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Piero Manzoni

Piazza del Duomo, 12
March 26–June 2

Piero Manzoni, Achrome, 1958–59, paint and kaolin on canvas, 13 3/4 x 10".

Fifty-one years after Piero Manzoni’s death, the Palazzo Reale plays host to an extensive retrospective of his work. It’s his first show in Milan—a city to which he was closely tied—since 1997, and with 130 works, as well as films and documents, the exhibition confirms the importance and prescience of both the artist’s research and output, which anticipated many issues in Conceptual art. But he only arrived at this point after first making earlier work, dense tar-covered canvases (such as L’immagine interiore [Interior Image], 1957), that reverberated with the influence of the “arte nucleare” movement—a source of inspiration that grew more dispersed and subtle in the material surfaces of his early white paintings of 1957, which he later named “Achromes.”

The variations in the Achromes on view here highlight the artist’s serial use of materials, such as puckered canvas, plush, cotton wool, compressed paper, and bread. Attentive to the work of Lucio Fontana, Manzoni soon moved away from the canvas, by making Fiato d’artista (Artist’s Breath), 1960, his “Uova scultura” (Egg Sculptures), 1960, and his famous Merda d’artista (Artist’s Shit), 1961. All serial products and processes, the works reveal the inscription of immaterial and residual elements within processes of artmaking—ironic elements that seem to lack distinctive qualities other than those superimposed by the artist’s desire to give them status. In his “Sculture viventi” (Living Sculptures), 1961, the works’ artistry is all but guaranteed by “certificates of authenticity,” wherein Manzoni left his autograph on participants’ bodies. The exhibition is only complete, however, with Socle du monde (Base of the World), 1961—though here it’s distorted in the installation: placed on a base of its own, rather than on the ground outside. What yields perhaps the most enlightening commentary, ultimately, is the documentation accompanying the show: both the artist’s book—which includes empty pages in translucent plastic—and the collection of rare footage of the artist’s actions.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Regina José Galindo

Via Palestro 14
June 7–June 8

Regina Galindo, Exhalación (estoy viva) (Exhalation [I am alive]), 2014. Performance view, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Milan.

Regina José Galindo’s retrospective at PAC is entitled “Estoy Viva” (I am Alive). The phrase is also the title of the work, also 2014, that visitors first encounter, appearing in large iron letters on the wall—an assertive welcome. “I am alive” were words spoken by one of the indigenous Mayan women who suffered violence under the military dictatorship in Guatemala who now bore witness, their only option after emerging from the experience with nothing but their lives. The artist reads from various personal accounts of the violence in the video La Verdad (The Truth), 2013, while a dentist numbs her mouth. Through lucid and concentrated actions, Galindo penetrates and transmits the essence of a voiceless body faced with brutality and coercion, inscribing this condition within herself and exposing her fragility. All forty-eight works in the exhibition demonstrate this, including performances documented by videos and photographs—one conceived specifically for PAC, Exhalación (estoy viva) (Exhalation [I am alive]), 2014—but also drawings and sculptures. They are divided into sections entitled Politica (Politics), Donna (Woman), Organico (Organic), Violenza (Violence), and Morte (Death).

El cielo llora tanto que debería ser mujer (The sky weeps so much it must be a woman), 1999, was one the first actions staged by the artist for the exhibition, in which she immersed herself in a tub of water, holding her breath until her lungs were ready to burst. Exhalación (estoy viva) is the most recent work—performed by Galindo at the opening of the show. The artist, having taken a sedative, remained stretched out in an empty room, naked, pacified as if drained of all life. Entering one at a time, people were encouraged to witness the vapor from her breath by holding a little mirror close to her nose. The artist, however, somehow held on to consciousness despite being drugged, until doctors on standby came in to readminister the anesthesia. Eventually, she regained her senses after a long wait. Her fortuitous resistance to the sedative revealed the effort and difficulty entailed in putting the body to the test, an act that, all too human, transcends the artifice of staging. In the end, art and existence merged, as Galindo’s body itself shouted “I am alive.”

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Zineb Sedira

Via Mellerio 1
June 5–July 19

Zineb Sedira, Coming and Goings # 2, 2014, C-print on dibond, 39 x 49".

The sea is an entity that separates and conjoins geographies and histories, where unpredictable routes are traced. In Zineb Sedira’s current exhibition, “Maritime Chronicles,” which presents her recent work, she examines the ocean as an omnipresent dimension.

