Beyond the Canvas
Throwback to Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi, Venice
Current rabbit hole update: scandals and crimes in the art world, of which I am delighted to inform you there is an abundance of. One episode of Ben Lewis' superb podcast ART BUST tells the story of American art dealer turned fraudster Inigo Philbrick's spectacular fall from grace. It's a compelling listen, during which Lewis also points out the dismally shoddy due diligence and the opacity of the resale market that de facto enabled the jaw-dropping magnitude of Philbrick's scam.
While Philbrick awaits his sentence in a Brooklyn cell after admitting he did it "for the money"(duh), I am reminded of the artist whose work is at the centre of this lawsuit: Rudolf Stingel. In 2013, during the Venice Biennale, Stingel's work took over the the atrium and the upper floors of Palazzo Grassi on Venice's Canal Grande, turning it into an immersive site-specific exhibition, which perhaps is more aptly described as an environment. The entire space was covered in kilim rugs wall to wall, a clear nod I believe to Venice's ancient ties to the Ottoman world. Despite its monumentality and arresting visual impact, the atmosphere in the halls felt hushed, almost meditative.
This painting I have chosen is a hymn to appropriation and reinterpretation of visual and textural magnificence. Stingel has applied stencilled patterns made of what looks like scorched Styrofoam to the canvas, giving life to a lace-like effect that shrouds the figure underneath it - it conceals and it reveals at the same time. Before it was embraced as an independent and broader aesthetic in its own right in the XVI century, the grisaille (monochrome) technique was used for devotional art, which is why this work feels both intensely spiritual and sensual.
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