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Andrea Sala

Federica Schiavo Gallery | Milan
Via Michele Barozzi, 6
March 23–May 13

Andrea Sala, Tacco (Stake), 2017,
stove enameling and metal coating on copper, 8 x 14 1/2 x 2 1/2".

Along the gallery’s walls Andrea Sala has installed reproductions of simple hand-operated tools at the height of a work surface in pieces titled Maglio (Mallet), Tasso (Stake), Rotaia (Rail), Suola (Sole), Tacco (Heel), and Tappo (Stopper) (all works 2017). Sala has previously examined the forms of objects in the context of the modernist traditions of design and architecture. Now, he turns his eye to the workshop: to the world of implements with essential forms. The function of these tools is no longer obvious thanks to the decontextualizing effect of Sala’s process (he creates the works with torch-fired enamel). The subtle hues of the basic shapes’ luminous glazes lend a soft elegance to the sculptures, which suggest an air of malleability even while exerting iconic presences. Sala’s technique mines long-standing traditions in the history of design, particularly in Italy, and he deploys it to investigate various materials without renouncing a sense of play. This whimsy is also immediately seen in the titles of a group of four other works, which refer to comic-book characters. Bluto, Pippo, Poldo, and Gastone look like odd-shaped hammers, reproduced in cast ceramic and Plasticine. Each hammer is positioned on a sort of basin; together, the components perform the role of a sculpture on a base. Meanwhile, a shoe peeks out through the gridded surface in both Suola di scarpa grigliata rossa (Red Gridded Shoe Sole) and Grigia (Gray), making them the only objects in the show that recall the materiality and concreteness of objects without resorting to abstraction.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Mirosław Bałka

Pirelli HangarBicocca
Via Chiese 2
March 16–July 30

Mirosław Bałka, BlueGasEyes, 2004, HD video, color, sound, 3 minutes 37 seconds, two screens, steel, salt, 4 x 50 x 67". Installation view.

Eighteen works emerge from the dark in this huge industrial hall. The exhibition starts and ends with Holding the Horizon, 2016, which is installed above the entrance and shows a simple yellow horizontal shape that nervously moves up and down on a LED screen. Continuing through the exhibition, it becomes clear that this horizon introduces scale, balance, and orientation, just as it questions and disturbs all of this. It is an image making an effort to hold itself up.

Wege zur Behandlung von Schmerzen (Ways to Treat Pain), 2011, is emblematic of Mirosław Bałka’s attitude. This sculpture confronts us with something unpleasant, hidden, or impossible and, at the same time, transforms the encounter into a poetic or healing experience. Dirty water pours down from the ceiling through a tube high above, which can be seen only from a distance, as the huge size of the metal container where the water collects prevents the viewer from taking a closer look. Yet a spotlight directed onto the streaming water alters the contaminated liquid, making it appear lucid and clean.

BlueGasEyes, 2004, shows two ranges of gas flames projected onto rectangles of salt on the floor. The sound of the fires, plus their restless movement, has a disquieting effect, while the work’s title makes it hard not to think about the Holocaust. Though we are, in fact, just looking at a domestic kitchen scene––the blaze feels like two beautiful flowers of evil.

Jurriaan Benschop

Athena Papadopoulos

via Ricciotti 4
March 17–May 30

View of “Athena Papadopoulos: Belladona’s Muse,” 2017.

Crossing the threshold of the space, viewers are wooed by an enveloping atmosphere of red and pink. Part of the show’s title, the term “Belladonna” has connotations as numerous as the properties that characterize the homonymous plant: It can be therapeutic or sedative if taken in small quantities; cosmetic if applied in the form of eye drops, which, by expanding the pupil, can make the eyes seem shinier; or noxious and even lethal if ingested in higher doses. Athena Papadopoulos has constructed an exhibition of contrasting ideas to parallel this flora’s connotations, with beauty and disgust delineating a physical and mental journey toward a private, visceral, apotropaic dimension.

Shapeless legs, in pairs or alone, crowd and invade the gallery space, either resting on the wall like two girlfriends waiting around (Stumpin’ & Bumpin, 2015) or suspended in the air (Gurney I, 2017). The works are composed of photographic and hand-drawn elements, T-shirt transfers, and textile supports, resulting in layered collages that sometimes enfold the sculptures and at other times hang from artificial branches like tanned skins left out to dry. Orphaned pieces of absent bodies, they wink at the work of Hans Bellmer and Sarah Lucas. The artist exorcises fear and includes autobiographical references, such as ones to her father, a ladies’ man, and her grandmother, who lost a leg to gangrene.

During the opening, some elderly women gathered together in one of the rooms to assemble things using costume jewelry. The small objects they wove together attest the value of manual labor and the social interactions such collaboration generates, while also serving as salable souvenirs, thus spreading the memory of the show beyond the gallery.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Shadi Harouni

Galleria Tiziana Di Caro
Piazzetta Nilo, 7
March 25–June 10

Shadi Harouni, I Dream the Mountain Is Still Whole, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 17 minutes 6 seconds.

“An Index of Undesirable Elements,” the title of Shadi Harouni’s latest exhibition, is an unequivocal declaration of the tension that connects all the works on display. The artist continually draws from an archive of historical images and personal memories to create sculptures, monoprints, videos, and photographs. The monoprints on view combine abstract and evocative forms with texts that recount life and death in Iran during periods of political repression. For example, oval forms printed with warm ochers and light greens evoke cozy shells. Yet silk-screened texts in gray boxes below these shapes tell stories of common tombs, cemeteries of political prisoners, and attempts by the government to remove graves.

The mountain and dusty pit where the video I Dream the Mountain Is Still Whole, 2017, takes place becomes a theater for resistance and for the primogenial challenge between man and nature. The work is a portrait of a political dissident who, traversing a hostile landscape, describes his struggle. His is a precarious life made up of conflict and capitulation, a condition emphasized in the video by brief sequences that show the arms of the man who, with great effort, holds up large stones. Here, the works negotiate a delicate formal elegance with the painful awareness of tragedy. The exhibition is orchestrated on this ambivalence with historical time represented by the events of men and eternity represented by the mountain.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Giovanna Mancini