from MArte

Painting meets architecture in Rick Lowe’s exhibition in Venice

by the Editorial Team

A historical and architectural symbol in the urban landscape of the city, Palazzo Grimani welcomes the paintings of Rick Lowe as part of an exhibition that dialogues with the peculiarities of the building. And the artist himself explains why

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The title of Rick Lowe’s exhibition at Palazzo Grimani (one of the most beloved buildings in Venice) is a play on the assonant sounds of two terms that are graphically very similar. The Arch within the Arc relates the architectural arch to the arc in its figurative sense, bringing together the American artist’s new paintings. For his first solo exhibition in Italy Lowe created works inspired by the emblematic palazzo, extending his reflection to the idea of time, which concerns every area of existence. In this interview Rick Lowe guides us through his work.

The exhibition The Arch within the Arc makes clear from its title the concepts that have guided your recent pictorial research. How would you describe your paintings on display at Palazzo Grimani to those who have not yet seen them?
My mark making derives from mapping the real and imaginary patterns made by domino games. When I cut out these patterns from paper and collage them into painted compositions, the results adopt the look of topographical maps. When I was asked to make work for an exhibition at Palazzo Grimani, I visited the space and was taken by its archways, ovals, circles, and semicircles ‒ forms that appear throughout the city ‒ and decided to pay homage to these shapes, all of which derive from the curvature of the circle. I try to avoid forcing the paintings to bend to my predetermined desires, allowing them instead to challenge and guide me, and the arch became the focus because of its overwhelming presence. The foundations of most of the paintings in the exhibition are made up of crisscrossing arch shapes, but the arch is not only an architectural element, it is also a fragment of something larger, an arc, which speaks of time and the all-encompassing circle, itself representative of unity and infinity. This expansion of my thinking from the simple architectural arch to the arc and the circle allowed me to think about the age of the buildings, my own aging process, and the quality of time that everything shares. There is always a beginning, a high point, and an end to the arc of life. Even the arch itself is subject to an arc.

In what ways have the architecture of Palazzo Grimani and the architecture of Venice left a mark on your painting?
As a painter whose work is primarily abstract, I don’t usually respond to the architecture of the exhibition site. But walking through the Palazzo Grimani, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture and felt compelled to speak to it in some way. The building’s circles, ovals, and arches stood out to me the most and I decided to respond to the form in my paintings. However, during the process of making the paintings I gained deeper understanding of the value of the circles and ovals. This revelation pulled images of those symbols into the paintings as well.

As an artist, what do you wish for the future of Venice?
It is an honor and a privilege to exhibit in Venice but I’m concerned about how climate change will affect the city and its status as a global cultural center. My wish for the future of Venice is that measures are taken to ensure that it will remain important to the arts for a long, long time to come.

Interview by Arianna Testino

Rick Lowe was born in 1961 in rural Russell County, Alabama, and lives and works in Houston. Collections include the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, Kansas; Menil Collection, Houston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Tate, London; and the UBS Art Collection. Solo exhibitions include Art League Houston (2020–21); Notes on the Great Migration, Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, University of Chicago (2022–23); and Hic sunt dracones (Here Lay Dragons) Mapping the Unknown, Benaki Museum / Pireos 138, Athens (2023). He also participated in Documenta 14, Athens (2017). Among Lowe’s numerous community art projects are Project Row Houses, Houston (1993–2018); Watts House Project, Los Angeles (1996–2012); Borough Project (with Suzanne Lacy and Mary Jane Jacob), Charleston, South Carolina (2003); Small Business/Big Change, Anyang Public Art Program, Korea (2010); Trans.lation: Vickery Meadow, Dallas (2013); Victoria Square Project, Athens (2017–18); Greenwood Art Project, Tulsa, Oklahoma (2018–21); and Black Wall Street Journey, Chicago (2021–). In 2013 President Barack Obama appointed Lowe to the National Council on the Arts, and in 2014 he was named a MacArthur Fellow. Lowe is currently a professor of interdisciplinary practice at the University of Houston and will be a Resident at the American Academy in Rome, 2025–26.

The Arch within the Arc
April 17 – November 24, 2024
Ramo Grimani 4858, Venice

Cover photo: Venice, Museo di Palazzo Grimani. Rick Lowe. The Arch within the Arc, 2024. Installation view. Courtesy: Gagosian. Photo: Matteo D’Eletto, M3 Studio

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