Critics’ Picks

View of “8 1/2,” 2011. Foreground: Elmgreen & Dragset, Short Cut, 2003; Background: Paweł Althamer, Balloon, 1999–2007.

View of “8 1/2,” 2011. Foreground: Elmgreen & Dragset, Short Cut, 2003; Background: Paweł Althamer, Balloon, 1999–2007.

Florence

“8 1/2”

Stazione Leopolda
Viale Fratelli Rosselli 5
January 13–February 6, 2011

As neither a museum nor a private collection, the nonprofit Fondazione Nicola Trussardi has played a somewhat elusive role in the contemporary Italian art scene since 2003, deploying works in the public spaces of Milan. The foundation’s latest collective assembly—in Florence’s Stazione Leopolda, an abandoned train station—is a double anomaly that gathers together various works from previous solo shows. The exhibition fittingly opens with the installation that originally marked the foundation’s public debut: Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset’s Short Cut, 2003, which features an off-kilter Fiat Uno and camping trailer. Behind it hovers Paweł Althamer’s Balloon, 1999–2007, a nearly sixty-five-foot-tall pneumatic likeness of the artist. The prodigious self-portrait, which hung for an entire month over Milan in 2007, plays, in its very “inflation,” on the overblown capital (and egos) of some of today’s contemporary artists. Of course, even in its ostensible critique, Althamer’s piece partakes in the very outsize mechanisms of aesthetic self-imaging.

Maurizio Cattelan, perhaps the quintessential contemporary exemplar of such practices, appears in the exhibition with an abidingly reflexive installation, We, 2010. A smaller than life-size effigy of the artist rests fully dressed in a suit on a bed alongside his identically clad dopplegänger. The twins’ beady gazes seem––in their somewhat uneasy wakefulness––to embody everything about Cattelan’s own oeuvre, to incarnate its narcissism and astuteness, but with a higher degree of uncanniness. Tacita Dean’s film Still Life, 2009, pays homage to Giorgio Morandi’s studio, homing in on arrangements of bottles in characteristic Morandi fashion. But the calm is invaded by the shrieks emitted, in the next room, by John Bock’s 2004 film Meechfieber, perhaps the polar opposite of Morandi’s composed propriety, which seems to find in the rough patina of this old abandoned station a further elegy.