesy of Black Cube.

In the midst of all the frenzy surrounding this year’s Venice Biennale and its antiquated nationalist structure, one pop-up exhibition is serving as ambassador for an unexpected global art community: Colorado.

Just steps away from the Grand Canal and near the Rialto Bridge, at the Palazzo Bembo, visitors can find the satellite exhibition “Personal Structures,” an initiative described as a “nomadic experience” from the unique Denver art space Black Cube. It makes the case for the Mile High City’s art scene via two installations.

The Palazzo Bembo in Venice. Image courtesy Palazzo Bembo.

The Palazzo Bembo in Venice, which is hosting Black Cube’s “Personal Structures.” Image courtesy Palazzo Bembo.

Laura Shill’s installation Trophy Wall (to disguise the void), is a shiny relief made of stretched and draped gold spandex. Its seductive surface is meant to suggest both male and female genitalia, and its abstract effect is seductive, strange, and beautiful.

Joel Swanson’s two neon works, S/HE and T/HERE, are situated in a dark chamber within the Palazzo. The letters “S” and “T” flicker incessantly to frenetic effect, suggesting fluidity of both nation and gender.

Joel Swanson. Image courtesy of Black Cube.

Joel Swanson. Image courtesy of Black Cube.

“Joel and Laura are both fixtures in the local scene,” Black Cube’s chief curator Cortney Lane Stell wrote to artnet News. “Joel teaches at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he is currently up for tenure, and Laura is an important artist within the social community. She is deeply supportive of other artists and actively collaborates with others. I selected these artists wanting to offer an alternative to the nationalistic lens of the biennale.”

Laura Shill. Image courtesy of Black Cube. Photo by Morgan Levy.

Laura Shill. Image courtesy of Black Cube. Photo by Morgan Levy.

Founded in 2015 by philanthropist Laura Merage, Black Cube’s hallmark is its mobile identity: The experimental institution is not bound to a permanent space, traditionally organizing unconventional pop-up shows around Denver in a custom “black cube” shipping container space.

“We work nomadically because we want to explore borderlessness, or at least the idea of operating under a different framework for an institution,” Stell explained.

Nevertheless, the trip to the Venice Biennale marks an ambitious new stage for the space’s wanderings. For Black Cube’s first foray into international exhibition-making, it partnered with the Dutch nonprofit GAA Foundation for support.

Installation view of "Personal Structures." Image courtesy of Black Cube.

Installation view of “Personal Structures.” Image courtesy of Black Cube.

The show is unassuming, a nimble counterpoint to the more top-heavy parts of Venice’s Biennale. It seems to point to the idea that the future of regionalism in the US might just be nomadic.

“Personal Structures” is on view at the Palazzo Bembo, Venice, Italy through November 26, 2017. 

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics