Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rebel Angels, Dogs are Humans with More Hair and John & Yoko Erotic Lithos - Art in Venice & Treviso

Francesca Woodman - From Eel Series, Venice, Italy, 1978,© Charles Woodman, courtesy Victoria Miro, London/Venice
(Venice, Italy) Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) was an angel on earth, and like many angels, died young. The sensitive photographer killed herself at age 22 by jumping out a window in New York City. Born on April 3, 1958 in Denver, Colorado to artists George and Betty Woodman, the family spent their summers in Italy, which profoundly influenced her work, and is the focus of the show at the Victoria Miro Gallery here in Venice. Woodman took her first self-portrait at age 13, and used herself and other female models, often nude, to create small, haunting images packed with powerful emotions.

The intimate photos on show at the Victoria Miro Gallery are deeply moving, and it made me wish that Francesca Woodman had stuck around a lot longer to witness the impact her work has on people still here on earth. Hopefully she is watching from the heavens.

Francesca Woodman: Italian Works is at Victoria Miro Venice through December 16. Go to Victoria Miro for more information.

Osvaldo Licini Amalasunthas on a Green Background (1949) ©Osvaldo Licini by SIAE 2018
Another rebel angel, Osvaldo Licini (1894-1958) was a complicated artist from the Marches region of Italy, who, in 1958, was the first Italian artist to be awarded the Grand Prize for painting at the Venice Biennale. He died soon after from emphysema. Sixty years later, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice commemorates Licini with a retrospective curated by Luca Massimo Barbero.

Over 100 works in 11 exhibition galleries follow the wildly diverse artistic path of the artist as he traveled from landscapes and figurative work to abstraction and Rationalism, with an accent on geometry. The most iconic works are of Amalasunthas, Queen of the Ostrogoths, and his series of Rebel Angels, which illustrate the many facets of his complex personality. Licini said, "He who seeks certainty rarely finds it."

Karole Vail photo by Cat Bauer
Karole Vail, Dir. Peggy Guggenheim Collection - Photo: Cat Bauer
The last days of summer were celebrated with breakfast on the fabulous terrace of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal before the press conference for Osvaldo Licini, with Karole Vail, director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, radiant in white. OSVALDO LICINI. Let Sheer Folly Sweep Me Away runs through January 14, 2019. Go to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection for more information.

New York City 2000 © Elliott Erwitt - Magnum Photos
At 90-years-old, veteran Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt (1928) is still going strong. He's photographed everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Che Guevera, but is perhaps best known for his witty photographs of dogs. There is a lighthearted exhibition dedicated to his canine creatures at Casa dei Carraresi in Treviso, curated by Marco Minuz entitled I cani sono come gli umani, solo con più capelli -- Dogs are like humans, only with more hair.

Born in Paris, Erwitt spent his childhood in Italy until his family moved to the United States. Erwitt's preferred method of shooting is with a Leica camera using black and white film, and said "photography is not rocket science. It's rather simple," but only a few photographers have a certain "magic." There are also two short films in English with Italian subtitles in which the photographer speaks about his life and work, and how "Marilyn looked better in pictures than in person."

ELLIOTT ERWITT: Dogs are like humans, only with more hair is at Casa dei Carraresi in Treviso -- just a short walk from the train station -- through February 3, 2019. Go to Casa dei Carraresi for more information (in Italian).

Bag One - John Lennon - Photo: Cat Bauer
John Lennon created Bag One, a leather bag filled with 15 lithographs commemorating his wedding and honeymoon as a wedding present for Yoko Ono. The day after the initial presentation at the London Arts Gallery on January 15, 1970, eight erotic lithographs were seized by agents of Scotland Yard. When the show open on Febuary 7th at the Lee Nordness Gallery in New York, there were no such problems, nor are there any problems viewing the lithos today at the new Beatrice Burati Anderson Art Space & Gallery here in Venice. The lithos are on loan from the private collection of Rolando Giambelli, founder and president of The Beatles People Association of Italy.

