Every Venice Biennale since 2007, the dealer Axel Vervoordt has been putting on a sprawling, always intriguing, sometimes brilliant exhibition in the Palazzo Fortuny, a Gothic building in Campo San Beneto that was the former home of Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny and has long been a museum space operated by the city of Venice. With Vervoordt’s exhibitions in them, Fortuny becomes the brooding cousin of the Biennale: contemporary art meets historic pieces from Fortuny’s collection under the rubric of some sweeping, misty theme (time, for instance, or, from a previous press release, “the complex and problematic ensemble of cultural and symbolic meanings that are connected to the concept of threshold and door. … [A] physical and mental place that defines the point of interrelation between inside and outside and vice versa.”).
This year’s exhibition, organized by Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti, is called “Proportio”—it’s centered around the idea of proportions, in nature and, of course, in art. It includes work by the likes of Marina Abramovic, Anish Kapoor, and Michael Borremans alongside art from the museum’s collection by artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Alberto Giacometti and, of course, things like Egyptian artifacts and Dutch Old Master architectural paintings. The exhibition opens to select visitors tomorrow, but the New York-based artist Izhar Patkin, who is displaying a large new ink-on-tulle curtain painting entitled Hare Apparent, sent us some sneak-peek installation photographs, as well as a text telling us a bit about his work and its placement amongst Fortuny’s treasures:
I chose Mariano Fortuny’s old atelier on the main ‘noble floor’ of the palazzo, as the site and stage-set for my future painting.
Then came the task of what to do.
There are many ways to approach the subject, and I am actually a firm believer in the mystery of proportion. However, I didn’t want to enter the traditional chatter of golden numbers and harmony. For me, they are all narratives in and of themselves. In my mind I kept breaking apart pro & portion, and the all I could think about, at best, was a world of have & have-nots… Natural or ‘Divine proportion’ seemed like nothing but a smoke screen.
But surely a ‘secret’ could be concocted out of some wild game of free association. I started to hunt for a story that could translate visually into one of my large curtain paintings, even if it was just game of smoke and mirrors. Or maybe better if it was just that. Finally a tale was born when I realized both Fibonacci’s sequence and Alice’s shrinking world, had the rabbit in common. OK, I thought, I am going to make Alice and the famous renaissance mathematician meet…
This ruse became the perfect rabbit hole into the illusionistic pictorial space of my tulle veil painting. I chose Lewis Carroll’s photo of the actual Alice Liddell and painted her in a shrinking library with Leonardo Fibonacci’s portrait on the wall. Oh, there was no point anymore in painting the rabbit; it seemed redundant…But why not the teapot? The painting became Hare Apparent.