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.