The Milk of Dreams - Venice 2022 | David Zwirner
A header image with the text The milk of dreams curated by Cecilia Alemani

The 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, features more than two hundred artists from fifty-eight countries, including five David Zwirner gallery artists, and takes its name from a book by the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington.

Grounded in conversations curator Cecilia Alemani had with artists over the past few years, The Milk of Dreams, which is on view through November 27, 2022, focuses on the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses, the relationship between individuals and technologies, and the connection between bodies and the earth.

Ruth Asawa

The visionary artist Ruth Asawa (1926–2013) is best known for the extensive body of hanging looped-wire sculptures she began constructing in the late 1940s, transforming everyday materials like brass, steel, and copper wire into intricate, dynamic, and sinuous forms. Asawa’s first presentation at the Biennale Arte highlights the iconic looped-wire sculptures she developed for more than half a century.

Portrait of Ruth Asawa

Ruth Asawa, Sculptor, 1951 (detail). Photo by Imogen Cunningham. © Imogen Cunningham Trust

Ruth Asawa, Sculptor, 1951 (detail). Photo by Imogen Cunningham. © Imogen Cunningham Trust

“I was interested in [wire] because of the economy of a line, making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent. I realized that if I was going to make these forms, which interlock and interweave, it can only be done with a line because a line can go anywhere.”

—Ruth Asawa

A horizontal installation view of Ruth Asawa's sculpture works at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia titled The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani in 2022

Ruth Asawa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Ruth Asawa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

A horizontal installation view featuring Ruth Asawa's sculpture works at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia titled The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani in 2022

Ruth Asawa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Ruth Asawa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Asawa began experimenting with wire after a 1947 trip to Toluca, Mexico, where local artisans taught her how to create baskets from the material. She was a student at the renowned Black Mountain College in North Carolina at the time, under the tutelage of the Bauhaus pioneer Josef Albers, who had a profound influence on her approach to making art. Asawa went on to execute her looped-wire sculptures in a number of complex, interwoven configurations.

Ruth Asawa’s hand and looped-wire sculpture, dated 1952. Photo by Imogen Cunningham. © Imogen Cunningham Trust

Ruth Asawa’s hand and looped-wire sculpture, 1952. Photo by Imogen Cunningham. © Imogen Cunningham Trust

Ruth Asawa’s hand and looped-wire sculpture, 1952. Photo by Imogen Cunningham. © Imogen Cunningham Trust

A horizontal installation view of Ruth Asawa's sculpture works at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia titled The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani in 2022

Ruth Asawa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Ruth Asawa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

“I have stood in a gallery hung with Asawa’s wire sculptures where the movement of my own body has caused them to sway, the shadows of the woven wire dancing against the floor. For a moment, I was quietly transported elsewhere—to the deep sea, to a forest or maybe to someplace altogether unearthly.”

—Thessaly La Force, T: The New York Times Style Magazine


Noah Davis

The Milk of Dreams features five paintings by Noah Davis (1983–2015) that provide commentary on contemporary Black American life as seen through his unique lens. The presentation underscores the late artist’s mastery of the medium in lush, sensual, moody figurative paintings that depict scenes of everyday life infused with fantastical imagery, drawing from the history of both European and American painting in an enduring and entirely new way.

Installation view of two works by Noah Davis at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, dated 2022

Noah Davis, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

 

Noah Davis, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

 
Portrait of Noah Davis

Noah Davis in Los Angeles, 2010. Photo by Esteban Schmidt

Noah Davis in Los Angeles, 2010. Photo by Esteban Schmidt

Davis’s works were integral to the rise of figurative and representational painting in the early twenty-first century and sit firmly in the canon of great American painting, drawing inspiration from artists including Marlene Dumas, Luc Tuymans, Kerry James Marshall, Mark Rothko, and Fairfield Porter.

“Race plays a role in as far as my figures are Black. The paintings aren’t political at all though. If I’m making any statement, it’s to just show Black people in normal scenarios, where drugs and guns are nothing to do with it.”

—Noah Davis

Installation view of the works by Noah Davis at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, dated 2022

Noah Davis, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

 

Noah Davis, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

 

“When I see Noah’s paintings, what I’m really aware of is just what an extraordinary instrument painting is for making images that negotiate and navigate the complexity of human experience.”

—Helen Molesworth, curator


Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger powerfully and directly engages with viewers through her distinctive visual language, utilizing images, language, and technology as tools of communication to reveal and question established power structures and social constructs. In The Milk of Dreams, the artist presents a major new installation featuring a three-channel video installation and her iconic black-and-white statements made manifest in an immersive environment across four walls and the floor. 

A close-up shot from the work by Barbara Kruger at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia titled The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani in 2022

Barbara Kruger, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Barbara Kruger, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

“Since Kruger emerged as one of this country’s most uncompromising conceptual artists, the media landscape has changed almost beyond comprehension. But Kruger has kept up with it, turning to different modes of presentation and media, refining her messages, sharpening her wit.... Few artists have produced work as genuinely unsettling to established ways of thinking ... as Kruger.”

—Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post

An installation view from the work by Barbara Kruger at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia titled The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani in 2022

Barbara Kruger, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Barbara Kruger, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

The largest and most comprehensive solo show of Kruger’s work in the last two decades, Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. is currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through July 17, 2022. It debuted at the Art Institute of Chicago earlier this year. A major site-specific commission of her work will open at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, on July 16, 2022.

