You Still Have Time to See These Showstoppers in Venice

    Creative Capital artists are taking the world by storm! This year, eight of our grantees are showcased in the Venice Biennale—and being honored for their contributions. One of the biggest art events in the world, the Biennale brings together international artists including grantees Laura Poitras (2008) who is in the Biennale Cinema competition; Simone Leigh (2012), Lynn Hershman Leeson (2008), Wu Tsang (2015), Akosua Adoma Owusu (2012), and Sable Elyse Smith (2016) for Biennale Arte; and Kyle Abraham (2013) and Trajal Harrell (2013) in Biennale Danza.

    Whether or not you can make it to Venice before the exhibition closes, discover their Biennale films, artworks, and performances below.

Biennale Cinema
August 31–September 10, 2022

Nan Goldin's photograph, "Picnic on the Esplanade, Boston"

Laura Poitras (2008 Creative Capital Grantee)

Don’t miss Laura Poitras’ documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, in competition for the 79th Mostra Internationale D’arte Cinematographica! The film is about photographer Nan Goldin’s battle against the notorious big-pharma Sackler family—holding them accountable for the deadly opioid epidemic, and her crusade following her own struggle with opioid addiction.

Biennale Arte
April 23–November 27, 2022

Simone Leigh (2012 Creative Capital Grantee)

Simone Leigh’s monumental bronze bust, Brick House greets visitors at the entrance of The Milk of Dreams—and was awarded the Golden Lion for best participation in the exhibition! For the works in the show, Leigh used premodern and contemporary sculptural techniques, including lost-wax casting and salt-firing alongside culturally potent forms such as cowrie shells, plantains, raffia, and tobacco leaves. Leigh received a Creative Capital Grant in 2012, and has since has developed a poetic body of sculptures, installations, videos, and works of social practice that centers race, beauty, community, and care as they relate to Black women’s bodies and intellectual labor.

Leigh also made headlines and history as the first Black woman to represent the United States at the national pavilion. Simone Leigh: Sovereignty features a new body of work highlighting the labor and resilience of Black women across global histories, including a film Leigh made with fellow Creative Capital Grantee, Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich. Leigh’s impact continues with Loophole of Retreat: Venice, a convening of Black women scholars, performers, writers, and artists in October 2022, organized by Rashida Bumbray.

Still from Lynn Hershman Leeson's "Logic Paralyzes the Heart"

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Logic Paralyzes the Heart, 2022. Courtesy of the artist; Altman Siegel, San Francisco; and Bridget Donahue, New York. Photograph by Andrea Rossetti.

Lynn Hershman Leeson (2008 Creative Capital Grantee)

Meander through the galleries of the Arsenale to find Lynn Hershman Leeson’s work, which engages with themes of surveillance, privacy, artificial intelligence, the cyborg, and genetic engineering. In her mirror-printed series Missing Person, she presents photographic portraits of people who do not exist. Continue into a hallway lined with more computer-generated portraits before reaching the video Logic Paralyzes the Heart (2021). Narrated by a 61-year-old cyborg, she opines on the body’s integration with digital and military-based systems of control. The work earned her a distinguished special mention from The Jury!

Installation view of Wu Tsang’s Of Whales in Venice

Installation view of Wu Tsang’s Of Whales in Venice.

Wu Tsang (2015 Creative Capital Grantee)

​​Rest in the shade and become transfixed by Wu Tsang’s film, Of Whales (2022), by the Arsenale’s canal. The installation is based on her feature-length film adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and psychedelic ocean environments generated from XR technologies. Imagined from the perspective of the whale and the “motley crew” of sailors aboard the Pequod whaling ship, this complex work sets Melville’s tale in the context of mid-19th century maritime history, the transatlantic birth of modern capitalism, and mass civil unrest.

Film still from Akosua Adoma Owusu’s Kwaku Ananse.

Film still from Akosua Adoma Owusu’s Kwaku Ananse.

Akosua Adoma Owusu (2012 Creative Capital Grantee)

Akosua Adoma Owusu’s surreal and subversive films are poetic hybrids that incorporate folklore, archival and found footage, Black pop culture icons, scenes of daily life, oral histories, and semi-autobiographical experiences. Owusu, who is first-generation Ghanaian American, addresses vexing issues of cultural memory and processes of assimilation for members of the African diaspora. Her 2013 short film Kwaku Ananse, presented in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini, brings together the mischievous folktale hero Ananse with a semi-autobiographical tale about a young woman grappling with family, existential crisis, and the death of her estranged father. The young woman, who seeks the advice of Ananse, is shown preserving folkloric traditions, while also grappling with the truth that every individual has multiple conflicting aspects to their identity.

Landscape VI by Sable Elyse Smith.

Landscape VI by Sable Elyse Smith. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Sable Elyse Smith (2016 Creative Capital Grantee)

End on Sable Elyse Smith’s series of large-scale neons, Landscape. They are part of her ongoing and multi-faceted project about the US prison industrial complex and its insidious, endemic structures of anti-Black violence. For Smith, the psychic wound of mass incarceration is personal, too; she has been visiting her father in prison over approximately two-thirds of her life. In the Landscape series Smith creates a tension between the inherent publicness of neon and the nature of her text. Landscape VI might be read as an expression of the embodied, everyday effects of institutional violence, juxtaposing the tone of an interior monologue with the ostentatious address of neon signage.

Biennale Danza
July 22–31, 2022

Kyle Abraham's Fire in the Air of the Earth

Performance still from Kyle Abraham’s Fire in the Air of the Earth. Credit: Alastair Muir

Kyle Abraham (2013 Creative Capital Grantee)

Kyle Abraham and producer/electronic music composer Jlin have come together to create a reimagining of Mozart’s Requiem in D minor through abstracted themes of afterlife, reincarnation, mythology and folklore. Ten dancers from Abraham’s company – A.I.M by Kyle Abraham – take the stage to the music of Jlin, who has transformed Mozart’s score into an electronic opus that memorializes ritual and rebirth.

Trajal Harrell’s “Maggie the Cat”

Performance still from Trajal Harrell’s Maggie the Cat Credit: Tristram Kenton

Trajal Harrell (2013 Creative Capital Grantee)

Cat. Catwalk. Runway. Trajal Harrell’s work exemplifies runway movement as dance language in and of itself, and furthermore as a tool for character personification. In the case of Maggie the Cat, Maggie is both figurative and abstract. Maggie is both a character and at times an unstoppable drive and energy propelling the rhythm and structure of the work. These characters are personified but are also competing cadences in tone, sound, and force driving the dance, the musicality, and the visual composition of the work.

Join the Creative Capital Artist Benefit + Banquet on September 20! All proceeds will support artists creating groundbreaking new work.


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