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Dario Guccio

FEDERICO VAVASSORI
Via Privata Giovanni Ventura, 6
January 16, 2015–February 14, 2015

View of “Dario Guccio: Hammer, Chewing Gum, Evasion, Destruction,” 2014–15.

In the nine collage-based paintings on view, anthropomorphic and abstract pleather forms overlap, thrown together like layers of digital imagery, creating color contrasts that evoke the Fauves. The iconic power of these compositions derives not only from their diverging shapes and colors (blue, black, and white) but also from their arrangement in the gallery. The installation of these collages of leather fragments has been carefully conceived so that they appear suddenly and unexpectedly as the viewer moves through the space, thanks to several slightly oblique walls which meet to form unusual corners that create illusions and play with perspective.

For his solo show, Dario Guccio references artworks by Eugenio Barbieri, especially Barbieri’sJazz, Chewing Gum, Evasion, Destruction, 1967, whose title is almost identical to the exhibition’s. Influenced by Barbieri’s unrestrained use of line, Guccio attempts to allow himself a similar freedom, here by cutting out a flexible material like pleather but also by using a sewing machine to create seams that crisscross the overlapping pleather shapes. The results recall Mirò and Matisse and echo avant-garde movements. Sometimes the layered materials acquire a three-dimensionality that makes them almost bas-reliefs, though they’re very much made with a pictorial sensibility that even harks back to Medieval artists such as Duccio di Buoninsegna or Antonio Canova, who used nails in his sculptures to individuate form and figure—a decision that perhaps inspired the enameled nails that tack down Guccio’s silhouettes.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

William E. Jones

GALLERIA RAFFAELLA CORTESE | VIA STRADELLA 1
Via Stradella 1
February 19, 2015–April 3, 2015

View of “William E. Jones,” 2015. From left: Declassified Wallpaper #2, 2015; Psychic Driving, 2014.

Psychic Driving, 2014, a video projection, is undoubtedly the most significant presence in this show by William E. Jones, offering a succession of colorful vibrating lines where each frame is like an elaborate abstract painting. In the work’s sound track, a narrator describes the effects of taking LSD. Other voices that chime in about the drug seem to be those of subjects in an experiment or a documentary. Yet the viewer, who sees only successions of lines—bringing to mind American AbEx painting—comes to eventually understand that what is being discussed is the history of research on mind control that the CIA conducted thirty years ago. Those familiar with Jones’s work in recent years will know that the American artist recontextualizes archival materials of various types. For Psychic Driving, his point of departure was a VHS recording obtained from the US National Archives and Records Administration. The artist intervened via Photoshop up to six hundred times per frame, altering what time had already transformed, as the original VHS tapes were partially ruined.

Elsewhere, a second video, Mission Mind Control, 2012, characterized by images in continuous dissolution between figuration and abstraction, is shown on a vintage television, along with three walls bearing photocopies of declassified CIA documents released under the Freedom of Information Act of 1976, with certain portions blacked out or redacted. Copied several times over, the documents resemble more contemporary styles of painting.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

“Le regole del gioco”

STUDIO MUSEUM ACHILLE CASTIGLIONI
Piazza Castello, 27
February 21, 2015–April 11, 2015

View of “Le regole del gioco” (The Rules of the Game), 2015. Center: Riccardo Previdi, COCOON (Taraxacum), 2015.

The Studio Museo Achille Castiglioni, which became the Fondazione Achille Castiglioni in 2011, is located on the ground floor of a building in the heart of Milan. Currently, visitors encounter one of Castiglioni’s most well-known projects, his 1962 Arco lamp, at the Fondazione’s entrance. Careful observation reveals, however, that this is not an authentic model, not even an original prototype, but rather a fake by Christoph Meier: Untitled (Achille), 2014. What a strange beginning for “Le regole del gioco” (The Rules of the Game), a group show curated by Luca Lo Pinto under the artistic direction of Edoardo Bonaspetti. It should be noted, though, that Castiglione considered a copy a sort of compliment, an homage to the qualities of the original.

Entering the studio, visitors are faced with an enormous archive of books, projects, prototypes, photos, drawings, films, and magazines—a world where Castiglione worked with his brother, Pier Giacomo, for more than sixty years. The works by the eighteen artists in the exhibition also include Riccardo Previdi’s COCOON (Taraxacum), 2015, a video shot at a factory in Germany that produces the primary material, previously employed in military technology, in Castiglione’s 1960s-era Taraxacum, Viscontea, and Gatto lamps. This technology uses plastic fibers that, when sprayed in a rotational movement, create sort of chrysalis. The exhibition’s merit also lies in the fact that it never falls into the trap of being celebrative or of finding an invisible, completely camouflaged solution; instead, it expresses strong interventions that are able to resonate with the archive.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Gary Hill

LIA RUMMA | MILAN
Via Stilicone 19
February 26–April 30

View of “Gary Hill: Depth Charge,” 2015.

