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Report from La Biennale di Venezia: The USA Pavilion

In her latest report, Virginia shows us highlights from the USA Pavilion.

I finally got to the Giardini this week! This is one of the main exhibition sites for the Biennale. I thought I would bring you the USA Pavilion first.  It was designed by Indigenous American artist Jeffrey Gibson and is called “the space in which to place me.”  It is Gibson’s “vision for the future in which all people are seen, accepted and loved.” The Pavilion has gotten very mixed reviews, but I  found Jeffrey’s vison exciting, jubilant and buoyant with color. It surely would have been a contender for the Golden Lion award if Simone Leigh hadn’t just won that award for the USA Pavilion in 2022.

In July of 2023, Jeffrey Gibson was the first Indigenous artist to be selected to represent the United States in La Biennale di Venezia in a solo presentation.  Jeffrey Gibson is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent.  Jeffrey resides in New York State’s Hudson Valley.  5.5 million dollars were needed to realize Jeffrey’s  incredible transformative vision for the pavilion. Jeffrey was awarded approximately $380,000 from the US State Department to fund the pavilion – which was a drop in the bucket.  The exhibition is co-sponsored by the Portland Art Museum and SITE Santa Fe and is funded by many other foundations and individuals, including The Ford, MacArthur and Mellon Foundations.

Exterior of the U-shaped USA Pavillion. Jeffrey Gibson shared his vision by transforming the ezterior of the Pavilion. Photo by Virginia Bradley

On Saturday, March 20, our Berkshire representatives Stephanie Kouloganis, Tasja Keetman, and Diane Pearlman were on hand for the public opening of “the space in which to place me.” They arrived just at the right moment to capture the tribal celebrations below:

And text on the wall of the entry hall gave us more information.

Wall text in entry hall. Photo by Virginia Bradley

 

Figures in the entry hall. Photo by Virginia Bradley

 

“If Not Then When” in the entry hall.  Acrylic, glass beads, vintage pinback button on watercolor paper, 2024.
Photo by Virginia Bradley

 

“If there is no struggle there is no progress”.  Mixed media, 2024. Photo: Virginia Bradley

 

“We are the witnesses”.  Mixed media, 2024. Photo by Virginia Bradley.

 

Installation. Photo by Virginia Bradley

All of the work in the Pavilion is dated 2024.  Jeffrey had a lot to oversee to ensure his vision would be realized in such a short time.  The SITE Santa Fe Installation team was instrumental in creating parts of the final installation.

 

“We Will Be Known Forever By The Tracks We Leave”. Mixed media, 2024. Photo by Virginia Bradley

 

Detail from “We Will Be Known Forever By The Tracks We Leave”. Photo by Virginia Bradley

 

“Action Now Action is Eloquence”. Mixed media, 2024. Photo by Virginia Bradley

 

Detail from “Action Now Action is Eloquence”. Mixed media 2024. Photo by Virginia Bradley

 

More images from other National Pavilions to come!  I haven’t seen  them all yet and have to make a return visit to the Giardini.  The favorite pavilions by consensus so far seem to be Australia, Germany, Great Britain, France, USA, Uruguay, Mexico, Nigeria and Belgium.

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