Sedira created the photographic series “Ship on Sand,” 2014, and the diptych series “Comings and Goings,” 2014, in a cemetery of abandoned ships in Nouadhibou, Mauritania. In these works, the artist captures anchors that hang from the rusty sides of ship, sinking into the sand. By metonymy, they speak of the ocean and voyages, but also of failure. Nouadhibou is a place that stands for an economy tied to the sea, where global business matters, decaying ships represent an ecological problem, and migratory birds come and go and from where thousands of people attempt to depart for Europe every day. Multiple stories are collected within the powerful image of the anchor. Also on view, the photographs from the series “Sugar Silo,” “Sugar Mountain,” “Sugar Surface,” and “Sugar Landscape” (all 2013) more directly address the issue of migration, depicting mountains of cane sugar from the southern regions of the globe crammed into the warehouses of Marseille, delineating abstract landscapes and geographies both real and imaginary. Imaginary elements hide behind the construction of every archive.

With the video installation Transmettre en abyme (Passing into the Abyss), 2012, Sedira revives the memory of the Detaille photographic archive in Marseilles, which offers works by three generations of photographers from Marseille, dating from 1895 to today, including the work of Marcel Baudelaire, who, between 1935 and 1985, obsessively photographed ships in transit from the port of the city, dreaming of who knows what distances.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Alessandro Di Pietro

Via Marco Formentini, 4/6
May 7–July 31

View of “Alessandro Di Pietro: La Table Basse,” 2014.

For Alessandro Di Pietro’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, the artist presents “La Table Basse,” or the Coffee Table, where upon first entering the show, visitors are confronted with a curved wooden runway meant to indicate their path westward through the space. Resting on the end of the walkway is The Guidebook / Das Begleitbuch - Katalog / Catalog 4/3 (2012–13), a found copy of Documenta 13’s catalogue. Together, these works address the artist’s interest in the violation of limits by adopting and considering the form and devices of exhibition making as an innervating idea.

The exhibition devices Di Pietro also explores here include narrative and semantics. For example, on a shelf farther into the gallery, New Void: Teazer, 2013, showcases five scenes from Gaspar Noé’s psychedelic film Enter the Void (2009). Di Pietro has captured close to one thousand scenes in total from the film through the use of a manual scanner while it played on a laptop computer. In this exhibition, he represents five now-barely discernible scenes on five laptop screens, and he will eventually create a new film based the reproductions. Similarly, at the farthest end of the gallery is Yuppi! And That’s Enough!, 2013, a brass sheet carved with text describing a fictional story of a child who lived in Hapsburg Austria and Ancona during the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s supposed occupation of the Italian city. As in New Void, this work reorganizes forms to showcase the eventual loss of information in space and in time.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Mimmo Rotella

Piazza del Duomo, 12
June 13–August 31

Mimmo Rotella, A Love in Casablanca, (detail) 2003, serigraph with collage, 28 x 38".

Mimmo Rotella described his décollages as a “protest against a society that has lost the desire for change.” By tearing down advertising posters and peeling away some of their surface in his studio, he wanted to release the materials’ latent “moods,” believing this would give a “patina of hope” to an otherwise bleak world.

The exhibition at the Palazzo Reale presents Rotella’s décollages alongside his retro d’affiches, “poster backs.” This is the name that Pierre Restany gave to Rotella’s found and reworked compositions that include the caked glue and ripped paper from multiple posters, whose reversed images and texts are sometimes visible. To give a sense of Rotella’s contexts, the show also includes works by his contemporaries (Alberto Burri, Enrico Castellani, Jean Dubuffet, Lucio Fontana) and predecessors (Hannah Höch, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Kurt Schwitters) as well as documents related to Rotella’s sound poetry, which he called “epistaltic.”The exhibition proceeds backwards, from Rotella’s meter-wide décollages shown in the 1964 Venice Biennale to the first, more modest décollages, made in Rome between 1953 and ’55 after his return from a Fulbright in Kansas City, where he was still exhibiting works in his early, abstract style.

Abstraction runs parallel to epistaltic poetry, Rotella writes in a manuscript displayed in the exhibition. But the torn poster must have been more than parallel, because it became his signature material. This exhibition gives a sense of décollage’s possibilities, but also of its limitations. The hopeful patina of materiality is hard to separate from the dolce-vita sheen of the posters’ original images, from the pop-culture gratification that can still be felt in front of their dynamic typefaces and their elegantly tattered Marilyn Monroes and Sophia Lorens.