Visitors entering the gallery’s ground floor of Gary Hill’s exhibition encounter a play of projections on a wall for the work Choir Box, 2015. As the projections and the wall are practically the same color, the building’s structure becomes the work’s subject. This would seem to create an ambiguous spatial-temporal breakthrough, though that turns out to be a hermetic perception. In reality, the walls in the projections are those of the artist’s studio, which seem to overlap thanks to the rapid and vibrant sequence of images displayed. Composed of numerous pieces, this exhibition unfolds from here throughout the gallery’s three floors, with the second level possessing considerable visual impact.

An idyllic series of blue waves articulates the figure of a musician playing an electric guitar in the projection work Depth Charge, 2009–12. On closer inspection it’s revealed to be jazz guitarist Bill Frisell playing Edgar Varèse’s Un Grand Sommeil noir (A Big Black Sleep). Another noteworthy work is the video Pacifier, 2014, in which a bomb traverses across several monitors in the gallery before blowing up in the last one with an explosion that shatters into thousands of sharp, icy pieces. Elsewhere, Learning Curve (Still Point), 1993, is made up of a five-meter-long tilted table, built to emphasize different perspectives at each end. At one end, a five-inch-tall micromonitor transmits a looped image of a perfect wave, the type surfers spend their entire lives pursuing, but easily generated by technology here.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Amalia Del Ponte

GALLERIA MILANO
via Manin 13
March 5–May 9

View of “Amalia Del Ponte: La porta senza porta,” 2015. Background: Ars Memoriae (The Art of Memory), 2014. Foreground: La ruota della memoria (The Wheel of Memory), 2014.

Amalia Del Ponte’s latest exhibition presents visitors with a sensory experience of ineffable and barely perceptible signs, sounds, and passages of light and shadows. This is the first time the artist has exhibited the installation Ars Memoriae (The Art of Memory), 2014: twenty-one India-ink drawings of animal tails, which look as fleeting as ghosts, bodies that can be intuited but not seen. The animals are presented in alphabetical order.

At the center of the installation, the artist has constructed La ruota della memoria (The Wheel of Memory), 2014, in which visitors can turn two overlapping paper circles to discover fragments of discourses that come together in various ways, giving rise to surreal, incongruent phrases that leave space for the imagination, not without a sense of irony. Meanwhile, La porta senza porta (The Door Without a Door), 2015, is a paradox. It is a light projection on a wall accompanied by an emergency exit handle. Its extended luminosity finds a counterpoint in the small luminescent spot of Il nano illuminate (The Illuminated Dwarf), 2012, which is surrounded by a disproportionately large wooden frame. An LED here pulsates like a small star lost in deep space. The sound of Potnia, 1989, seems to arrive from similar depths: A lithophone made of travertine can be struck with a little hammer, making the idol-like face sculpted into its stone resound. Finally, witty reversals between seeing and imagining are condensed in a small wooden sculpture, Io (I), 2011, where the artist, via her negative profile, seems to look at herself.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Maria Morganti

OTTO ZOO
Via Vigevano 8
March 25–May 16

Maria Morganti, Stratificazione, 2011, plasticine on wooden board, 8 1/2 x 7 x 10”.

Maria Morganti’s four-panel painting Polittico a ritroso (Polyptych in Reverse), 2013, lights up this gallery with color and offers an irrepressible vision. In a process of reverse sedimentation, four canvases were obtained by superimposing one layer of color after another, leaving only a thin trace of the individual stages along the upper edge. Also on view is Grumi (Clots), 2013, which consists of a series of sponges hanging on a string and saturated with the same colors that are layered onto the polyptych’s canvases. There is one color for each sponge, and, strung together, they stand out against the polyptych.

Morganti’s focus on exposing her process is the hinge of this articulate exhibition. Accellerazione (Acceleration), 2013, for example, is a painting that was begun and completed in a single day, where the paint, not having time to dry, mixes into a single material, almost in the way it does in Impastamento (Kneading), 2013, where the layers of plasticine that are spread onto the panels, day after day, unexpectedly get re-kneaded onto themselves. Similarly, Stratificazione (Stratification), 2011, like several of the other works on view, consists of more layers of plasticine, which this time emphasize the material nature of their hues. The show begins and ends with Impronta (Impression), 2010–12, which consists of the sheet of paper that protects the artist’s worktable in her studio and bears the traces of pastels and oil paints she used to create her ongoing Carte-Diario (Diary-Papers), 2010–.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

“The Coordinates of Sound”

RAM RADIOARTEMOBILE
Via Conte Verde, 15
December 18, 2014–January 31, 2015

Olga Chernysheva, Sogno festivo (Festive Dream), 2005, video, color, sound, 7 minutes 7 seconds.

