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Art In America

Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck

R.S.V.P, 1939 (detail). From the series Cultural Diplomacy: An Art We Neglect, 2007-2009

In collaboration with Media Farzin

 At least since Lucy Lippard organized the 1966 exhibition “Eccentric Abstraction,” artists have demonstrated that minimal, abstract forms can convey messy, human content. This idea is the primary thrust of “Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial),” curated by Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Pedrosa. Including around 130 artists, mostly contemporary but some from as far back as the 19th century, the exhibition emphasizes Latin America and the Middle East.


Neighboring the abstraction section was a collaborative room by Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck (b. 1972, Caracas) and Media Farzin (b. 1979, San Diego) that, through photos, sculpture and wall text, reveals pseudo-meaningful coincidences between the histories of modern art and the Middle East, uncovered through research inspired when Balteo-Yazbeck detected similarities between the shapes of Iraqi oil fields and elements from Alexander Calder's mobiles. One wall text points out two crucial developments, both from 1931: Duchamp suggested the name “mobiles” to Calder, and Iraq became independent. A 2008 photo shows a Calder mobile hanging in front of portraits of Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Another work points out that in the days of Nelson Rockefeller s involvement with MoMA, a museum employee, later fired, sent gag invitations to an opening at The Museum of Standard Oil. There's an inviting ambiguity between the serious and the satirical.

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