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#47 Angels Listening: A Conversation with Rachel Lee Hovnanian

Updated: Jul 29, 2022

Saturday, July 30th on Zoom

10am Los Angeles & Phoenix, 1pm NY & Toronto, 6pm London, 7pm Italy

I am delighted to welcome to Paola's Studiolo the artist behind one of my favorite collateral exhibits of the 59th Biennale of Venice, Rachel Lee Hovnanian. After living and working in Italy for part of each year of the past decade, Hovnanian comes to Venice with her most intimate exhibition to date, releasing the transformative power of our inner selves.

Her "Angels Listening' is an immersive and intimate installation set in the beautiful gardens of Biblioteca Zenobiana del Temanza in Dorsoduro neighborhood of Venice. The exhibit, curated by Annalisa Bugliani - who will be joining live from her gallery in Pietrasanta - offers a meditative space to reflect on pressing issues related to identity, knowledge, time, as well as interpersonal experience and relationships.

Featuring seven large-scale angels cast in white bronze, who have been ‘silenced’ as Hovnanian purposefully created the cherubic figures of this installation with two “pieces of tape” sculpted in bronze and covering their mouths, representing the suppression of truth and offering a reflection on the role of art in this unprecedented historical and social conjuncture. The angels have been artfully staged around a silver confessional box (The Cathartic Box), and the artist invites viewers to write on a ribbon their innermost thoughts, whether repressed due to fear of judgement or sheer inability to speak them. In a performative act of emotional relief through catharsis, the visitor will then place the ribbons into the box while ringing an awakening bell that symbolizes the role of the angels as mute listeners. At the end of each day, the messages are taken out of the box and compiled as a collective stream-of-consciousness on prayer-like mats dispersed throughout the exhibition space’s garden, stimulating the audience’s personal interpretation.

We will talk about what inspired this installation at the Biennale, what it is to work in today's world as a female artist, and what kind of inspiration her long visits to Italy bring to her creative flow.


About the Artist:

Rachel Lee Hovnanian is a New York-and Miami-based artist whose multidisciplinary practice explores the complexities of modern feminism, cultural ideals regarding physical perfection, and the psychological effects of new media and technology.

Born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and raised in Houston, Texas, she received her BFA from the University of Texas, Austin, and completed postgraduate studies at the Parsons School of Design in New York. She has exhibited internationally in solo exhibitions in the United States, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Hovnanian’s multidisciplinary practice spans from photography, video, sculpture, painting, and installation, delving into the social codes surrounding femininity and gender relations, as well as broader value systems and the means by which we formulate our public selves. Questioning the role of art in today’s society, Hovnanian’s work navigates the post-internet world, investigating contemporary notions of narcissism, obsession and intimacy, and alienating addiction to modern technological devices and media. Her installations establish surreal and immersive environments that challenge viewers to examine their own cultural values.

About Biennale:

La Biennale di Venezia has been for over 120 years one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. The history of the La Biennale di Venezia dates back from 1895, when the first International Art Exhibition was organized.

The 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia runs from 23 April – 27 November, 2022

How to visit this exhibition in Venice:

For those of you planning to visit Venice, you will find "Angels Listening" at Loggia del Temanza, Dorsoduro 1602, just a few minutes from the waterbus (vaporetto) docks of Ca 'Rezzonico (on the Grand Canal), Zattere and San Basilio (on the Giudecca Canal).

The exhibition is free and open to the public, Tuesday – Sunday, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

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