Critics’ Picks

View of “Paranormal: Tony Oursler vs Gustavo Rol,” 2017.

View of “Paranormal: Tony Oursler vs Gustavo Rol,” 2017.


“Paranormal: Tony Oursler vs Gustavo Rol”

Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli
Via Nizza, 230/103
November 3, 2017–February 25, 2018

Like the Pied Piper, Tony Oursler leads viewers through an exhibition composed not only of his sculptures and paintings, but also archival material dedicated to the paranormal from his over-15,000-item collection, as well as writings and paintings by artist and psychic Gustavo Rol. He gives form to his knowledge of paranormal worlds drawn both from his recent stay in Turin (a city full of esoterica and Rol’s home) and from his family history: Oursler’s grandfather, Charles Fulton Oursler, was close friends with both Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In this exhibition, Rol is a key point in the face-off between white and black magic. A man who crossed paths with everyone from John F. Kennedy to Queen Elizabeth II, Rol was a clairvoyant and painter who imbued his works with what he called “arrivals from the sky.” Oursler stages new installations, inspired by ex-votos from Turin’s Sanctuary of the Consolata; the dialogue he establishes with Rol is marked by spontaneity and irony, walking the boundary between profound acceptance and detachment, between well-established research and hidden mechanics. What seem to be images of disquieting, small ghosts with lively eyes lurk amid photos of nineteenth-century ectoplasm and documentation of spiritualist séances and hypnotists’ sessions. Video-paintings depict figures who ascend discontinuous stairs or appear like visions in front of a church, and video footage of mouths spouting paranormal rants appear projected on sculpture. Meanwhile Rol’s paintings of bare trees, or roses, seem to await distant spirits. You don’t need to believe in the paranormal to let yourself become involved.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.