Giorgio Verzotti

  • Private Milan

    ON THE NIGHT of July 16, 1993, the Pavilion of Contemporary Art (PAC) in Milan became the first target in a string of bombings that were later attributed to the Mafia. The Uffizi in Florence and a Roman church were damaged by explosives a few days later, and the PAC, an already fragile building, was razed when a car bomb set off a subsequent explosion in nearby gas lines. The city of Milan claimed that the pavilion would be rebuilt within a year, although it refused monetary aid from the central government in Rome. Milan had recently come under the rule of the Northern League, the federalist

  • Northern Lights

    UNLIKE FRANCE OR GREAT BRITAIN, Italy has no single city from which the nation's cultural life radiates. Instead, our country's history of decentralization—until the middle of the nineteenth century it was a medley of small independent states—has given us a wealth of diverse urban centers, large and small, with disparate cultural legacies sustained by a range of economies. Taken together, they create a variegated fabric that makes Italy, depending on one's point of view, either a big backwater or a sprawling capital.

    When it comes to institutions of contemporary art, this general decentralization

  • OPENINGS: VEDOVA MAZZEI

    Legend has it that while out for a stroll artists Simeone Crispino and Stella Scala came across a ceramic slab, most likely a tombstone, bearing the words Vedova Mazzei (Widow Mazzei), a bare-bones epitaph that now serves the collaborative duo as their name. The pseudonym not only shrouds the pair’s identity in mystery, but, the upshot of a chance encounter, embodies their creative method: Vedova Mazzei are motivated by serendipity, they make art from whatever crosses their path and happens to attract their attention. These collisions with the everyday, often in dejected circumstances, reflect

  • Allen Ruppersberg

    Le Magasin’s new artistic direction was apparent even in the first exhibitions organized by director Yves Aupetitallot. This museum, which is housed in a former factory building, seems best equipped to present exhibitions of a certain historical depth accompanied by small, thematically related survey shows—at least this was the case with its impressive Allen Ruppersberg retrospective. The show was accompanied by an extensive catalogue and a small, concurrent survey exhibition, curated by Paul McCarthy, which also explored California art—or, rather, art created in California by three artists

  • Luisa Lambri

    Luisa Lambri’s photographs depict enclosed spaces and interior architectural details, describing not so much places where people live and work, as spaces that link rooms to each other and to the outside—corridors, stairways, and other places of passage. Rather than environments designed for specific activities, these are simply zones through which to travel. In Lambri’s work, they are invariably deserted, creating a sense of apprehension.

    We have become accustomed to spending our lives in buildings that have a blank, ambiguous appearance, and Lambri chooses sites that are particularly banal and

  • Chiara Dynys

    Chiara Dynys’ work seems increasingly to investigate artisanal materials and techniques that range from the banal to the exotic. In her recent exhibition, Dynys presented three distinct interventions. The walls of one room were entirely studded with irregular geometric solids whose concave forms suggested containers with oblique sides. The diagonals on which they were placed on the wall, as well as the way in which their forms were juxtaposed, animated the gallery space as well as the objects themselves, creating a strong sensation of movement. The lightness and luminosity of the materials—transparent

  • Giorgio Verzotti

    FOUL IS FAIR

    From the few FRANZ WEST shows I’d seen in Italy, I formed an impression of an artist incapable of formal innovation and committed to the unremittingly ugly. So it was purely out of a sense of duty that I visited the exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel (which originated at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig in Vienna). What I discovered, much to my surprise, was a master of form, who brings out the beauty in the amorphous, and who literally stages his work, infusing it with an irony directed as much at himself as at others. West’s signature combination of critique and playfulness

  • Mario Nigro

    Since the retrospective of his work in Milan in 1994, greater interest has been focused on the work of Mario Nigro, who began making abstract paintings in 1953 and later became active in the arte concrete movement. This recent exhibition, which was installed in two separate venues, was predominately focused on his “Tempo Totale” (Total time) pieces, which he executed between 1965 and 1975.

    Any investigation of an earlier, important series by Nigro entitled “Spazio Totale” (Total space, 1953–55), which marked a preoccupation with spatial issues, almost inevitably leads one to an investigation of

  • Tony Cragg

    Tony Cragg uses a range of objects and materials to create his sculptures, typically according to preestablished systems that are at once unpredictable and precise. Trade-Wind, 1995, for example, comprised a harmonious, slanted arrangement of plaster vases placed one on top of the other in decreasing order, their surfaces covered with densely hatched pencil lines. He used the same principle of construction to generate an untitled piece in 1994, in which vases also appeared, although those were sandblasted, painted, and perforated with numerous holes.

    Cragg’s sculptural pieces—or perhaps one should

  • John Armleder

    In John Armleder’s highly original assemblages, which incorporate fragments of furniture and other found materials, one can detect a range of styles, styles that can often be linked to specific periods and places. At the same time, Armleder tends to render these materials so abstract that they become neutral, or at least not immediately recognizable, signs.

