Beatrice Burati Anderson Art Space & Gallery reopened on 6 September 2020 with Bal Masqué, an evening event of art, music and performance including an exhibition of works by Andrew Huston entitled Laguna Durante on view through 21 December.
Following the exceptional acqua alta (high tide) in November 2019 and the ensuing six months of closure due to the global health emergency, it is finally possible to give a sign of hope and a spirit of rebirth for citizens and the city as a whole. Conscious of the fact that the drive to create originates from one’s own experience, Huston’s exhibition includes quintessential works borne out of his heightened awareness of the pandemic crisis.
In the silence of an empty Venice, Huston found refuge in the private daily rhythm of his studio practice which stood in stark contrast to the surreal quiet that enveloped the city like a spell. The path to and from his studio became its own strange experience. The eye and the photographic lens captured images that may never be repeated.
The series Laguna Serra, six canvases and six identical photographs, were made during the lockdown, yet they do not speak directly about the experience of confinement but rather bear witness to the profound relationship between Huston and the city as expressed through his research in the rhythms and the iteration of formal elements distilled to their essence of infinite stratifications. A unique photograph repeats the rhythms and flow of lines and colour in the paintings, as if scanning time arrested, incomprehensible and disrupting. It was a time to look deeply and to notice what we have been taking for granted and which we can now see as precious.
Thanks to his rowing, Huston found his own portal to access the city where rowing and painting become inseparable.
“The thing about rowing, voga alla veneta, it is more than a finely tuned aquatic activity for pleasure and exercise. To many, rowing is a sport, a wonderful outdoor activity. This is true in Venice too, but it also so much more; rowing unlocks a perception of Venice and it’s surroundings in a way not possible in a motor-boat or taxi. It is a cultural act that connects one to the history of the city and its place in the laguna. Similar to when one declare oneself as an artist, ones steps into and swims in the river of art history; learning to voga alla veneta physically lands one into the living history of Venice and allows one to adopt the proud posture of a Venetian. It also is the best way to explore every canal and every corner of the lagune. The pace of rowing is commensurate with the pedestrian speed of Venice, a human pace set by a rhythm of movement to breath and through breath, thought. I believe it is close to criminal to live in Venice and not learn to row.”
“Never forget the quiet calli” and “Never forget the calm canals” are the affirmations made by the artist in these times of lockdown; painted on two preexisting posters thanks to an initiative by We Are Here Venice, they were unique and ephemeral and destroyed after their cycle. We wanted to bring them back again by printing a single copy, highlighting how easy it is to forget. Repetitia iuvante.
At the opening, there was a performance of excerpts from the opera in three parts L’Orfeide by Gian Francesco Malipiero, composed between 1918 and 1922 during the Spanish Flu. One part, entitled “The death of masks”, was originally written for voice and piano. Its performance on the night of the opening celebrates one hundred years to the day of its first performance, played here by a solo violin without voice accompaniment to underline the silence of these times during a heath crisis.
As an act of collective performance, viewers wore masks carrying the image of Huston’s paintings, inviting us to recognize ourselves in them, reflecting ourselves in one another, without pausing to find reasons to meet and celebrate life together.