On Tuesday the San Juan, Puerto Rico-based duo Allora & Calzadilla (Jennifer Allora, b. Philadelphia, 1974 and Guillermo Calzadilla, b. Havana, 1971) were picked to represent the U.S. at the 54th Venice Biennale, which runs from June 4 to November 27 of next year. ArtForum reports that the duo will premiere six new pieces both inside and outside the American pavilion, with, as one imagines in light of their previous work, a mix of video, sculpture, performance and participatory art.
Their formally rigorous and conceptually adventurous works maintain a distinct sense of humor, like a video of a trumpet mounted on a motorcycle exhaust pipe, six-feet-long pieces of chalk made available to protesters during a public demonstration, and “Hope Hippo” (2005, pictured), a mud sculpture continually occupied by a seated reader. Despite the quality of the duo’s work, the State Department’s selection will probably ruffle some feathers among the cultural elites.
And not because Allora & Calzadilla’s work falls quite comfortably within the boundaries of the high-production values conceptualism favored by most contemporary art institutions nowadays. Rather, the late-30s duo are much younger and less familiar on the global art scene than the usual U.S. picks for the Biennale, who in the last five years have been: Ed Ruscha (2005) Félix González-Torres (2007, posthumous) and Bruce Nauman (2009). All of which gives better reason to be excited by their selection and, if you can manage it somehow, visit Venice next summer.