Patrick Greaney

Shannon Ebner

Palazzo Ruspoli, Via del Corso 418
March 13–June 27

View of “Shannon Ebner: Auto Body Collision,” 2014.

The Grande Raccordo Anulare (Great Ring Junction) has surrounded Rome’s urban area since 1979. Despite being a crucial roadway to the city, it has never attracted attention for its aesthetics or sociological function. Recently, not only did the motorway become the protagonist of Sacro GRA (2013), winner of the Golden Lion at the Seventieth Venice International Film Festival, but it is also the center of Shannon Ebner’s solo exhibition “Auto Body Collision.” The artist closely explored the junkyards around the city’s orbital highway, developing a discourse that focuses on the notion of ruin. Disrupting a stereotypical representation of Rome’s ancient past, the show recuperates an alternative notion of the abandoned, shedding new light on the discarded.

The contrast between the opulent venue and the minimal forms used by Ebner is evident throughout the exhibition, and is especially pronounced when one enters the room where the work Auto Body Center, 2014, a black-and-white geometric ink-jet print, rests on two cinder blocks under a grandiose frescoed ceiling. In one of the subsequent spaces, photographic images of crushed cars and mechanical pieces present in the junkyards (Auto Body Collision Roma Series I–VIII, 2014) portray a striking and apocalyptic landscape, where the mechanical ruin seems to claim life back. Ink-jet prints of various tools (Instrumentals, 2013), cinder blocks, and elements of language and design (Alignment, Suspension, and Speed, 2014), along with cardboard cutouts resembling car parts (Counter Forms I–V, 2014), follow in the subsequent rooms. Two large-scale text pieces interrupt the flow of images and investigate the relationship between photography and language. Cardboard gray letters positioned on the floor against the wall of the central gallery spell CLASS AUTO CENTER, calling attention to the anthropomorphic nature of the mechanically discharged and to the potential life of the defunctionalized objects. The exhibition ends in a mesmerizing hallway, where a second text work composes the phrase FIRST COLLISION, reflecting itself in the mirrored walls. A collision has certainly occurred: The works perform a new representation of the magniloquent history of the city, reinterpreted through its disavowed. Recuperated into novel constellations, the inanimate inhabitants of the junkyards turn from static to active once again.

Ilaria Gianni

Alfredo Aceto

Via Giovanni Pascoli 21
June 24–July 26

View of “Alfredo Aceto: HARAM,” 2014.

The intervention Alfredo Aceto conceived for this exhibition is as simple as it is effective. In Frutta Gallery’s project room, he presents five works from his series “Mask Paintings,” 2014. These pieces were inspired by a practice followed by car companies before new vehicles go on the market. In order to downplay similarities, prototypes are disguised with adhesive panels decorated with optical motifs on a black background. With this in mind, Aceto has designed stamps of various circular abstract patterns and applied them with black ink on monochrome canvas or plasterboard surfaces.

The works appear as paintings in terms of their format (each takes a rectangular shape of the same size); the way they are displayed (all are hung on the wall); and compositional layout; in fact, at first glance they merely a show of abstractions. However, when one takes into account the conceptual process that precedes their execution, these pieces seem like anything but paintings, since their methodology is derived from an industrial process whereby the image is hidden, which thus is a negation of the pictorial act. Instead, they are extensions of Aceto’s intellectual approach to the creative process, in particular to the concept of the uniqueness and multiplication of the work of art, wherein he resorts to a structured expressive system that encompasses various mediums. The peculiar aspects of his research include a virtual dialogue he has cultivated with other artists—Alighiero Boetti, Sophie Calle, and Paola Pivi, for example—establishing an almost symbiotic bond with their poetics, expanding his own iconographic and iconological repertoire, which is already as vast as it is unusual for an artist of his generation.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Mircea Cantor

Via dei Prefetti, 17
May 29–July 26

Mircea Cantor, Future Gift, 2014, marble, concrete. Installation view.

Mircea Cantor’s latest exhibition, titled “Ti do la mia giovinezza” (I Give You My Youth), is symbolic of what art and life are capable of expressing. The youth the artist addresses here is not described as personal data, but rather an intellectual dimension that serves as a common denominator for all the works on display.