Section of Ertotica #4 from Bag One lithograph by John Lennon - Photo: Cat Bauer
The lithos are part of the Water/Mater exhibition, which also features works by the Dutch architect, designer and artist Maurice Nio based on the theories of the Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto, which focus on how water molecules are sensitive to emotional vibrations. Maurice Nio also presents Dark Matter, a 17-metre sculpture on sand bags that is a metaphor for the uncontrollable forces of Nature.

Water/Mater runs through December 22, 2018. Go to the Beatrice Burati Anderson Art Space & Gallery for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Homo Faber Shines in Venice - Michelangelo Foundation's Mission for Creativity and Craftsmanship

Homo Faber Opening Ceremony ©SGP
(Venice, Italy) Homo Faber. Crafting a more human future is Europe at its finest, an exhibition that celebrates the human touch. You can feel the excitement in the air as soon as you step off the boat and onto the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Sixteen dynamic event spaces imagined by a team of world-class designers, curators and architects spice up the monumental spaces of the Giorgio Cini Foundation. It is the first major cultural exhibition dedicated to European craftsmanship, and an opportunity to visit a venue not normally open to the public.

The Michaelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship believes that it's time to give back and to put the human being back into the center of our systems. An international non-profit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, the foundation was created by Johann Rupert, chairman of Swiss luxury goods Compagnie Financiere Richemont, and Franco Cologni, former Cartier executive, to celebrate and preserve master craftsmanship around the world and strengthen its connection to design.

Through September 30th, you have the opportunity to watch artisans at work and see the results of the collaborations between artisans and designers, attend conferences and concerts, and interact with over 100 Young Ambassadors, all the while strolling around one of the most beautiful venues on the planet. It's an immersive experience, and I promise you will come away refreshed by the knowledge that there remains an entire domain of humanity that still operates on the highest level.

Young people discovering LUXOS Magazine - Photo: Cat Bauer
I was delighted to see LUXOS Magazine, of which I am a contributing editor, prominently displayed on a wall of quality print magazines, available for free, inside the Homo Faber bookstore. I was even more excited to witness a group of young people discover LUXOS for the first time, and watch them flip through the magazine, intrigued. "What is it? Is it a fashion magazine?" they asked. "It's that, and much more," I explained. "LUXOS focuses on culture as well as brands." Which is a perfect fit with Homo Faber.

"Inside & Out" in the pool at the Giorgio Cini Foundation - Photo: Cat Bauer
There is a huge empty swimming pool inside the Giorgio Cini Foundation, complete with two diving boards. It is not empty any more. With "Fashion Inside and Out," curator and exhibition-maker Judith Clark spotlights the master artisans in the fashion industry who are crucial in bringing contemporary designers' visions to life. Using natural materials, Clark's original staging illustrates how critical craftsmanship is not only to fashion itself, but in the way it is exhibited, with examples by major brands such as Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton on show.

Venetian Way inside the Giorgio Cini Foundation - Photo: Cat Bauer
Susanna Pozzoli, photographer, artist and artisan, had the privilege to enter and experience the goings-on in 21 workshops in Venice and the Veneto Region, which she has documented in "Venetian Way," a series of photographs captured by use of analogue rather than digital photography, and "is about the beauty of loving the work itself." Displayed along the walls of the cloister, Pozzoli's photographs are a journey through the creative process. I was thrilled that the work of one of my dear friends, Sergio Boldrin, had been included. Together with his brother, Massismo, Sergio makes papier-mâché masks in his La Bottega dei Mascareri workshop here in Venice. Sergio is also part of the Doppia Firma (double signature) section, which pairs master artisans with international designers to create unique, original objects.

Montblanc at Homo Faber - Photo: Cat Bauer
One of my favorite experiences was sitting down with Frank Derlien, Head of Final Assembly and Nib Manufacturing at Montblanc, as I sampled a series of fountain pen nibs to decide which one suited me best. Part of the "Discovery and Rediscovery" section, the artisans at Montblanc work through 35 different stages, rolling, stamping and shaping the 18 karat gold nib that perfectly matches an individual's writing style. I am a firm believer that the art of handwriting is a precious human ability that the digital world cannot replace, and Frank confirmed that there was great interest on the part of young people in Montblanc's offerings.

