Back to

Venice in Indy

For the past three weeks, New York-based dancer Sadie Wilhelmi has been in residence at the IMA training local gymnasts to use Body in Flight (Delta), a sculpture by artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, as a stage for a performance that mixes gymnastics with elements of modern dance. Sadie was the lead female athlete from the exhibition Gloria, which was organized by the IMA and installed at the U.S. Pavilion during the Venice Biennale from June through November, 2011.

Sadie performing the routine during "Gloria" at the U.S. Pavilion in Venice.

Body in Flight (Delta) is currently situated in the IMA’s Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion for an exhibition opening today, and will be on display through April 22. Local gymnasts Taylor Brown, Caitlin Marlow, Kelsie Sexton, and Adrianna Spiteri will conduct ongoing performances in Efroymson for the duration of the exhibition. See the Body in Flight (Delta) exhibition page for further information and a schedule of performances.

USA Gymnastics, the governing body for the representation of American gymnasts at the Olympic Games, is based in Indianapolis and helped recruit gymnasts for this exhibition. Through the organization’s network of athletic clubs, we were able to recruit these talented gymnasts for the exhibition.

First our volunteers started training with Sadie on the prototype for Body in Flight (Delta). The routine was initially developed on this model by choreographer Rebecca Davis, gymnast David Durante, and artists Allora & Calzadilla in collaboration with the four dancers/athletes who performed in Venice (Olga Karmansky, Chellsie Memmel, Rachel Salzman, and Sadie).

Sadie training with Adrianna Spiteri on the model for "Body in Flight (Delta)" in a closed gallery at the IMA.

For the last week, the gymnasts and Sadie have been working in public in the IMA’s entry pavilion to hone their performances on the actual artwork.

Sadie and works with local gymnast Kelsie Sexton to perfect the routine in the Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion.

I hope that you’re able to join us over the course of the exhibition to see local talent showcased in our lobby. If not, you can view the performance as it was filmed in Venice from a far.

Also in the galleries and opening today is Allora & Calzadilla’s Vieques Series, a group of three videos filmed on and about the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Filed under: Art, Contemporary, Venice Biennale


“Authentically American”? Hopper’s Reception at the 1952 Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale has figured prominently on the IMA blog recently, and for good reason. The museum organized Gloria, an exhibition of six works by Allora & Calzadilla, which is currently on display at the U. S. Pavilion. Press coverage of the show has been both extensive and favorable with many critics collectively applauding the selection of the collaborative duo.

At the 1952 Venice Biennale, Deputy Commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion, Eloise O. Spaeth, employed a different approach with mixed results. Four established and well-known artists – Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Stuart Davis (1892-1964), Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1893-1953), and Alexander Calder (1898-1976) – were honored with small retrospective exhibitions. In his review of July 20, 1952, Stuart Preston of the New York Times expressed disappointment with the uninspired exhibition concept, stating that the American Federation of Arts “play[ed] [it] safe this year.” Despite this critique, Preston found merit in the apt selection of Hopper to represent the United States abroad. Preston observed that: “Hopper made the deepest impression. Foreigners recognized, and rightly, something authentically American in the pathos of his landscapes, a germ of loneliness which they detect in our literature.” The IMA’s Hotel Lobby (1943), which was among the works displayed at the 1952 Biennale, conveys the feeling of isolation described by Preston and noted by the show’s attendees. Hopper’s figures, whether alone or in the company of others, appear detached from their surrounding environment.

Edward Hopper, "Hotel Lobby," 1943. William Ray Adams Memorial Collection. ©Edward Hopper.

The motif of the contemplative figure is hardly unique to the work of Hopper, or even American art, though. Scholar Gail Levin and others have cited artistic precedence in the domestic interiors of Dutch seventeenth-century painter Jan Vermeer (1632-1675), which were likely seen by Hopper on his many trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or on the three occasions he visited Europe from 1906 to 1911. According to art historian Pamela Koob (“States of Being: Edward Hopper and Symbolist Aesthetics”), Vermeer studies experienced a revival during this period due to the organization of several exhibitions in New York.

Hopper’s paintings also bear a strong resemblance to those of Dane Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916). In December 1912, an exhibition of Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish art, sponsored by the American-Scandinavian Foundation and organized by Christian Brinton, opened at the American Art Galleries in New York. Since Hopper lived in the city at this time, it is possible that he was introduced to Hammershøi’s paintings in person or in print, as they were discussed in three separate New York Times reviews. Interestingly, art critics lauded the curator’s selection of Hammershøi and praised the authenticity of his work. In a preview of the exhibition, published  August 11, 1912, a Times reporter found that Hammershøi “…not yet in his fifties, has taken an isolated place in the art of Denmark, belonging to no school, and betraying in his work no clearly defined inheritance from the past.”

Vilhelm Hammershøi; Interiør med ung læsende mand 1898.Olie på lærred. 34,4 x 51,8 cm. (via

Forty years apart, the reviews of Hopper and Hammershøi exhibited rather provincial slants, as they failed to acknowledge the wider application of the artists’ themes.  However, Robert Rosenblum’s seminal Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition (1975) would later propose the existence of a “Northern” sensibility, which manifested itself in the artistic production of Europe and America for at least a century and a half. Noting parallels in form and feeling, Rosenblum traced a trajectory from the German Romantic landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) (who, incidentally, popularized the motif of a contemplative figure seen from the back, called a Rückenfigur) to the chromatic abstractions of Mark Rothko (1903-1970). Clearly, the cases of Hopper and Hammershøi substantiate Rosenblum’s argument. (The prolific scholar even identified the works of the two artists as analogous in a 1997 essay on Hammershøi.) Yet, the broader context of their paintings seems to have been lost on critics of the American-Scandinavian exhibition in 1912 and, later, of the 1952 Biennale.


Filed under: Art, The Collection, Venice Biennale


Behind-the-Scenes at the U.S. Pavilion: Interview with the Athletes

We are now a few months into the Biennale and the Gloria installation at the U.S. Pavilion has maintained a consistently high level of attendance, with over 250,000 visitors since the opening.

Working from Venice for the past two and a half months, I had the chance to assist with the performances and meet some of the athletes. Two of them, Sadie Wilhelmi and David Durante, have kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about their experience at the Biennale.

Dave was a member of the USA Gymnastics team for six years, including a participation in the Olympic games in Beijing.  Sadie is a gymnast with extensive dance and circus background. Before coming to Venice, she performed as a freelance aerial artist with a company in New York and took part in other dance and choreography projects.

Here is what they have to say about their experience at the Venice Biennale:

How did you get involved in this project?

Dave: The IMA and USA Gymnastics are both in Indianapolis. When the project was selected, I was asked to participate based on my background and experience with the U.S. team. Besides performing myself, I am the athletes’ coordinator for the whole project and in charge of the logistics, including finding the performers and runners. I worked with the choreographer and performers who were selected to create the routines. We trained in New York for about four months before coming to Venice at the end of May.  I’ll be here in Venice for the entire run.

Sadie: I got involved through my friend Olga Kaminsky, who is good friends with Dave.

 How long did it take to create the choreography?

 Dave: The choreography took a little bit of time. Initially we did not have the sculptures, so we worked with mats and foam blocks.  Rebecca Davis, the choreographer, was instrumental in putting it all together and bridged the gap between the gymnastic and the dance world.  The performers also had input here and there.

 Sadie: It took us months to put this together. We started in January of this year and it came together during lots of hours of training and rehearsal.

 How many people have performed these routines since the opening of the show in early June?

 Dave and Sadie: We’ve had three guys and three girls for the gymnastics, as well as five runners.  At the opening, we also had Chellsie Memmel, who was part of the team in Beijing, and world champion runner Dan O’Brien.

 Were the artists involved in the choreography?

 Dave and Sadie: They gave us some guideline parameters to work with. They wanted gymnastic movements that one could see during a routine at the Olympics.  The real challenge for me was to take gymnastics and push the limit on what is physically possible on these sculptures, while staying safe and not get injured.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Art, Contemporary, Exhibitions, Venice Biennale


Venice Cinema Biennale

Silvia is currently doing research for the IMA from Venice, Italy.

The Ides of March, a political thriller directed by George Clooney, opened last week to good reviews here at the 68th edition of the Venice Film Festival. The Film Festival is part of the Venice Biennale, an umbrella organization which also includes the major international contemporary art exhibition, which saw the participation of the IMA this year, an international architecture exhibition, and a festival of contemporary music, theatre and dance.

The 68th Venice Film Festival.

Just like the art exhibition, which displays works from over 65 countries, the Film Festival also has an international focus, with films hailing from the U.S., France, Italy, the UK, Israel, Japan, Greece,  etc. Most of the films in competition this year are more or less commercial undertakings representing different genres, from the political thriller (The Ides of March), to the spy story (Tinker, Sailor, Solder, Spy, based on the John le Carré novel of the same name), to the period drama (Wuthering Heights directed by Andrea Arnold and A Dangerous Method by David Cronenberg, based on the turbulent relationships between psychiatrist Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and patient Sabina Spielrein), as well as a number of films that dissect and criticize contradictions and idiosyncrasies of our modern society such as Carnage by Roman Polanski and Dark Horse by Todd Solondz.

One of the most eagerly awaited film at the festival this year is Shame, by British contemporary artist Steve McQueen, who exhibited one of his artwork at the Venice Art Biennale in 2009. Shame, which is a compelling examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives, and the experiences that shape us, is the second feature film by the artist after Hunger, which won the Camera d’Or award for first-time filmmakers at The Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Steve McQueen is not the only contemporary artist to have successfully tried his hand at another artistic genre. Julian Schnabel, for instance, who directed intense films such as Basquiat, and Before the Night Falls and who won the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, was present this year at the Venice Art Biennale with a retrospective of his work.

Another example of how the distinction between genres is becoming more and more blurred in today’s artistic world is seen in Vivan las Antipodas!, a movie by Russian director Victor Kossakovsky, which was screened yesterday evening out of competition. Part film, part documentary, part visual artwork,  this movie chooses not to follow a specific narrative but rather suggests, through a series of breathtaking and stunning shots, the wonders and contradictions of nature and people in the world’s rare inhabited land-to-land antipodes.

Given the high number of premieres in and out of competition at this year’s Venice Film Festival, as well as the quality of the films shown, my hope is that they’ll be coming to Indianapolis soon.

Filed under: Education, Film, Venice Biennale


We’re Going for the Gold. Are You?

Learn more on how you can Go for the Gold!

Filed under: Venice Biennale


Recent Flickrs

College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?