    Armleder’s new work seems to be even more concerned with transforming the detritus of daily life into abstractions that cause the viewer to grope for the original significance of the materials that he is exploiting. This was especially evident

  • “Traffic”

    Perhaps the work that best summed up the aims of “Traffic,” an exhibition dedicated to the art of the ’90s, was the fireplace Xavier Veilhan installed directly across from the entrance to the main room of the museum. Primarily, this work represented an attempt to blur the line between the “sacred” space of the museum and the “traffic” of the everyday. But the work also embodied what curator Nicolas Bourriaud calls “relational esthetics”: the “art” was as much the viewers sitting around the fire that burned inside this black metal structure as the object itself.

    Of the pieces presented here, some

  • OPENINGS: GRAZIA TODERI

    WATCHING ONE OF Grazia Toderi’s first videos, from 1993 (it was shown in the “Aperto” section of the 1993 Venice Biennale), you find yourself gazing fixedly at a small potted plant set under the water running from a shower. For 30 minutes, the camera’s focus on that corner of that bathroom, that flower, that water, doesn’t change; it begins to seem superfluous to wait to see what happens. Yet as you watch, on a microcosmic scale you see constant metamorphosis—in the streams of dancing water around the little plant, and in the trembling of the fragile leaves and flowers under the water’s

  • Jan Vercruysse

    For this recent exhibition Jan Vercruysse used both of Mies van der Rohe’s “museum houses,” but he chose not to make use of the former living spaces on the upper floors, often used as exhibition spaces. Instead he installed his work only in the first-floor galleries, which are square and airy, lit by large windows that look out over the surrounding garden. Divided into two parts, enclosed in two distinct containers that are extremely similar but not identical, the exhibition thus began with the idea of an apparent mirror image, a theme specifically referenced in a piece entitled La Sfera (The

  • Ettore Spalletti

    The rooms of the MUHKA in Antwerp, which are painted entirely white, including the floors, are perhaps the most appropriate setting for the works of Ettore Spalletti, which often seem to float in space, even when they are exhibited in rooms laden with architectural detail. For this exhibition the artist chose to heighten this floating effect by exhibiting only wall pieces. The single exception was Acquasantiera (Holy water basin, 1986), a marble sculpture in the form of an overturned cone, that did touch the ground. This slight transgression revealed the formal subtlety of Spalletti’s work: the

  • Gotthard Graubner

    Since the ’60s, Gotthard Graubner has called his paintings Farbraumkörper—colored spatial bodies—and no term could better describe his work. Like many artists of his generation, he began his career by reacting against the spontaneity of art informel. But Graubner numbers among the few who have remained faithful to their original stylistic choices with coherence and rigor while retaining the power to surprise.

    Though these paintings attempt to transform space into something palpable, solid, they also seem to consist purely of light. Graubner constructs his works—which are sometimes very large—by

  • Julian Opie

    It has been said that during the ’80s young English sculptors—Julian Opie among them—abandoned the countryside and returned to the city. Rather than using, for example, the stones of Richard Long, this new generation of artists adopted the materials of everyday life and industrial production. Today, at least in Opie’s case, one can say that the artist has again returned to the country. Two of the three wall paintings in this exhibition showed different types of natural landscapes, one mountainous with pine trees and snowy peaks, the other softer and more hilly—the typical image of the English

  • Monica Carocci

    Monica Carocci’s recent show consisted of a series of black and white photographs and the video from which this series was composed. Carocci has been lauded for the subjective expressivity of her photographic work, but her use of video as a medium is new, and, at least in this case, she achieved extremely interesting results. The sequence of video images, which were projected against a wall then blown up into large scale photos, was rather disturbing—due, in part at least, to their careless rendering on a technical level.

    This lack of technical refinement also characterized the photographic work,

  • Philippe Parreno

    For his recent project, Philippe Parreno asked his dealers to invite friends and acquaintances to spend all of May Day working in the gallery. The room contained various tools: projectors, a screen, an ironing board and an iron, pieces of fabric and a sewing machine, a large quantity of small T-shirts, electrical materials, two video cameras, two circular tables, and a series of plush teddy bears. The artist asked those present to complete certain tasks, such as stamping the words “My first secret” on the small T-shirts and putting these shirts on the teddy bears, or making a gigantic T-shirt

  • Mauro Staccioli

    In his indoor as well as his outdoor installations, Mauro Staccioli’s sculptures set up a tension between the work itself and the exhibition site. Staccioli is perhaps the only sculptor in Italy doing work on such a monumental scale. Impressive in its structural solutions, without being too dependent on the language of Minimalism, it comprises circles, semicircles, rings, triangles, and long elliptical lines that rise from the earth to the sky. Placed in open spaces or next to buildings, these works have a colossal force, yet their structure and the way in which they carve the space belie their

  • Andreas Schön

    For his first solo exhibition in Italy, Andreas Schön presented a unified body of work that differed radically from his usual landscape painting. His most recent installation consisted of a series of portraits that depicted a toy lamb from various angles. Attached to the puppet’s back was a small ribbon with the colors of the French flag; its ears, stretched forward, recalled 17th-century men’s wigs. These details were sufficient to evoke, in almost satirical fashion, the French Revolution. Indeed, each puppet was given the name of a historical personage: Philippe Egalité, Talleyrand, Capet,