Critics’ Picks

Elisabetta Benassi, Mimetica, 2016, artificial palm tree, steel, resin, natural fiber, polypropelene, 10' 2“ x 9' 10” x 22' 7 1/2".


Elisabetta Benassi

Magazzino Roma
Via dei Prefetti, 17
December 15–February 28

“In the back of the car, the bronze shells of two tortoises emerge from a uniform layer of fresh earth.”

A blue Ford station wagon, a typical 1970s model, appears clumsily parked in the courtyard near the gallery’s entrance. In the back of the car, the bronze shells of two tortoises emerge from a uniform layer of fresh earth. The objects that Elisabetta Benassi has chosen for her third solo show at this gallery are not what they seem. A life-size palm tree literally bursts through the dividing wall of one of the two gallery spaces, as if seeking to reveal its true essence. Made out of steel, resin, natural fiber, and polypropylene, Mimetica (Camouflage, all works cited, 2016) is in fact an artificial plant of the sort used to conceal antennae and transmitters. Its hollow trunk, exposed in cross section, immediately reveals its fictions, even as the overall work evokes a sense of captivating harmony.

Timezero (Used Before 1973 1989) comprises two well-preserved packages of Polaroid film hung on the wall. Still intact and sealed, dormant in emulsion and not yet exposed to light, they seemingly contain the potential for images. Yet on closer inspection, the film turns out to be expired. Rendered unusable by time, they now register a loss while also speaking of potential, as evidence preserved, as memory of a now-distant analog past. The exhibition concludes with Shit!, an ethereal piece that seems to cast the solipsistic scope of Piero Manzoni’s iconic work against a geological perspective, fossilized excrement ensconced inside a cocoon of gold thread that conceals the original nature of what’s within—as if evoking a state of sleep enduring for thousands of years.

Irony and seduction, nature and artifice are the indispensable ingredients of this show, which poses questions and prompts reflections on possibility and uncertainty. In “Letargo” (Hibernation), suspension, whether voluntary or not, yields the possibility of a second chance.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.