Critics’ Picks

View of “Sonnet Cycle,” 2018.

View of “Sonnet Cycle,” 2018.


Domenico Mangano & Marieke Van Rooy

Francesco Pantaleone Arte Contemporanea | Milan
Via S. Rocco, 11
December 19, 2018–February 9, 2019

High up on a wall like metopes on a Greek temple hang ten images that serve as a focal point of “Sonnet Cycle,” the latest exhibition by artist duo Domenico Mangano and Marieke van Rooy. The series, “The Pure Truth about Strange People” (all works 2018), is the result of a photographic bricolage created across three phases. First, the artists collected digitized miniatures taken from the thirteenth-century Dutch poet Jacob van Maerlant’s book Der naturen bloeme (The Flower of Nature). A sort of medieval Wikipedia, the manuscript provides a catalogue of exotic animals, plants, and people based on handed-down oral accounts. Here, the two artists insert cutouts of their own photographed faces into the drawings. In one, van Rooy’s disproportionate visage peeks out between people with feet so large they resemble parasols. After printing and rephotographing these portraits, the artists decorated them with modeling clay to imbue the final work with three-dimensionality.

Another room hosts the exhibition’s titular eighteen-minute video and a series of related drawings, “Fresh Sonnets,” which depict surreal, fabular stories in rhyme (one recounts an octopus stealing watermelon from the beach) interrupted by evocative images of seemingly random objects that in fact refer to local Sicilian concerns—a cement mixer references the illegal overbuilding of Palermo, for instance. In these poesies, documentary makes room for a more freewheeling imagination, one that simultaneously re-creates and questions an othering far too familiar in today’s Italy. Together, these works illustrate the ongoing process of encounter and meaning-making that shapes personal memory as well as a people’s history and future.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.