Cat Bauer aboard the yacht Eilean
We had to take our shoes off to climb aboard the Eilean, the legendary 22-metre yacht built by the renowned William Fife boat engineers in Scotland in 1936. Eilean (Gaelic for "little island") is moored in the Venetian lagoon during Homo Faber after being returned to her original splendor. Beautifully restored by master Italian craftsmen and engineers from the Cantiere Francesco Del Carlo di Viareggio, she is an exquisite example of the heights that human hands are capable of reaching.

On the grounds of San Giorgio Maggiore - Photo: Cat Bauer
That is just a very small sample of the offerings on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore through September 30th. There are many more delights waiting at Homo Faber. Crafting a more human future for you to discover, including three free concerts on the last three days of the exhibition (September 28, 29 and 30) at 8pm inside the awe-inspiring Basilica of San Giorgio. A visit to the island will renew your faith in humankind -- which should also include the Vatican Chapels exhibition, part of La Biennale International Architecture Exhibition. Go to the Michelangelo Foundation for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, September 14, 2018

Splendor of The Venice Glass Week - 2018 The Second Edition

Still Life in Glass - Centrotavola Veneziano 2018 by Judi Harvest at The Gritti Palace
(Venice, Italy) The Venice Glass Week, now in its second edition, has the remarkable ability to get residents out of their homes and out on the town to visit galleries, sip wine and socialize like the good old days before mass tourism made it nearly impossible to move comfortably through the city. Founded on excellence and cooperation, it has a noble cause: its aim to is revitalize and sustain one of Venice's most ancient and important industries -- the art of making glass.

Salizzada San Samuele during Venice Glass Week - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Venice Glass Week is a major international festival dedicated to the art of glass, with a focus on the island of Murano, the heart of Venice's glass-blowing industry. From small galleries like those along Salizzado San Samuele whose festivities spill out onto the street, to shops, cafes, hotels and major cultural institutions, there are more than 180 events, including exhibitions, conferences, film screenings, educational activities, themed evenings, open furnaces and more that take place all over town.

Venice is transformed into an international village pulsing with innovation where we can once again see our neighbours and make new friends while learning about the latest trends in Venetian glass -- even the travellers who attend have a genuine love and understanding of La Serenissima. And, of course, it gives Murano a jolt of electricity.

In addition to Venetian born and bred artists and artisans, there are plenty of participants who are not Venetian by birth, but by choice, who add extra spice to the festivities. 

Indefinito by Mafalda Millies - Film Still
One of the most enjoyable evenings was at Casa delle Parole (House of Words) held on September 11th in Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi, which kicked off its new season with a "glass" theme. From September through June, on the second Tuesday of each month, Casa delle Parole reads literary texts from all over the world in the original language by native speakers, followed by the Italian translation. At the end of the evening, the short film INDEFINITO was screened, starring the dazzling glass sculptures of Marcantonio Brandolini d'Adda. The film by Mafalda Millies featured bold, original dance and choreography by Megumi Eda and a commissioned soundscape by Charles Derenne, and was produced by ALMA ZEVI as part of Brandolini d’Adda’s recent solo exhibition in New York.

Paolo Lorenzoni, GM The Gritti Palace & Judi Harvest - Photo: Cat Bauer
Over at The Gritti Palace on the Grand Canal, the blown glass centerpiece created by American Judi Harvest was the star of the show, inspired by Caravaggio's still life. Centrotavola Veneziano is an elaborate glass basket filled with blown glass fruits and vegetables grown in the Venetian Lagoon. At the inauguration on Wednesday night, guests were treated to tasty nibbles served in the kitchen of The Gritti Epicurean School, which had been enhanced by Judi Harvest's watercolors on the walls. The delightful and distinguished art historian Barbara Rose wrote the text for the brochure. Judy lives and works in Venice and New York City, and cultivates honey bees on the island of Murano, where her glass is blown.