The installation Cantor conceived for the Kunsthalle Budapest in 2008, which was made up of seven cement volumes of various sizes that depict the contours of gift boxes, is seminal to this show’s grouping, titled Future Gifts (all works 2014), of twenty-one sculptures of equal size and shape in different colors and materials that are scattered on the gallery’s floor. A ribbon, knotted and tied in a bow, in white Carrara marble, black Marquińa marble, or concrete defines each sculpture’s outer shape, while the interior, which would normally include the square gift box, is here left empty. The vacant volume is meant to contain possibility—an idea, a dream, hope—that will someday perhaps materialize and occupy the abandoned space.

The video Regalo (Gift) also refers to the future. In it, a young boy repeats the words “I can’t give you anything,” disarmingly stating the limits imposed by his age and, at the same time, his already developed understanding of the concept of giving. This latter idea is also present in the sculpture L’AM della mia vita (The AM of My Life), in which an ancient coin from the time of Theodosius II (5th century AD) balances on an iron bar of a curved gate. As the abbreviation “a.m.,” from the Latin ante meridiem for before noon, in the title indicates, this work, too, connects back allegorically to the golden age of life and to the artist’s ability to offer it up to those who follow his creations.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Robert Overby

Via San Tomaso 53
May 16–July 27

View of “Robert Overby,” 2014.

Robert Overby’s oeuvre is a disenchanted reflection on the relationship between time and matter—a relationship the American artist has long rendered poetic with his sensitive investigations. This traveling retrospective curated by Alessandro Rabottini includes twenty-three pieces, created between 1969 and 1987, and conveys the complexity of an eclectic and polysemous artistic practice maintained by a figure who existed outside of the main channels of 1970s Conceptual art. While Overby’s graphic work reveals an aptitude for assembling a diversity of texts and images—he trained as a graphic designer in postwar America—it is his transition to sculpture that resulted in his contributions to the ongoing discourse surrounding materials and the object. For the artist, from 1969 on, these concerns took the form of paintings, drawings, installations, and sculptures, wherein the technique of casting and architectural relief became expressive tools, as his use of perishable industrial materials examined the fissures of time. The exhibition includes examples such as the polyester-and-resin-cast Blue Screen Door, 1971, as well as latex and rubber panels from the “Barclay House Series,” 1971, twenty-eight casts of various architectural details that remained after a hotel was destroyed by a fire. The casts are as charged with physical and emotional energy as his oil-on-canvas works (Untitled [Monk Restoration], 1973), his collages (Untitled [Montage #4], 1976), and his lithographs (Untitled [Poli] Print 1, 1974). The artist explored this range of techniques with abandon over the course of his career, ceaselessly juxtaposing conceptual attitudes with a figurative vocabulary. The exhibition at GAMeC conveys the intimate, introspective aspects of his works, and its thematic categories—identity, Eros, the body, and the object—initiate a debate about the fate of various artworks brought together in exhibition, but it also prompts insight into the nature of objects that have been sculpted by the passage of time as well as by the artist’s hand.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Paola Nicolin


Palazzo Ducale - Cortile Maggiore, Piazza Matteotti 28r
March 21–June 6

Superstudio, La Moglie di Lot (Lot's Wife), 1978/2014, zinc coated steel, wood, salt, refractory material, Plexiglas, 10 x 2 x 4'.

Superstudio was a sui generis architectural studio. Like other major players in the international movement that Germano Celant called “radical architecture,” its members were interested not in constructing buildings to add to those that already existed, but rather in debating the very idea of architecture through theoretical writings and deliberately unbuildable projects, ambiguously suspended between utopia and dystopia, dream and nightmare. Superstudio’s production consists of collages, films, and more or less paradoxical design objects, a small selection of which are presented here. Then there are installations, such as La moglie di Lot (Lot’s Wife), the centerpiece of the exhibition. First shown at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 1978, it had been lost but has been recreated with care for this occasion. On an austere structure of zinc-plated metal and Plexiglas, five sculptures made from salt, lined up in a row; they depict examples of architecture from throughout history, from a pyramid to Le Corbusier’s Pavillon de l’esprit nouveau (Pavilion of the New Spirit), 1925. The sculptures are slowly corroded by drops of water that fall from an intravenous drip apparatus; as they dissolve, they each reveal a symbolic object enclosed within; for example, a salt model of the Palace of Versailles ultimately discloses a croissant, a reference to Marie Antoinette’s notorious suggestion that the people should “eat brioche.”