This exhibition, “Le coordinate del suono” (The Coordinates of Sound), curated by Vitaly Patsyukov, focuses on the relationship between sound and image with nine works taking a meaningful look at contemporary art in Russia. The first work visitors encounter is Il viaggio della luna privata (The Journey of the Private Moon), 2003–2015, a video about Leonid Tishkov’s light installation Luna privata (Private Moon). This is followed by three videos carrying a strong emotional punch: Vladimir Tarasov’s heartrending Kyklos, 2010, documenting the life of a tree through the passage of time; Vladimir Martynov and Vladimir Smolyar’s L’aprè-midi d’un Bach (The Afternoon of Bach), 2011, wherein an image is set to the rhythm of Bach’s music; and Olga Chernysheva’s poetic Sogno festivo (Festive Dream), 2005, which presents the dreams of a homeless person set to the song “Volare.”

A surrealist vein runs through a series of three films from 2006 by Aleksandra Mitlyanskaya, all set to pieces of music by Tchaikovsky. One, Lago dei cigni. Finale. Uovo (Swan Lake. Finale. Egg), focuses on an egg in a pan; another, the flame produced by a gas burner, in Concerto n.1. Fornello (Concerto n.1. Burner); and the last depicts water coming from a shower, in Danza dei piccoli cigni. Doccia (Dance of the Small Swans. Shower). Elsewhere, noises and lights from racing cars are the protagonists of the film Codefonia. Viale dalle 19.08 alle 20.00. 05-10-2010[please confirm hyphens OK instead of en dashes] (Codephony. Avenue from 7:08 pm to 8 pm. 05-10-2010), 2011. The exhibition concludes in perfect fashion with Andrey Klimenko and Pavel Karmanov’s Forellenquintett (Trout Quintet), 1998–2011, a film addressing the tragic fate of a trout, inspired by the homonymous Schubert composition, fished to be cooked and eaten.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Gianni Politi

GALLERIA NAZIONALE D'ARTE MODERNA E CONTEMPORANEA
Viale delle Belle Arti 131
October 1, 2014–February 14, 2015

View of “Gianni Politi: Tra queste sale (Malandrino)” (Among These Halls [Rascal]), 2014-15.

For “Tra queste sale (Malandrino)” (Among These Halls [Rascal]), curated by Paola Ugolini, Gianni Politi’s works are exhibited in close dialogue with this museum’s nineteenth-century collection of Italian art including paintings and sculptures dealing with themes drawn from mythology and history. Suitably, Politi’s show is an inquiry into memory and time. The works are primarily compositions of paper mounted on canvas, resembling indefinite landscapes, and for this occasion they appear associated in conceptual and aesthetic ways with the works from the collection.

Above Gioacchino Toma’s Luisa Sanfelice in Carcere (Luisa Sanfelice in Jail), 1874–75, is Politi’s Alabastro (Alabaster), 2014, in which the elder artist’s portrait of the Neapolitan woman disappears, leaving the canvas’s field open only to a compact geometrical and chromatic translation of the space of the prison cell. The violent outburst of Alessandro Magno’s sculptural portrait by Vincenzo Gemito is given a more fragile appearance in Politi’s Canzone dal titolo “Collina” eseguita dal maestro W.d. K. (Song called “Hill” performed by master W.d. K.), 2014, where a light-blue line of paint resembles a tear possibly belonging to Magno’s marble.

A palpable tension between tradition and innovation shapes this exhibition as a whole. The necessity to confront the classic medium of painting and create a dialogue between the legacy of figuration and the disruption of its illusory capacity becomes an occasion here to also speak about the heritage of the medium, as well as its potential emotional extension.

Ilaria Gianni

“Milk Revolution”

AMERICAN ACADEMY IN ROME
Via Angelo Masina 5
January 29, 2015–March 1, 2015

View of “Milk Revolution,” 2015.

