The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson

THE ART OF
KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON

4/9/11

Anyone for Venice?

The Tumblr of Robin Cembalest, executive editor of ARTnews. She tweets @artnewsmag and @rcembalest. Follow her other Tumblr, letmypeopleshow.tumblr.com, and her art blog for teens, niborama.com. 


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Anyone for Venice?
Despite the “we are the world” image of the Venice Bienale, the international art exposition is hardly is known for its inclusivity. Latin America’s pavilion is usually somewhere off in the periphery; Africa is hardly represented. And Lebanon was supposed to be there this year, but it had to cancel due to unrest at home. The Danish collective Wooloo, which was supposed to be in Lebanon’s pavilion, made the best of the situation by transforming its project—into helping artists from other countries find places to stay with local families. So far artists from Albania, Costa Rica, Lithuania, Haiti and Romania have accepted their offer.
Also seeking to change the equation is the American Folk Art Museum, which is presenting a kind of shadow U.S. pavilion—though it’s hardly shadowy, since it’s funded by Benetton and housed in the historic Fondaco dei Tedeschi, near the Rialto. But the artists it’s showing in “Vision and Vernacular: Eight African-American Artists in Venice” are not the type usually shown in the official American pavilion, nor anywhere else around town for that matter. Four are graffiti artists, among them Daze, whose Seduction (2009) is shown here. 
And four are self-taught artists, including Kevin Blythe Sampson, a retired New Jersey policeman who now makes art full-time. His installation, riffing on the famous picture of George Washington crossing the Delaware, features a vessel resembling a boat with six bicycle tires and found objects commenting on the liberal elite, African American leadership, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, and much more. On its sails will be a cloth resembling a “mutated Confederate flag,” a tattered American flag, and paintings of the artist’s impressions of iconic religious images of Venice. In a city crowded with icons, and a show rife with social commentary, this might actually attract some attention. 
 Courtesy of the artist
Anyone for Venice?
Despite the “we are the world” image of the Venice Bienale, the international art exposition is hardly is known for its inclusivity. Latin America’s pavilion is usually somewhere off in the periphery; Africa is hardly represented. And Lebanon was supposed to be there this year, but it had to cancel due to unrest at home. The Danish collective Wooloo, which was supposed to be in Lebanon’s pavilion, made the best of the situation by transforming its project—into helping artists from other countries find places to stay with local families. So far artists from Albania, Costa Rica, Lithuania, Haiti and Romania have accepted their offer.
Also seeking to change the equation is the American Folk Art Museum, which is presenting a kind of shadow U.S. pavilion—though it’s hardly shadowy, since it’s funded by Benetton and housed in the historic Fondaco dei Tedeschi, near the Rialto. But the artists it’s showing in “Vision and Vernacular: Eight African-American Artists in Venice” are not the type usually shown in the official American pavilion, nor anywhere else around town for that matter. Four are graffiti artists, among them Daze, whose Seduction (2009) is shown here.
And four are self-taught artists, including Kevin Blythe Sampson, a retired New Jersey policeman who now makes art full-time. His installation, riffing on the famous picture of George Washington crossing the Delaware, features a vessel resembling a boat with six bicycle tires and found objects commenting on the liberal elite, African American leadership, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, and much more. On its sails will be a cloth resembling a “mutated Confederate flag,” a tattered American flag, and paintings of the artist’s impressions of iconic religious images of Venice. In a city crowded with icons, and a show rife with social commentary, this might actually attract some attention. 
 Courtesy of the artist