Critics’ Picks

Riccardo Beretta, Paravento (First Victims Playground), 2017, inlaid wood and terrasanta relief on natural veneers and natural dyed veneers, dimensions variable.


Riccardo Beretta

Francesca Minini
Via Massimiano 25
January 17–March 4, 2017

A large sculpture of inlaid wood, Paravento (First Victims Playground), 2015–17, is the cornerstone of Riccardo Beretta’s current solo show. This work, two years in the making, required the tremendous patience of a Renaissance cabinetmaker or lute maker. It consists of fifteen separate panels joined together to form a sort of mobile wall doubling as a door—its sinuous form simultaneously dividing and connecting. The sections are connected by various types of rounded and pointed flat archways. Built from MDF, many of the panels feature three layers of veneer on both sides, inlaid with an incredible number of wood fragments gathered from disparate geographic regions. Just the intermingling of these various pieces yields a nonlinear narrative, in part because when Beretta milled his surfaces, he eroded upper layers more insistently in certain areas, allowing underlying strata to emerge. The result is almost painterly, with gradations and undertones that fade in and out. When Beretta builds up his materials, he works more rationally, using what might be called mechanical actions; when he mills his surfaces down, however, his process is more emotional. The artist describes his working method as “passing through materials on both sides.”

Throughout the show, there are also works from the series “Recovered Playground,” 2016–17, which consist of images of playgrounds, printed from the internet, then covered under layers of paint—perhaps signifying territories with fluid boundaries, where memories and feelings accumulate over time. The gallery’s final room features “Sleeping Bag (Negative Cognition),” 2016–17, a series of fabric pieces that resemble the titular sacks. Beretta has embroidered them with phrases (in a font he designed) based on psychotherapist Cristina Mastronardi’s research on trauma and resilience. The entire show considers the unstable boundaries between movement and stasis, wakefulness and sleep, consciousness and all that lies beneath it.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.