Critics’ Picks

View of “Fausto Melotti and Thea Djordjadze,” 2017.

View of “Fausto Melotti and Thea Djordjadze,” 2017.


Fausto Melotti and Thea Djordjadze

La Triennale di Milano
Viale Alemagna 6
July 7–August 27, 2017

Fausto Melotti’s little theaters, some of his least known work, seem to represent instances when the artist felt most free in his practice. These miniature dioramas create safe spaces in which stories unfold, both lighthearted and profound, delimited by their architecture. Paesaggio Dimenticato (Forgotten Landscape), 1934, exists in dialogue with La Cattiveria (The Malice), 1978, as does Il diavolo che tenta gli intellettuali (The Devil That Tempts Intellectuals), 1939, with Il Gregge è fuggito (The Crowd Has Gone), 1984, forming extremely compelling mental exercises of sorts. They are constructed from very diverse materials: terra-cotta, brass, copper, fabric, Plexiglas, wood, ceramic, plaster, glass, and even tissue paper.

The same rigor and freedom can be seen in Thea Djordjadze’s site-specific installation, in which sculptural elements, smeared with paint, simultaneously support and serve as a meta-backdrop for Melotti’s little theaters, creating a profound relationship between the space and the works. Melotti’s fantasies are anchored and interconnected, thanks to Djordjadze’s simple, but not minimalist, work, which concertedly allows visitors access and close-up views of everything. Meanwhile, drawings and preparatory sketches carry equal weight as works themselves. Architectures within architectures, the physical and mental regions delineated by the artists’ pieces multiply with great energy and are, in turn, contained within the architecture of the triennale, designed by Giovanni Muzio, which Djordjaze highlights. Harmony, luminosity, and breadth are the result of this fortunate encounter between two artists whose processes are characterized by the assemblage of everyday materials. Djordjadze chose the show’s title, “Abbandonando un’era che abbiamo trovato invivibile” (“Abandoning an Era That We Found Unlivable”), evoking a comment Jean Cocteau wrote in 1941 upon the death of Jean-Michel Frank, an iconic Art Deco designer and man of theater. The words’ loaded meaning encourages viewers to look further.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.