Critics’ Picks

View of “Milk Revolution,” 2015.

View of “Milk Revolution,” 2015.


“Milk Revolution”

American Academy in Rome
Via Angelo Masina 5
January 29–March 1, 2015

The exhibition “Milk Revolution” at the American Academy in Rome, curated by Andrea Baccin and Ilaria Marotta, renews the dialogue between art and alchemy. The title is inspired by an iconic 1985 photograph Allen Ginsberg took of archivist and artist Harry Smith, in which Smith is seen pouring milk from a carton. Smith playfully called his act “transforming milk into milk.” Notions of the alchemical emerge in Gabriele De Santis’s Francesco Totti sei grande (Francesco Totti You are Great), 2015, in which oil and acrylic combine to create a trompe-l’oeil, marbleized effect. Alessandro Piangiamore, meanwhile, renews waste material—chunks of wax—to create semisculptural results in La XV cera di Roma e sua sorella (The XV Wax of Rome and Its Sister), 2015, while Martino Gamper, in Cuttings, 2008–15, generates an installation inspired by an idealized roof garden, incorporating organic and biodegradable materials.

In Corin Hewitt’s surreal assemblage (Sausage Sticks, 2015), sausages are impaled on the ends of selfie sticks. As it turns out, the sausages’ casings include the remains of tourists’ selfies, ground up and combined with gelatin—a tongue-in-cheek look at what happens when disposable images are subjected to transformative processes. The show also includes video, performance, and sound works—even a website, made by Bunny Rogers, who has amassed a family album using photos of children posted by their parents on social-media sites. If there’s alchemy here, it’s unsettling: Images of intimate family moments seem suddenly portentous when reprinted by a silent observer who has culled them from the Internet.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.