Critics’ Picks

Giuseppe De Mattia, Espositore di frutta e verdura vera e finta, Roma (Display of real and fake fruit and vegetables, Rome), 2019, iron, wood, polypropylene cells, fresh fruit and vegetables, ceramic, pigment, 112 1/4 x 98 1/2 x 47 1/4".

Giuseppe De Mattia, Espositore di frutta e verdura vera e finta, Roma (Display of real and fake fruit and vegetables, Rome), 2019, iron, wood, polypropylene cells, fresh fruit and vegetables, ceramic, pigment, 112 1/4 x 98 1/2 x 47 1/4".

Rome

Giuseppe De Mattia

Matèria
Via Tiburtina 149
October 23, 2019–January 21, 2020

This exhibition welcomes viewers with Frutta e verdura (all works 2019), a neon-green sign that names Giuseppe De Mattia’s ostensible subject, “fruit and vegetables.” The text’s font, created from the artist’s handwriting, “signs” the intervention as his own, while a strong odor of plants fills the surrounding green void. The next room, accessed by walking under the neon, contains Espositore di frutta e verdura vera e finta, Roma (Display of real and fake fruit and vegetables, Rome), an exaggeratedly vertical, stainless-steel display of an array of produce. Colored tissue paper printed with a design—conceived by De Mattia and described by curator Vasco Forconi as “a fragmentary self-portrait of the artist who, making the cuckold sign with his hands, makes a propitiatory gesture of sale”—protects some of these pieces of fruit and veg; Arancia scaramantica, Bologna (Superstitious Orange, Bologna), the logo’s drawn source, hangs on an adjacent wall.

Though on first approach nothing seems to distinguish the gallery from an actual fruit and vegetable shop, De Mattia has replaced one unit of each variety on display with its painted ceramic twin. The produce acts as camouflage for these small sculptures, following Lawrence Alloway’s claim in his 1972 Artforum essay “Network: The Art World Described as a System” that “Art is a public system to which we, as spectators or consumers, have random access.” A few days after the opening, the exhibition began to change in appearance, its increasingly large subtractions due not only to sales but also to the deterioration of the fruits and vegetables themselves. There is no critique in De Mattia’s brazen play, only an awareness of the condition of an artist and their work as commodities within the system, seductive like succulent mangoes.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.