Marya Kazoun at Ikona Gallery - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Lebanese-Canadian artist Marya Kazoun is at the Ikona Gallery in the Ghetto with her Perceptions installation, with glass sculptures blown on Murano, and which challenge you to go beyond and question the normal limits of human perceptions. Marya grew up in Beirut during the war years, and lives and works in Venice and New York City.

Pierre M. Picavet at Hotel Danieli - Photo: Cat Bauer
Pierre M. Picavet is French, and was the president of Wolford Italy, the luxury hosiery company. These days he pursues his passion, designing elegant glass lamps, tables and other furnishings, blown on Murano, which can be seen at the Dondolo Lounge in the historic Hotel Danieli on the Grand Canal.

The Venice Glass Week
That is just a tiny sliver of more than 180 events during The Venice Glass Week, which runs from September 9 to September 16, 2018. It is promoted by the Town Council of Venice, and conceived and organized by Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, LE STANZE DEL VETRO - Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, and Consorzio Promovetro Murano. The Venice Glass Week not only energizes the art of making glass and Murano, it wallops La Serenissima herself with positive, unifying energy. Go to The Venice Glass Week for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, September 10, 2018

New Art Form: Virtual Reality at the 75th Venice Film Festival

Eclipse - Jonathan Astruc & Aymeric Favre - Film Still
(Venice, Italy) The Venice Virtual Reality competition is in its second year at the Venice Film Festival, and is zipping forward at warp speed. No one really knows where this thrilling new medium is heading. I imagine that someone reading this post in the future will find it as antiquated as we do today when stumbling upon an old article about that newfangled medium called the "movies."

The Venice International Film Festival's mission is to elevate Virtual Reality into a legitimate art form. I am giving you my perspective as someone who chooses not to own a smartphone, and is a neophyte when it comes to VR.

Sunset - Island of Lazzaretto Vecchio - Photo: Cat Bauer
Two years ago we had the opportunity to experience VR at the Venice Film Festival for the first time by watching a rather peculiar biblical VR experience about the life of Jesus Christ(!) inside Palazzo del Casinò. Then last year, La Biennale drastically upped the ante by adding a Virtual Reality competition to their official program and moved the whole show to the island of Lazzaretto Vecchio, a former 16th century plague hospital, transforming it into a dramatic exhibition space that is accessed only by boat (I think they should change that to a team of gondola traghetti - it would make the experience even more surreal).

What is Virtual Reality?

It is hard to find a good definition of Virtual Reality. Here's one from Technopedia that I like:

Virtual reality refers to computer-generated environments or realities that are designed to simulate a person’s physical presence in a specific environment that is designed to feel real. The purpose of VR is to allow a person to experience and manipulate the environment as if it were the real world. The best virtual realities are able to immerse the user completely. Virtual reality should not be confused with simple 3-D environments like those found in computer games, where you get to experience and manipulate the environment through an avatar, rather than personally becoming part of the virtual world.

The VR experiences at the Venice Film Festival are divided into three different categories: Stand Ups, VR Theatre and Installations. To gain access, there is an elaborate system of reservations in place, or, since the competition is still in its infancy, you can just wander over to Lazzaretto Vecchio and take your chances by putting your name on waiting lists, which is what I did. 

1. Stand Ups

What they are: You literally stand up (or sometimes sit), alone, strap on the gear, and view a Virtual Reality film, either "Linear" that you passively watch, or "Interactive," which requires some form of action on the part of the viewer.

By luck, I was able to watch two linear VRs.

