Critics’ Picks

Mario Milizia, Onde sulle spalle_, 2016, mixed techniques on printed and canvased paper, 12 3/4 x 10 3/4".

Mario Milizia, Onde sulle spalle_, 2016, mixed techniques on printed and canvased paper, 12 3/4 x 10 3/4".


Mario Milizia

Via Leopardi, 32
January 23–March 17, 2017

For some years, visual artist Mario Milizia wrote poetry using a cut-up technique. Wanting to unearth his poems’ imaginative potential, he had some of them translated into Latin and then translated back into Italian. During this period, he also submitted a saliva sample for DNA testing (using a kit advertised in a National Geographic insert) in order to reconstruct his ancestors’ movements and migrations. In Milizia’s case, his forbears had Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, and, obviously, Italian roots. He had his poetry translated into these languages and then published, as well as immortalized on tapestries, made by hand in an ancient Florentine facility with the famous Gobelins technique.

The cornerstone of this exhibition is a book collecting all of his poems, some of which are also exhibited in the form of tapestries and include their corresponding page numbers in the book. Perhaps drawn to Spain’s folkloric traditions, Milizia went to Malaga, where he researched Costumbrism, a typical pictorial genre representing the nation’s histories. Taking photographic reproductions from a seminal book on the subject, Milizia then joyfully and enthusiastically created paintings referencing those images, using his fingernails and quick-drying enamels found in shops in the vicinity of his hotel.

Two striking examples of inlay and cut-up work round out the artist’s show: The former is a fireplace molding element—created in wax then cast in bronze—whose decorative motifs derived from a plaster souvenir the artist had purchased. The gallery’s lower floor, meanwhile, is dominated by the latter, a sort of building maquette—a collage of pieces based on neo-Renaissance furniture that, to Milizia, resonates architecturally with his site. But the object is only plausibly a model upon first glance; closer examination reveals a panoply of incongruities resulting from a sculptor’s poetic license.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.