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June 11, 2014
100 drawings by Daniel Libeskind, screen-printed on glass panels, fill the Venice Pavilion.
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  Just outside the Venice Pavilion, visitors are greeted by a sculpture whose cross shape, says Libeskind, recalls the axis as fundamental to architectural drawing. Photo by Paul Clemence.
    Just outside the Venice Pavilion, visitors are greeted by a sculpture whose cross shape, says Libeskind, recalls the axis as fundamental to architectural drawing. Photo by Paul Clemence.
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  In an anteroom, a glass chandelier, designed by Libeskind and produced in conjunction with Lasvit, conjures a sense of both the fecundity of geometry and the materiality of light. Photo by Paul Clemence.
    In an anteroom, a glass chandelier, designed by Libeskind and produced in conjunction with Lasvit, conjures a sense of both the fecundity of geometry and the materiality of light. Photo by Paul Clemence.
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  Exploring boundary between representation, and abstraction, Libeskind’s 100 drawings have been printed on glass and hung, scale-like, on a complex mounting that follows the challenging curve of Venice Pavilion. Photo by Massimo Listri.
    Exploring boundary between representation, and abstraction, Libeskind’s 100 drawings have been printed on glass and hung, scale-like, on a complex mounting that follows the challenging curve of Venice Pavilion. Photo by Massimo Listri.
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  The glass panels are meant to be seen by moving clockwise along the curve. When you turn around and move counterclockwise, the images become pure abstraction. Photo by Paul Clemence.
    The glass panels are meant to be seen by moving clockwise along the curve. When you turn around and move counterclockwise, the images become pure abstraction. Photo by Paul Clemence.
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cross sculpture outside the venice pavilion at the biennale
Just outside the Venice Pavilion, visitors are greeted by a sculpture whose cross shape, says Libeskind, recalls the axis as fundamental to architectural drawing. Photo by Paul Clemence.

According to Rem Koolhaas, the field of architecture is moribund, and he has challenged all participants at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale to get back to “Fundamentals,” the title of this year’s event. In “Elements of Architecture,” the exhibition Koolhaas curated for the Central Pavilions, he sets the example through a dissection of the individual elements of contemporary buildings, from floors and roofs to elevators and HVAC systems.

In “Sonnets in Babylon,” the exhibition in this year’s Venice Pavilion, Daniel Libeskind gently rejects Koolhaas’s hyper-critical dialogue as he responds to it in his own way. In 100 never-before-seen drawings, Libeskind digs down into the fundament of his own architectural production, which he locates in the act of drawing itself. The drawings, originally created with pen and a sepia wash, have been screen-printed on large-scale glass panels and fixed to the Venice Pavilion’s curved walls.

“There is no story or narrative to the drawings,” Libeskind tells me. “They are not meant to be didactic. They explore a phenomenon that has nothing to do with language or words, something without archeology.”

Sometimes reminiscent of architectural plans, sometimes of exploding bones, his drawings deliberately to explore the fine line between the pictorial and pure abstraction, the making of structures and the exploding of them.

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