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b. 1935, United States

Michael Venezia Biography

Italian-American artist Michael Venezia is widely recognised for his formative role in 20th-century American modernism, building upon the concerns of the Abstract Expressionists since the 1960s. Blending pictorial and Minimalist concerns, Venezia's practice centres painting as both verb and object. He lives and works in New York and Trevi, Italy.

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Early Years

Venezia was born in Brooklyn to an Italian immigrant family. In 1954, he attended the Art Students League of New York. He studied art under Peter Busa at the State University College of New York in 1963, and graduated with an MFA in painting and art history from the University of Michigan in 1968.

Venezia's early career coincided with a period of radical change in the art world, including the birth of the Fluxus movement. Venezia sought to develop the methodologies of the Abstract Expressionists, and looked towards new methods of paint application that brought gesture to the fore. He began using industrial spray guns with metallic acrylic emulsions on wooden blocks, and moved away from canvas and paper substrates.

Michael Venezia Artworks

Venezia's practice often bridges the gap between sculpture and painting, with a variety of mediums and supports deployed in his works including wooden bars and paint palettes. The artist embraces the element of chance, using unconventional methods that foreground gesture, repetition, and duration in the presentation of the artwork.

Spray Paintings

From the late 1960s to the early 70s, Venezia produced a series of 'spray paintings' on canvas and paper. These featured randomised puffs of colour produced by a compressor and spray gun, tools conventionally used in automotive painting. Along with its capacity to fill large areas with colour in an instant, Venezia was interested in the idea of a painting being created without evidence of the artist's hand.

VNM (1969) consists of two sprays of light blue paint on either side of the untreated oblong canvas. Each fleck of paint from the spray is permanently captured, producing four cone-shaped gradients that act as a record of Venezia's process. This series of work has been featured in numerous retrospectives, including a solo exhibition at Galerie Greta Meert, Brussels in 2013.

Bar Paintings

In the 1980s, Venezia moved away from the canvas entirely, turning instead towards narrow wooden blocks or 'bar paintings' that exemplify his mature artistic output. Displayed in singular blocks or assembled into constellations, these works reflect Venezia's continued preference for the perceptual over the conceptual. Diversifying his colour palette to include brighter tones, he used a palette knife or brush to create daubs of oil paint in one single movement. NM 178 (1995) compiles a group of six bars in shades of metallic grey, purple, and blue, which register Venezia's brushstroke in the subtle dash-like painted surface.

Palette Paintings

For his exhibition Swerves (2019) at Häusler Contemporary, Munich, Venezia presented a series of bar paintings and paint palette works, with materials sourced from his home in Umbria. In these works, his palette knife technique is heightened—with complementary colours used to 'swerve' and establish a figure-ground relationship. Venezia's palette paintings such as P238 (2018) also feature contrasting daubs, with the unique support acting as a 'metaphor for the point at which painting begins', as the artist stated in an interview with Mousse Magazine.

Awards and Accolades

Venezia has received numerous accolades, including the Horace Rackham Fellowship, University of Michigan (1967); CAPS grant, New York State Council on the Arts (1975); The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant (1979); and the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, U.S. (1981).


Michael Venezia has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.

Select solo exhibitions include Swerves, Häusler Contemporary, Munich (2019); P A I N T I N G S, Galerie Greta Meert, Brussels (2019); 1967 | Spray Paintings, Häusler Contemporary, Lustenau (2017); Versionen, Kunstverein Heilbronn, Heilbronn (2016).

Select group exhibitions include Renewing Abstraction, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2020); Dialogue II: Light, Häusler Contemporary, Zurich (2020); Nur Skulptur, Häusler Contemporary, Munich (2019); And The Stars Look Very Different Today, Häusler Contemporary, Zurich (2018).

Annie Curtis | Ocula | 2022

Michael Venezia
featured artworks

NY #785 by Michael Venezia contemporary artwork works on paper
Michael Venezia NY #785, 1973 Spray paint on paper
66.1 x 101.6 cm
Galerie Greta Meert Request Price & Availability
NY #866 by Michael Venezia contemporary artwork drawing
Michael Venezia NY #866, 1971 Spray paint and pencil on paper
66.2 x 51 cm
Galerie Greta Meert Request Price & Availability
Untitled by Michael Venezia contemporary artwork painting
Michael Venezia Untitled, 2018 Acrylic on wood
18 x 160.8 cm
Galerie Greta Meert Request Price & Availability

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