Riposte | Lorenzo Quinn’s ‘Support’

Each fortnight, HeadStuff brings a unadulterated critique of the global art scene.

Lorenzo Quinn was born in Rome, Italy, and is the son of the Mexican American actor Anthony Quinn and his second wife, costume designer Iolanda Quinn (Jolanda Addolori). Quinn was raised in both the United States and Italy. It was in Rome where he discovered his love for art and started out as a painter in 1982, training at the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York.

[pullquote]“I wanted to sculpt what is considered the hardest and most technically challenging part of the human body. The hand holds so much power – the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy” stated Quinn.[/pullquote] To celebrate this year’s Venice Biennale, artist Quinn has erected a sculpture of two hands arising from the city’s famous Grand Canal. The limbs rest against the Ca’ Sagredo Hotel, dually using the walls as a support system while also appearing powerful enough to dismantle it. The artwork serves as a harrowing visual reminder of the rising sea levels caused by climate change. “I wanted to sculpt what is considered the hardest and most technically challenging part of the human body. The hand holds so much power – the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy” stated Quinn. The Italian artist and former actor has been known to use the human body as the subject of many of his works, such as his noted Force of Nature sculpture and ongoing Globe of Life series.

‘Support’ will be on display until November 26.

Lorenzo Quinn

In my line of work, I produce documentary films mostly on environment issues. The challenge is always how we take an existential issue, like climate change, and turn it into a story that can be easily understood. In Lorenzo Quinn’s ‘Support’ two giant lifeless arms rise out of the water in desperation with the head submerged. The figure appears to be physically out of it’s depth clinging to the building for survival from the rising tide.

The city of Venice is one of many cities threatened by sea level rise. What I see every day are the numbers behind this threat. The Earth’s atmosphere recently passed a symbolic point; The greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere that keep us from freezing and regulate our perfect climate are higher now than at any time in the last 15 million years. They are already 40% higher than the pre-industrial global average and they are rising faster now than at any time in Earth’s history, all due to humans incredible ability to find and burn carbon-based fuels.

Lorenzo Quinn
Rise Through Education | Lorenzo Quinn

To understand the new world we are creating by altering the atmosphere, we have to go back in time over 15 million years, when temperatures were on average only a few degrees Celsius warmer than they are today. In this warmer world our giant polar ice caps were only half the size, and sea levels were about 20 meters higher than they are today. That’s Earth’s past, but it’s also the future we have created. With little sign of bucking this trend, we could be locking the future of the planet into an even worse situation than this. The ice caps will take hundreds of years to melt to cause this level of sea level rise. But by the end of this century no matter what we do now we will have a very different world to the one enjoyed by the visitors of Venice today. Future generations will certainly look back at Lorenzo Quinn’s sculpture and wonder how this generation perceived it. They will wonder why we ignored the warnings, if we didn’t understand them or if we didn’t care.

When I looked at the sculpture the second time, I saw something else. One hand was clearly pulling at the buildings corner in an effort to get above water, but the other hand appeared to be pushing or holding it up in support. Then I thought about the size of these great big hands. They represent huge power, perhaps representing the power of the human race.

We have both the power to destroy our world and the power to support it.
For me Lorenzo Quinn’s ‘Support’ represents our future world and asks what the power of the human race will be used for in the face of this adversity: Continue to destroy our home? Or try to help save it?


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