Arden's Wake - Tide's Fall - Eugene YK Chung - film still
The first was Arden's Wake: Tide's Fall starring Alicia Vikander and Richard Armitage, written and directed by Eugene Chung, CEO and Founder of Penrose Studios. Tide's Fall is the second installment of last year's Arden's Wake: Prologue, which I did not see, and which won the Lion for the Best VR at the 74th Venice Film Festival. The characters are Pixar-like animations.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world that has been flooded by the oceans, Vikander is the voice for Meena, a dynamic young woman living with her alcoholic father alone in the middle of the sea on some kind of tiny structure he seems to have created himself. I was mesmerized by the story, which is layered with dark complexities, and which transitions visually between their home and the sea, plunging straight into the belly of a sea monster where a whole lot of backstory takes place. Since it is VR, we are inside the story, not outside observers as in a film, which means we go down into the belly of the beast along with Meena. It is an utterly different cinematic experience, and the possibilities of where the story will go seem endless. The only quibble I have is that it was about 30 minutes long, and since it was not interactive, it would have been more comfortable to view sitting down.

1943 Berlin Blitz -_David Whelan - film still

The second Stand Up I saw (sitting down) was 1943: Berlin Blitz. The audio is the actual in-flight recording made by BBC correspondent Wynford Vaughan-Thomas when he flew with the Royal Air Force on a Lancaster bombing raid on Berlin during WWII.

Filmmaker David Whelan drops us right inside the bomber and allows us to experience the horrors of the raid. I had to wrap my mind around the fact that the voices of the pilots and crew were real; that this really had happened as we flew into a barrage of fighter planes, missiles and searchlights. As the blinding lights swept across the nighttime sky, I thought, So that's where the term searchlight comes from! Not from movie premieres! The crew's banter was cool as ice, with a dash of wit and humor as we navigated through what seemed like certain death. It was James Bond cool. You are seated directly behind the pilots; if you turn around you can see the guy recording the sound that you are actually listening to. It was surreal, and I was a bit dazed when I took the headset off to find myself safely inside the exhibition space.

2. VR Theatre

What it is: a group of people sit in chairs, strap on headsets, and watch the same film at the same time. The offerings were only Linear.

I caught two short films made by Biennale College Cinema VR. The first, Floodplain by Deniz Tortum was in Turkish with English subtitles, and seemed to be about an enchanted tree that casts a spell and puts everyone in its vicinity to sleep  -- all men, who seemed to be soldiers, police or foresters. The second, Metro veinte: cita ciega by Maria Belen Poncio was in Spanish with English subtitles, and was about a young woman who is almost completely paralyzed and in a wheelchair, determined to have sex, and sets off alone on a blind date. I thought both efforts were raw but intriguing, and hold much promise for the future.

3. Installations

What they are: Installations are both Linear or Interactive; the two I experienced were both Interactive with four participants. 

The first, Make Noise by May Abdalla, was a rather hackneyed animation about suffragettes breaking the glass ceiling, where the audience is seated and encouraged to use their voices to make noises and holler words like "rage." It felt like something a NGO would produce.

Eclipse - Jonathan Astruc and Aymeric Favre - film still
Eclipse, on the other hand, was totally cool, a virtual embodiment experience, a VR game developed by Backlight and Virtual Adventure in France. There are four participants divided into two teams -- the Support team, wearing blue, and the Explorer team, wearing red. We were suited up with backpacks, headsets, hand-controllers and feet sensors, and divided into two separate, empty rooms. We were instructed that we would be on the Eclipse II spaceship, and our mission was to save the crew of the previous ship, Eclipse I. I was the only female, and I was on the Support team. Me and my partner, who I'll call Kurt, stayed on board the ship Eclipse II while the Explorers boarded Eclipse I.

When the game started, we were no longer four people wearing ordinary clothes. Suddenly, we morphed into astronauts wearing spacesuits, and that is what you actually saw -- if I looked at my arm, I saw a blue spacesuit, not my real arm. Kurt and I could see and hear each other, but not the other team. To talk to them, we had to speak into a metallic band on our spacesuit wrist.

