Critics’ Picks

Prinz Gholam, kaw paw ree uhl (detail), 2021, color pencil on canvas, 6 masks (color-pencil on paper, elastic band), 7' 5/8'' x 16' 7 5/8''.

Prinz Gholam, kaw paw ree uhl (detail), 2021, color pencil on canvas, 6 masks (color-pencil on paper, elastic band), 7' 5/8'' x 16' 7 5/8''.

Rome

Prinz Gholam

Mattatoio
Piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4
July 13–September 12, 2021

A theatrical device ante litteram, a filter that protects while hiding and nullifying individual expressions and characteristics, the mask has acquired particular psychological, social, and epidemiological valances in the last twenty months. In their first solo exhibition at an Italian institution, the Berlin-based artist duo Prinz Gholam (Wolfgang Prinz and Michel Gholam) fill the Mattatoio with drawings, sculptural objects, and performative gestures reflecting on this now-ubiquitous ancestral form, a form which, as playwright and novelist Luigi Pirandello observed a century ago, belies the fiction of a stable, coherent self.  

The show’s title, “While being other,” is inscribed within one of the wall-scale drawings (Now and the Past, 2021). On two days in July, an in situ performance of the same name engaged the artists in choreographic sequences that enveloped the space, which once served as the slaughterhouse of Rome. Accompanied by minimalistic music, Prinz and Gholam switched in and out of various paper masks decorated in color-pencil, using their bodies to construct hieratic figures and evocative images. Their subtle pauses and exchanges recalled the slow and cadenced movements of Nihon-buyō, or classical Japanese dance. Like many of their earlier works, this performance carried an implicit critique of the formation of our cultural references, often conditioned by prevailing canons.

Masks appear again, disseminated within and above large drawings, delicate and evanescent in their deployment of color-pencil on canvas, and in the “Stones” series, 2017-, consisting of pebbles gathered on various continents and arranged to form schematic faces. Hanging on the wall, they seem to stare at us with their hollow eyes, patiently waiting to be called back to life.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.