Critics’ Picks

  • Vincenzo Agnetti, L’Età media di A (The Average Age of A), 1973, mixed media, india ink, 40 x 57".

    Vincenzo Agnetti, L’Età media di A (The Average Age of A), 1973, mixed media, india ink, 40 x 57".

    Vincenzo Agnetti—Autoritratti Ritratti, Scrivere—Enrico Castellani Piero Manzoni

    Via Monte di Pietà 23
    October 23, 2019–January 18, 2020

    This exhibition addresses portraiture as a profound subtraction, a situation in which one extracts in order to restore. Curator Giovanni Iovane has enriched his selection of Vincenzo Agnetti’s works, which are spread over the gallery’s three floors and all date to between 1959 and 1981, by including graphic pieces by Enrico Castellani and Pietro Manzoni, whom Agnetti became friends with in the 1960s. Of the twelve of Agnetti’s displayed felt pieces, centrally inscribed with precise, direct writing, some are extremely rare—see Ritratto di amante (Portrait of Lover), 1970, in red and gold, and the 1971 Ritratto (Portrait), in black and silver. The artist employed this practice not only to represent our shared human condition in textual form, but also to introduce the words of others into his oeuvre. One such phrase, from Ritratto di ignoto (Portrait of an Unknown Person), 1971, reads: “Sempre arrivava avvolto da una trasparenza impenetrabile” (He always arrived enveloped in an impenetrable transparency).

    This eclectic homage to representation continues with photographic works. Agnetti executed Elisabetta d’Inghilterra (Elizabeth of England), 1976, a six-panel portrait of the titular queen, by using a complex technique of applying emulsion to canvas. L’Età media di A (The Average Age of A), 1973, a collage in which images of a woman’s face, documented at four different ages, are layered into a single physiognomic composite, is an obvious reference to that universal theme: temporality. The show concludes with a selection of ephemera from Agnetti’s life, a prized collection of books, photos, and handwritten texts that reveal, even more than the works of art, his commitment to writing in-depth analyses of his artistic colleagues—demonstrating a talent for metalanguage that extends far beyond the canvas’s edge.

    Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

  • Renata Boero, Karte (Map), 2019, natural elements, paper, wood, 55 x 110 x 50". Photo: Alessandro Zambianchi.

    Renata Boero, Karte (Map), 2019, natural elements, paper, wood, 55 x 110 x 50". Photo: Alessandro Zambianchi.

    Renata Boero

    Federico Vavassori
    Via Giorgio Giulini, 5
    November 15, 2019–January 10, 2020

    The six works on view here, spanning from 1968 to 2019, illustrate Renata Boero’s ongoing, stratified interest in the fields of nature, alchemy, and painting. Although the artist’s practice inevitably intersects with the medium of drawing, her primary concern is how paintings can be made with a degree of spontaneity. Boero draws influence  in this regard from her Jungian academic background, which supports reading of painting as an altered mental stateone achieved through impulsiveness and unconscious gestures. Indeed, Boero’s work has a performative quality: Her canvases are stained with the liveness of colors derived from plants and other natural sources such as turmeric, cochineal, and henna, which constantly mutate under her metabolic experimentation with techniques and materials.

    In her first solo exhibition here, Boero’s works, elegantly installed in the apartment-like Milanese gallery, infuse their quasi-mystical presence throughout the space. In the central room, two large paper sheets, which have been folded and dyed, come together to become Karte (Map), 2019—a nonfigurative, organically marked surface accompanied by a plethora of wooden letters and numbers scattered on the floor. The two adjacent, smaller rooms contain paper pieces varying in scale, format, and hue. Two landscapes with friezelike horizontal orientations—Germinazioni—Sequenze di Fiori di carta (Germinations—Paper Flower Sequences), 2014, and Germinazione (Germinations), 2018—record Boero’s emotional rituals of alchemical research by collecting the dappled residue of her rubbings. At last, a rushed calligraphic sign emerges from the washed-out paper of Untitled, 1968—a pictorial mark and additional layer reaffirming the immanent presence of the artist’s gesture.

  • View of “Andrea Kvas: Project Room #3,” 2019.

    View of “Andrea Kvas: Project Room #3,” 2019.

    Andrea Kvas

    via Marco Antonio Bragadino, 2
    September 30–December 21, 2019

    Two self-supporting structures, resembling minimalist totems, form Andrea Kvas’s installation Untitled (Cornie), 2019, created for the space of the former Milanese studio of the late outsider artist Pharaildis van den Broeck. Born in Belgium in 1952, Van den Broeck built a career in Milan as a fashion designer, working for brands like Versace and Missoni. In the mid-1990s, she quit design to start painting: an activity to which she utterly and exclusively devoted her creative efforts until her death in 2014, producing a gargantuan oeuvre of more than two thousand paintings and as many drawings. Halfway between ingenious framing devices and autonomous sculptures, Kvas’s intervention could be interpreted as a postmortem dialogue with Van den Broeck, an artist who approached painting as an extremely private, introverted exercise and who deliberately isolated her work from the art discourses of the time.

    Kvas conceived the two sculptures on view here as supports for four paintings by the Belgian Italian artist. Made of vertical wooden boards arranged together to form pillars, they graciously accommodate the canvases hanging on their surfaces, and each responds differently to the formal qualities of the works that they frame. In one example, the raw materiality of Van den Broeck’s paintings—two untitled works from 2011 that she originally used as color palettes and later turned into semi-figurative compositions—contrasts with the sleek gray surface of Kvas’s structure. In the other, his roughly painted plywood boards echo the colors of the two untitled still lifes they enclose: each one a joyful combination of pink, blue, aquamarine, and purple.

    The frame—that bridge between the painted surface and the outside world—was a recurrent concern in Van den Broeck’s art. Some of her sketches (also on view at the Archivio) reveal complex framing structures the artist designed over the last ten years of her life but never realized. Taking inspiration from these drawings, Kvas has created a setup that extends Van den Broeck’s investigation into the sculptural possibilities of painting. Here, the function of the frame is no longer to limit or define the boundaries of the picture; instead, it expands the paintings’ surfaces into three dimensions.