Joan Jonas is an American multimedia artist representing the United States at the 56th Venice Biennale this year. “They Come To Us Without A Word” is the title of her installation in the American pavilion. It features a career spanning selection of individual works. However, her use of light, video, story, and performance create a seamless illumination gently propelling the viewer from one gallery to the other and deeper into Jonas’ vision.
The American Pavilion was built in 1930 and is located with other national pavilions within the Castello Gardens. The Palladian design features an exterior forecourt and a small central rotunda flanked on either side by two rectangular galleries.
Paul Ha, director of MIT’s List Visual Arts Center, promoted Jonas as the US representative for the current biennale. He believes her work is perfectly suited for this venue and made the following observation in a New York Times interview. “Venice is an almost perfect site to present her stories about nature and disappearance and myth-making,” Mr. Ha, the commissioner and co-curator of the exhibition, said. “Not that many people, even in the arts, have seen Joan’s work in person. All the ideas she’s worked with for the past 40 years are more current than ever.”
The installation is generating enthusiastic reviews from a variety of critics and enthusiasm for the sometimes-beleaguered biennale. “Now her moment has arrived in the form of a triumphal exhibition at the Venice Biennale. ‘They Come to Us Without a Word,’ her multimedia installation piece, is one of the best solo shows to represent the United States at the biennale in over a decade — an effortless combination of maturity and freshness,” writes New York Times art critic Roberta Smith.
Joan Jonas’ selection to represent the United States in this prestigious event recognizes her extensive career as a working artist. She began making art in the 1960s and continues to push boundaries, technology, and her own body into the present day. Her innovative work has been influenced by fairy tales, Icelandic sagas, mythology, and art history and has been recognized by many awards, fellowships and grants.
Images: Courtesy of the artist’s website press kit.