The exhibition “Milk Revolution” at the American Academy in Rome, curated by Andrea Baccin and Ilaria Marotta, renews the dialogue between art and alchemy. The title is inspired by an iconic 1985 photograph Allen Ginsberg took of archivist and artist Harry Smith, in which Smith is seen pouring milk from a carton. Smith playfully called his act “transforming milk into milk.” Notions of the alchemical emerge in Gabriele De Santis’s Francesco Totti sei grande (Francesco Totti You are Great), 2015, in which oil and acrylic combine to create a trompe-l’oeil, marbleized effect. Alessandro Piangiamore, meanwhile, renews waste material—chunks of wax—to create semisculptural results in La XV cera di Roma e sua sorella (The XV Wax of Rome and Its Sister), 2015, while Martino Gamper, in Cuttings, 2008–15, generates an installation inspired by an idealized roof garden, incorporating organic and biodegradable materials.

In Corin Hewitt’s surreal assemblage (Sausage Sticks, 2015), sausages are impaled on the ends of selfie sticks. As it turns out, the sausages’ casings include the remains of tourists’ selfies, ground up and combined with gelatin—a tongue-in-cheek look at what happens when disposable images are subjected to transformative processes. The show also includes video, performance, and sound works—even a website, made by Bunny Rogers, who has amassed a family album using photos of children posted by their parents on social-media sites. If there’s alchemy here, it’s unsettling: Images of intimate family moments seem suddenly portentous when reprinted by a silent observer who has culled them from the Internet.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Davide Monaldi

STUDIO SALES DI NORBERTO RUGGERI
Piazza Dante 2
February 7, 2015–March 28, 2015

Davide Monaldi, Autoritratto (zerbino) (Self-portrait [doormat]), 2014, terracotta, 28 x 15".

Davide Monaldi’s current exhibition is a poetic statement, whispered rather than vaunted, through a series of self-portraits. Each enameled ceramic figure depicts the face of the artist as a child; stylized into a full, flat shape. However, the atmosphere here is not that of a carefree age of innocence but rather one of solitude, a time marked by fears and anxieties: the child hidden in a corner, his head inside his sweater, from which only his terrified eyes poke out (Shy Boy, 2012); or the lonely birthday party of a sad little boy (Happy Birthday, 2010); or the family where every member has the same face—father, mother, children, and dog—in an extraordinary synthesis of genetic and psychic identification with parental patterns (Family, 2010). These are deliberately modest and antimonumental works, in which the material itself declares the delicacy with which the artist addresses his journey into memory.

Autoritratto (zerbino) (Self-portrait [doormat]), 2014, a terracotta replica of the kind of heavy cast-iron doormats used for cleaning mud off shoes, is Monaldi’s most painful statement regarding that inner space of childhood submission and conditioning. But the gloomy psychological implication of the title collides with the elegant arabesques of the fragile doormat, inserting a paradoxical incongruity and an element of self-mockery. In keeping with the spontaneous ability of children to shape clay, Monaldi favors the intimate component of his creative work, through a technique that becomes a healing process for reliving and making peace with disturbing memories from the past.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Ida Panicelli

Charles Mayton

AMERICAN ACADEMY IN ROME
Via Angelo Masina 5
March 19–May 10

View of “Charles Mayton: Tableau Table Tavolo,” 2015.

Visitors to Charles Mayton’s solo show at the American Academy in Rome first encounter four paintings, all the same size. Two depict an enormous bunch of purple grapes that competes with two gigantic eyeballs to dominate the pictorial space. The two other paintings, installed between these works, employ two different forms of Abstract Expressionism, one tending toward a vague idea of spatial architecture constructed through various brushstrokes, and the other with brushstrokes that come together in a strongly gestural manner. Continuing through the exhibition, one encounters several overturned fruit boxes, whose bottoms become an ideal canvas on which the painter depicts grotesque-mask designs that seem to portray the god Bacchus. Other works have interweavings of white surfaces into which a wooden spoon is inserted, the concave end of which is densely painted, as if it were presenting a miniaturized version of large paintings.

Finally, there is another series of five paintings, abstractions again, except in one case, where there is a representation of mythological figures against a geometric background with strongly contrasting colors. Historical references jump out when one least aspects them. The works condense the history of painting in Rome, from classical times to the 1930s Scuola Romana of Scipione (aka Gino Bonichi) and Mario Mafai to the Pop art of Tano Festa and the Transavanguardia. It is as if Mayton has produced “condensers” capable of concentrating this millennial history through a linguistic triangulation of tableau, table, and tavolo (also the title of the show), so that the table is a work table but also the dining table on which painting is consumed.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Italo Zuffi

NOMAS FOUNDATION
Viale Somalia 33
February 11–May 15

View of “Italo Zuffi,” 2015

Italo Zuffi’s reflections on the intellectual and social dynamics of art are on full display in his first institutional solo show, organized by Cecilia Canziani and Ilaria Gianni. In a video titled The Reminder, 1997, Zuffi is seen carrying out physical exercises to explore the space around him; Territorio (Territory), 1997, mines similar themes, as a photocopy, folded into eight parts, that alludes to the geometric scansion of the room captured in the video. Similar spatial investigations occur in Go away, 2003, in which two aluminum sawhorses appear in various arrangements, causing variations in visitors’ sense of equilibrium and proportions of the surroundings.

