Critics’ Picks

View of “Elmgreen & Dragset,” 2015

Milan

Elmgreen & Dragset

Massimo De Carlo | Via Giovanni Ventura
Via Giovanni Ventura, 5
May 3 - June 27

“Stigma,” a solo show by Elmgreen & Dragset at Massimo De Carlo, opened the same day as an exhibition of Ettore Spalletti’s work in Milan, emphasizing even more the curious formal similarity between aspects of this latest series by the two Scandinavians and work by the Italian artist. At De Carlo, some thirty large, urn-shaped glass vases (Side Effects, 2015) are arranged in the space on steel pedestals, variously standing alone, in pairs, or in groups of three. The vases are filled with what at first glance appears to be nothing more than powdered pigment in luminous pastel colors, particularly pink and light blue.

But if in Side Effects, Elmgreen and Dragset channel a certain poetic take on minimalist language that Spalletti has mastered, the work abruptly distances itself from that vocabulary via its literal content: As it turns out, the pale colors—however visually elegant they may seem—were not chosen for their pure aesthetic value but appropriated from the pharmaceutical industry: The pigments are the food coloring that coats pills used to treat HIV. This explains why the work’s most pertinent (and openly stated) reference is Felix Gonzales-Torres, who combined minimalism with a concern for social issues, in particular, HIV—a subject that remains current even if it makes fewer headlines than it did in Gonzales-Torres’s times. Meanwhile, providing a melancholy narrative that complements the main installation, TRACES, 2015, exhibited in a small adjacent room, takes the form of a dimly lit wall lamp, from which a thin streamer of painted steel hangs down, like a shooting star.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.