An installation view from the exhibition titled Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. at the Art Institute of Chicago, dated 2022

Installation view, Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You., Art Institute of Chicago, 2022

Installation view, Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You., Art Institute of Chicago, 2022

“Rather than X-out and replace words in the American Pledge of Allegiance for a static graphic, like an editor with a blue pencil crossing out a text until the right word is found, she digitized the evolving process. To the relentless, rhythmic beat of a tick-tock soundtrack, words unfold on the video screen.… You think your way through a vow you can probably recite by heart, stumbling across unacknowledged sentiments and, elsewhere as the text continues, even shocking cruelties and bigotries. Finally, you arrive at a fuller understanding of your participation in the construction of a social contract.”

 

—Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times

Façade of a museum featuring work by Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger, Untitled, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Hyundai Motor Company, installed as a part of Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2022. Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Barbara Kruger, Untitled, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Hyundai Motor Company, installed as a part of Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2022. Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA


Andra Ursuţa

Andra Ursuţa’s (b. 1979) inventive sculptural work mines the darker undercurrents of contemporary society. In her third appearance in the Biennale Arte, the artist presents nine recent works that build upon her innovative, cast-glass works while further pushing the boundaries of what is possible in sculpture.

An installation view of Andra Ursuţa's works at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022

Andra Ursuţa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Dario Lasagni

Andra Ursuţa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Dario Lasagni

An installation view of Andra Ursuţa's works at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022

Andra Ursuţa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Dario Lasagni

Andra Ursuţa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Dario Lasagni

An installation view of Andra Ursuţa's works at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022

Andra Ursuţa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Dario Lasagni

Andra Ursuţa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Dario Lasagni

An installation view of Andra Ursuţa's works at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022

Andra Ursuţa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Dario Lasagni

Andra Ursuţa, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Dario Lasagni

Drawing from memory, nostalgia, art history, and popular culture, Ursuţa transforms commonplace objects and materials into evocative sculptures and installations that give new form to subjective experience. Combining traditional sculpture with cutting-edge technologies, the artist’s cast-glass sculptures utilize 3D scans of her own body, cheap props, BDSM garments, “void fill” packaging, bottles, and other materials that she casts in semitranslucent colored glass, sometimes creating a marbled effect or a shock of molten color from within.

Portrait of Andra Ursuţa

Andra Ursuţa in her studio, 2020. Photo by Jason Schmidt

Andra Ursuţa in her studio, 2020. Photo by Jason Schmidt

A sculpture work titled Predators ‘R Us by Andra Ursuţa, dated 2020

Andra Ursuţa, Predators ’R Us, 2020

Andra Ursuţa, Predators ’R Us, 2020

“In Ursuţa’s newest sculptures ... the body is increasingly constrained in its pose. Presented as creatures fashioned from rigid parts, components like spiky corsets, buckles, and bones, forms progressively evolve into the technical components of an ever-changing cyborg body.”

—Meredith Brown, The Milk of Dreams (catalogue)

A sculpture by Andra Ursuta titled Terminal Figure, dated 2021

Andra Ursuţa, Terminal Figure, 2021

Andra Ursuţa, Terminal Figure, 2021

A sculpture by Andra Ursuta titled Phantom Mass, dated 2021

Andra Ursuţa, Phantom Mass, 2021

Andra Ursuţa, Phantom Mass, 2021


Portia Zvavahera

Portia Zvavahera (b. 1985) represented her native Zimbabwe in the group exhibition Dudziro: Interrogating the Visions of Religious Beliefs at the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2013, and this year debuts four large-scale works in a room of her own in the Arsenale. These new paintings continue the artist’s exploration of the emotions and spiritual transcendence that manifest in her dreams.

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, dated 2021. Photo by Gianluigi Guercia

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, 2021. Photo by Gianluigi Guercia

Portia Zvavahera in her studio, 2021. Photo by Gianluigi Guercia

“The colors keep changing because the dreams are not always the same; the emotions, feelings, and the day also make the painting change. And what I’m looking at—the things that surround me—they also contribute to the colors I use.”

—Portia Zvavahera

Installation view of Portia Zvavahera's works at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia titled The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani in 2022

Portia Zvavahera, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Portia Zvavahera, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Installation view of Portia Zvavahera's painting at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia titled The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani in 2022

Portia Zvavahera, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Portia Zvavahera, installation view, 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022. Photo by Maris Mezulis

Zvavahera’s deeply personal visions are realized through layers of vibrant color and ornate, veil-like patterns that she builds up through expressive brushwork and elaborate printmaking techniques.

Her latest paintings relate to an ongoing body of work rooted in a recurring dream that features owls and other ominous beasts in various guises among angelic messengers who deliver her and her family from danger. Confronting her harrowing visions, she tackles painting as a type of catharsis to transform energies beyond the corporeal realm into curative strengths.

The detail of the work titled Kubatwa kwemazizi (Captured owls) by Portia Zvavahera, date 2022

Portia Zvavahera, Kubatwa kwemazizi (Captured owls), 2022 (detail)

Portia Zvavahera, Kubatwa kwemazizi (Captured owls), 2022 (detail)

“The artist attempts to seize these moments of unadulterated emotion or subconscious experience before analysis and interpretation—in order to transfer them onto the canvas without loss of subliminal textures.”

—Sabine Russ, BOMB Magazine

Venice map by Eden Weingart for David Zwirner

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