Eclipse - Jonathan Astruc and Aymeric Favre - film still
Kurt and I stepped into a Star Wars-type space elevator and zoomed up to the cockpit where our eyes were blinded by a huge boiling star dominating the window of the Eclipse II. For a moment I was dizzy, but then things started happening and I immediately found my space feet. We had to align a hologram so the ships docked; break a code when the electricity went out; jump into the elevator and zoom down to the Oxygen Garden to put out a raging fire with fire extinguishers that you had to grab by clicking a button with your real hand (that looked like it was wearing a spacesuit glove), actually pick up the fire extinguishers, then push a different button, emitting a white mist, all the while maneuvering a platform that hovered over the flames. The Oxygen Garden contained trees and greenery, all ablaze, as well as what seemed to be capsules on either side on fire that contained...? We both dropped our fire extinguishers, and watched in dismay as they tumbled down into the fire. We had to maneuver the platform back to get more, then charge once more into the breech, but eventually succeeded in putting out all the flames.

It was a blast! It lasted for about 40 minutes, which wasn't long enough to save anybody, but for a first-time experience, I think we did okay. I was so caught up in the adventure that it was mind-blowing to come out of it and realize that we were actually in street clothes wandering around an empty room, instead of astronauts inside a space ship.

VR Installation inside Lazzaretto Vecchio
We don't know how Virtual Reality will evolve, but the creative possibilities seem limitless. It feels like tapping into a child-like imagination, or reading a riveting novel, or having a lucid dream experienced by all five senses, when the real world disappears and you become immersed in a different reality.

I think it is terrific that the Venice Film Festival, the oldest in the world, has added this cutting-edge new art form to its menu. VR is about to explode into our lives.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

So far, My Favorite is "The Favourite" - 75th Venice Film Festival

Emma Stone on Red Carpet for The Favourite - photo courtesy La Biennale di Venezia ASAC
 (Venice, Italy) Trying to capture the magic of the Venice Film Festival in 500 words is a challenge, but I hope I've managed to give you a taste of it with a feature article for, which is now live on their site:

The Red Carpet and Beyond - Welcome to the 75th Venice International Film Festival, where stars are born

There have been a bunch of dynamic films screening this year. The one that caused the most excitement is "A Star is Born," Bradley Cooper's directorial debut. He also co-stars with Lady Gaga, who seems to create electricity wherever she goes.

Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga on Red Carpet - photo courtesy La Biennale di Venezia ASAC

Here is a review by Owen Gleiberman of Variety:

 “A Star Is Born” is that thing we always yearn for but so rarely get to see: a transcendent Hollywood movie. It’s the fourth remake of a story that dates back to 1932, but this one has a look and vibe all its own — rapturous and swooning, but also delicate and intimate and luminous.

I had the chance to have a long conversation with Gleiberman while we were standing in line waiting to screen "American Dharma," Errol Morris's documentary about the controversial Steve Bannon. Gleiberman is the chief film critic for Variety, the Hollywood global media company whose yearly party at the Hotel Danieli on the eve of the opening of the Venice Film Festival has become a tradition.

Gleiberman has some fascinating insights into the world at large, not just film, so if you are looking for a critic with pizzazz, read Owen. To me, he writes like a novelist.

The Favorite - Fox Searchlight
So far, my favorite film is "The Favourite," by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, and starring a female triumvirate of Emma Stone (the only American), Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz. Set at the beginning of the 18th Century during the reign of Queen Anne, Lanthimos captured the machinations and schemes that a particular brand of women perpetrate upon each other to claw their way into positions of power. And yes, there are lesbian love scenes, but so seamless and integral to the story that you aren't jarred out of the film, as is often the case in the hands of less skillful directors.

Here's a review by Michael Nordine from IndieWire:

The Favourite” feels like a crowning achievement: a royal period piece led by the majestic triumvirate of Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz in which the emperor has no clothes, duck races are the go-to entertainment, and loyalty is as strange a concept as a new-world fruit called a pineapple.

Cat Bauer in the Campari Lounge at the Venice Film Festival 2018
Cat Bauer in the Campari Lounge

A terrific new addition to the Venice Film Festival has been having Campari as a sponsor, who have a pop-up lounge, complete with terrace where journalists can relax and enjoy a beverage. Sipping a Campari spritz is one of my favorite things to do in the evening, and Campari red is such a vibrant color, and the terrace has a terrific view, so I like to make a pit-stop at the lounge whenever I'm in the area, which has not been often enough!

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog