Sarah Sze to represent the United States at 55th Venice Biennale
By Ashley Lee
On February 23, Chinese-American artist Sarah Sze was chosen by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to represent the United States at the 55th Venice Biennale next year. Sze will work with co-commissioners Holly Block, director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Carey Lovelace, a critic and independent curator.
Her practice encompasses a wide range of media, including drawing, installations and sculptures; however, her work is especially known for its intricate, minute details—even on a massive scale. Lately, she has been frequently sought out for public art commissions. Her site-specific installation on New York City’s High Line pedestrian park between West 20th and West 21st Streets—titled Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat), features metal trellises with small wooden and stainless steel boxes with rectangular openings of various sizes. Aside from showcasing Sze’s detail-oriented and architectural interests, Still Life with Landscape, to be displayed until June of this year, also provides a home for the birds, lizards and other fauna that live on the park’s raised platform. Sze has further been invited to create a work for New York’s forthcoming 96th Street Second Avenue Subway station.
Aside from her public works, Sze is a familiar face on the festival circuit, previously participating in the Biennale de Lyon, Liverpool Biennial, Biennial de Sao Paulo, Carnegie International and Whitney Biennial—as well as exhibiting in the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1999. Late last year, she opened a mid-career survey focusing on intersections between drawing and sculpture at New York’s Asia Society, titled “Infinite Line,” on view through March 25.
For the 55th Venice Biennale, scheduled to open in June 2013, Sze will create Triple Point, an installation of found objects that will interact with the American Pavilion’s distinct architecture, designed by William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich in the 1930s. In addition, viewers will be able to watch the installation of the work live via video stream.
Appointing a Chinese-American artist for the so-called “ Olympics of art” immediately following the visit of Chinese vice-premier Xi Jinping, tipped to become the next premier of China, and amid rising tensions between the US and China in the geopolitical realm, makes an interesting statement. This, coupled with recent media exposure of Asian-Americans—from the election of San Francisco mayor Ed Lee to the phenomenal debut of basketball star Jeremy Lin—may indicate that successful hyphenated Asian minorities are no longer a surprise to American society. On the other hand, the explosive mix of familiar and fantastic in Sze’s site-specific creations, sure to appeal to a wide audience, may be a solid counterbalance to the critically panned work of Puerto Rican duo Allora & Calzadilla in the previous US Pavillion.