The artist’s role and relationships become central in three works, Una linea nell’arte italiana (A line in Italian art), 2010; Zuffi per Bonami (Zuffi to Bonami), 2010; and Esponenti (Exponents), 2010–15. The first is a group of aluminum plaques that commemorate Mario Sironi, Gino De Dominicis, and Roberto Cuoghi. The second, a performance involving scarves and steel cable, commented ironically on the role of chance in an artist’s career success: At the piece’s end, a gallery returned to Zuffi two CDs of his portfolio that may or may not have been passed along to curator Francesco Bonami. And the third is a photographic sequence that recounts the artist’s difficult relationship with an art dealer. Investigating much more than the systems through which art circulates, Zuffi’s other works range from blank keys, in Quello che eri, e quello che sei (What you were, and what you are) to Gli ignari (Those Who Are Not Aware, 2013–15), a surreal installation of ceramic pods that emit sounds.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

“Oggetti su piano”

FONDAZIONE DEL MONTE DI BOLOGNA E RAVENNA
Via delle Donzelle 2
January 18, 2015–March 1, 2015

Alessandro Pessoli, Autoritratto Petrolini, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable.

A texture, an arabesque, obtained by painting a wooden surface in several shades of red, completely covers the walls of the rooms of the exhibition space. The installation piece, by Flavio Favelli, evokes the chromatic experience of picture galleries from eras past, where the walls were never white but red or ocher, or otherwise painted in colors that seemed to make the art on view reverberate and vibrate in the space. Favelli also has paintings on view, but the exhibition itself seems like one gigantic still life, the paintings positioned the red walls like fruit or flowers in traditional examples of the genre.

The exhibition's curator, Antonio Grulli, explicitly asks in his catalogue text if the show’s curation can be considered an extension of the still life. That reflection, while the theoretical linchpin of the entire show, is not its only aspect worth mentioning. Indeed the curator also questions the aesthetic specificities of the city of Bologna, addressing possible resonances and affinities between artists, including Paolo Chiasera, Cuoghi Corsello, Riccardo Baruzzi, and Pierpaolo Campanini, all of whom, while often from very different eras and backgrounds, are distinguished by a common feeling. Alessandro Pessoli's work, Autoritratto Petrolini (Petrolini Self-Portrait), 2014, is a veritable coup de théâtre. Painted—with oil, acrylic, pastel, pencil, airbrush, and roller, on velvet screens with flakes of silk and steel—as if a stop-motion sequence across seven canvases, it is an extraordinary phenomenon, a breathtaking animation of sorts whose point of departure is painting.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Francesca Grilli

UMBERTO DI MARINO
Via Alabardieri 1
March 12–May 12

Francesca Grilli, Kepler 62h, 2015, intaglio printing on paper, 11 1/2 x 1'.

In Francesca Grilli’s first solo show at the Umberto Di Marino Gallery in Naples the artist presents five pieces she conceived during her residency at the American Academy in Rome, all focusing on the theme of anger. Gliese 581i, Gliese 581p, and Gliese 581m (all works 2015) are intaglio plates covered in ink and bile, the fluid produced by the liver, which here becomes a metaphor for fury. When the original chemical admixture is applied to the copper plates, it corrodes their surfaces (an allusion to the caustic effects of anger) into landscapes. The fantastical vista becomes heightened in Kepler 62h, a scroll print Grilli made by rubbing seven lined-up plates with the solution so that they formed one large sheet, on which esoteric signs and shadows seem to surface.

A similar atmosphere is found in Terra (Earth), a work made from vinyl paste and meteorite and inspired by a novelty record player known as the “enigma disc.” Now in the collection of the Discoteca di Stato in Rome, it was produced in 1913 for the centenary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth; due to the contraption’s special structure, users placing the stylus on its record are unable to predict which of three tracks will play. Instead of music, though, Terra features a succession of recordings of natural phenomena we might associate with rage—a tornado, an erupting volcano, breaking ice. These moments of pathetic fallacy alternate with voices that recite I Ching prophecies, which symbolically frame the work’s enigmatic structure.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Pier Paolo Pancotto