Khari Turner insights into Simone Leigh pavilion at Venice Biennale

Artists, not surprisingly, have insights into artworks and exhibitions unique from critics or collectors. That is not to diminish the value of critic or collector opinions, it is only to say that artists see the art world from a different perspective. I was reminded of this recently during a conversation I was having with Khari Turner about an exhibition of his work at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

Turner also has a presentation of his paintings on view in Venice, Italy to coincide with the 2022 Venice Biennale, the Super Bowl of contemporary art – if the Super Bowl were only held every other year. Our conversation turned to Simone Leigh’s U.S. Pavilion show. While her work and its display has been widely acclaimed, I had not read anything previously which praised it for the reason that Turner did.

His was the nuance and perspective only an artist could offer. I’d like to share it with you.

Here is Khari Turner’s response when I asked him about his perceptions of Leigh’s exhibition:

“I was amazed because I was realizing right when I walked in that as a young artist, I want to show off my skills and my talent as much as possible. When I do a show, I’m thinking how to cover all the walls and how to create a dynamic show and in so many different pieces, how many can I fit in? And in (Simone Leigh’s) show, it was pretty sparse. There’s four rooms and most of them only had one piece in it or one single thing.

“To command the space with one single object (was impressive) and understanding that, as an artist, you have the power to say, ‘hey, I’m just gonna put this one thing here.’ She could have put all types of stuff on the walls or created a whole atmosphere in one way or another, but it felt really powerful that she would have just one item in one room and you just walked around it and that was it. In the last room, there was multiple things, but it felt kind of like a mausoleum at the end in terms of like you walk through the space as a guest and then you got to the end and were like, ‘oh, this is where all the treasures are at.’

“As an artist and thinking about if this is this type of scale and sparseness (I want to achieve), but commanding of space, I need to be able to do that with only a minimal amount of pieces.”

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