In the text that accompanied La moglie di Lot in its original incarnation (just republished by Asinello Press), Superstudio attributed a dual significance to the work: on the one hand, a reflection on the way that time acts on architecture, eroding its function in ways unforeseen by the architects and their patrons, while allowing only its symbolic meaning—although sometimes deeply transformed—to survive; on the other hand, a warning that architecture, presuming to impose itself on nature and its laws, is instead swept away by those same forces. Whichever interpretation one favors, the work remains relevant; indeed, during a period such as our own, characterized by outsized and meaningless architecture and disturbing ecological catastrophes, it is all too resonant.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Simone Menegoi

Francis Al˙s

Palazzo Donnaregina, via Settembrini, 79
June 14–September 22

Francis Al˙s, Reel-Unreel, 2011, HD video, color, sound, 19 minutes.

Francis Al˙s’s film Reel-Unreel, 2011, is the centerpiece of this exhibition, which for the first time brings together works the artist made in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2014. Playing on the assonance between reel/real and unreel/unreal, the film points out the incongruities between what is filtered in stories created by the western media and the true life conditions in a city such as Kabul, defaced by war, swimming in a messy accumulation of rubble and garbage, with open sewers amid precarious makeshift dwellings. Within this devastated scenario, two children unroll and roll up two reels of film until the film breaks and catches fire, evoking the senseless destruction of thousands of reels in the Film Archive in Kabul, carried out by the Taliban on September 5, 2001.

The phrase that concludes the film, “Cinema: everything else is imaginary,” underscores how the truth about actual conditions is distorted by the narrative of the western media, which reduces news to fiction, avoiding the development of a deeper awareness of the cultural, political, and socioeconomic reality of Afghanistan, which has never been truly understood by the West. The paintings, photos, sculptures, videos, drawings, and storyboards that compose the diversity of Afghan Projects, 2010–14, address this aim. We accompany Al˙s into a conflict-ridden place as he shows us the difficulty of representing it and summarizing it in a unified way, indicating, however, that empathy can be a tool for knowing and drawing closer to the other, with an approach that is civilized, political, and intensely poetic.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Ida Panicelli

Beatrice Pediconi

Via Fratelli Cervi 66
October 6–July 31

Beatrice Pediconi, Polaroid #3 from “9’/ Unlimited,” 2013, Polaroid, 4 x 5".

For the past ten years, Rome-born New York-based architect turned artist Beatrice Pediconi has explored the interplay between chance and choice by painting in water with organic and inorganic substances and then capturing the effects with Polaroid and large-format photography. In turning toward digital video, Pediconi has produced both her first video environment and her strongest work to date.

Drawing its title from this work, the exhibition “9’ / Unlimited” opens with fifteen small-format Polaroid photos that dot the walls at equal height and irregular intervals, like the score of a Giacinto Scelsi mono-note piece. Seemingly abstract, these images also resemble everything from Carrara marble and volcanic lava to cytoplasm. The relationship of Pediconi’s practice to music, in its improvisational and more experimental forms, is explored in an artists’ book. Spotlighted atop a tall parallelepiped, the book is a curious object. It consists of a box the size of a Polaroid film container with three Matryoshka-like compartments, all visible at once and each featuring a response to Pediconi’s video made by her collaborators: Lucio Gregoretti’s never-to-be-played musical score, Andrew Lerwill’s imaginary protein’s chemical formula, Momoko Kuroda’s haiku poem.

After visitors see these quasi-ethereal installations, the video environment overwhelms the senses. Flowing from one wall to the next, a silent floor-to-ceiling looped projection shows the changing movements and interactions of dripped and poured matter into blackened water. Natural and man-made phenomena come to mind: falling stars, cells under a microscope, fireflies meandering through a dense forest, smoke puffs metamorphosing into all-enveloping clouds, and musical notations and calligraphic signs breaking into bubbles that multiply, chasing and colliding into one another. An heir of sorts to Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, Pediconi’s video is an intense synesthetic experience.

In the landscape of Italy’s current economic and identity crisis, unprecedented since the postwar period, this exhibition comes across as an all too rare commission and a courageous project that probes the mingling of the aesthetic, theatrical, sublime, tragic, and playful.

Anna Mecugni