Diego Ibarra Sánchez

Mudima Lab
Via A. Tadino 20
October 11–November 25

Diego Ibarra Sánchez, Hijacked Education, Zahlé, Lebanon, December 16, 2016, 2016 ink-jet print, 7 7/8 x 11 7/8".

“Hijacked Education,” featuring photographs by Diego Ibarra Sánchez, is the third in a series of six exhibitions titled “GUERRE” (WARS) that Mudima Lab is devoting to freelance war photojournalism. Sanchez began the exhibited project in Pakistan in 2009, in part as a means of documenting and denouncing the catastrophic effects of the region’s conflicts on the fate of children living in these war zones. Sánchez documented the violent Taliban campaign against education, which focused in particular on the suppression of girls’ schooling and culminated in the attack on the young activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012. The photographer moved to Lebanon in 2014 and then on to Iraq and Syria, where hundreds of schools have been destroyed, abandoned, or transformed into shelters by ISIS militia; classrooms stand empty, their walls pierced by bullets; the university library in Mosul has been burned down. Sánchez bears witness to the desolation that remains where young people once gathered—venues for learning—tracing in that squalor the unhealable wound inflicted on an entire generation.

The photos are predominantly blue in hue: walls of deserted classrooms, the nocturnal light of winter in temporary settlements; gloomy tones emanate from these joyless places, as in Hijacked Education, 2016. From Sánchez’s sorrowful and austere awareness, similar to that of Alfredo Jaar in confronting the disasters of war, there emerges a human empathy for his subjects’ wretched fates. Hovering over all these works is a question central to Sánchez’s practice: What is the meaning of such suffering?

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Ida Panicelli

Osvaldo Licini

Galleria Tega
Via Senato, 20
September 26–November 30

Osvaldo Licini, Personaggio Olandese volante (Flying Dutchman Character), 1945, oil on canvas laid on panel, 9 x 11".

I segni dell’angelo” (“Signs of the Angel”) offers an unusual and valuable opportunity to retrace the rich, multifaceted creative trajectory of Osvaldo Licini, one of the most significant Italian artists working in the first half of the twentieth century. Around forty works lead viewers through various phases of the artist’s inimitable visual vocabulary, which conjoins abstraction and Surrealism, rationality and poetic invention, sign-laden constructions and chromatic emotions.

The show begins with abstract works exhibited in the artist’s first solo show in Italy, at the Galleria del Milione in Milan in 1935, following a long sojourn in Paris where, beginning in 1917, Licini had associated with various members of the international avant-garde, most notably Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso. Seemingly aerial figures in asymmetrical, deliberately unstable compositions, in which a sense of balance seems fleeting, often take on symbolic connotations. During the early 1940s, these scenes of suspension transformed into a new approach of fantastical figuration, always based on lightness and instability, even while possessing counterpoints of bold chromaticity. Licini’s world is populated by imaginary figures that seem to seep through a haze, appearing in (often nocturnal) skies above softly rendered horizons. They inhabit a realm both delineated with landscape elements and tinged with eroticism, traversed by moons, missiles, and ghostly vessels, sometimes punctuated with enigmatic letters and numbers. There are figures representing both Amalasuntha, the sixth-century Ostrogoth queen, and lunar symbols of regeneration flowering in her hands, eyes, hearts, and breasts—as well as Wagnerian Flying Dutchmen and rebel angels, both celestial and demonic, midway between ascent and fall.

Along a path through the exhibition enhanced by a selection of wonderful works on paper, in which sinuous symbols cause the slender figures, held aloft, to throb with life, these quivering visions finally move visitors through time to 1958, the year of the artist’s death, only a few months after he won first prize for painting at the Venice Biennale.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

“Intuition”

Palazzo Fortuny
Campo S. Beneto, 3780
May 13–November 26

Henri Michaux, untitled, 1961, India ink on paper, 29 1/2 x 41".

Immodesty has perhaps never appeared so putrefying as it does in 2017, year of the pretentiously sweeping curatorial gesture. Following a now near-universal trend, curators—more like mystical Band-Aid applicators—of this summer’s verifiably grotesque Grand Tour spectacles attempted to pass their sludgy discourse off as genuine, to a chorus of yawns comprising the more honest critical reactions. Thankfully, there were other, immersive pathways to wander on this season, the most important one being “Intuition,” organized by a team led by Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti. The very notion of this exhibition’s simple theme is largely being ruined, done away with, and murdered in the twenty-first century by any number of forces. But this sacred orgy, in which hundreds of works copulate gracefully with the Venetian Gothic exuberance of the Palazzo Fortuny’s fixtures, clashes with the straining for relevance and dehydrated conceptual checklists so prevalent today. The show allows the works to speak, nay, sing for themselves, rather than serving as a mere support for some cultural bureaucrat’s politically correct, career-boosting propositions. The inclusion of Joan Miró’s late curvilinear works, Park Seo-Bo and Dominique Stroobant’s respective Écriture incursions, Henri Michaux’s miserable miracles, Cy Twombly’s cursive splat, Yuichi Inoue’s calligraphic lashings, and Yuko Nasaka" nofollow="nofollow">Yuko Nasaka’s illustrations of infinity clearly demonstrate that the curators prefer the direct transmission of gestures. The sexiness of the mark lies in its anarchic proliferations of consequentiality.

These artists are united by an understanding that the savage duty of their vocation was/is to become an alien. And not just to the world, but to oneself; and through the work, to multiply one’s selves, constantly; a process of endless othering. Where intention is pure, it requires no explanation; it simply stabs you in the face. It was great to be assaulted in this manner, reminded that nothing else is needed but to have your vision and die. I’ll still be pondering “Intuition” the next time I am subjected to some jet-set windbag with a suitcase full of cash bemoaning the global migration crisis.

Travis Jeppesen

“The Boat Is Leaking. The Captain Lied”

Fondazione Prada | Venice
Calle de Ca’ Corner, Santa Croce 2215
May 13–November 26

Thomas Demand, Klause II (Tavern II), 2006, C-print, 70 x 96". Installation view.

Spread across three floors of an eighteenth-century palazzo, this exhibition visualizes a broad question: What happens when falsehoods stand in for the truth? For this collaboration, curator Udo Kittelmann, artist Thomas Demand, set designer Anna Viebrock, and filmmaker Alexander Kluge look to the eternal worry over art’s duplicity. This time around, at issue are not the objects themselves as much as the walls that support them.

The design of the show is provocative, blurring distinctions between discrete works and a single massive installation piece. Viebrock’s stage sets from previous theatrical productions have been appropriated throughout, providing a physical frame of contingency for the other artists’ work. The ground floor offers a straightforward introduction to the artists and demonstrates how their practices address the deception of vision. First is Demand, whose video Ampel (Stoplight), 2016, features an animated replica of the titular device, nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. Nearby, Kluge’s film Die sanfte Schminke des Lichts (The Soft Makeup of Lighting), 2007, subjects actors to various lighting effects, revealing the trickery of high-definition cinema. Two doors designed by Viebrock flank the projection, one of which is an astonishingly realistic hotel lobby entryway. Seemingly accessible, both doors are locked.

The upper floors slip fully into fabrication, with Viebrock’s previously impenetrable sets now accessible as they fill entire rooms. A counterfeit cinema plays Kluge’s films; its exit leads to a courtroom where Demand’s photograph of a model of a building covered in ivy—Klause II (Tavern II), 2006—faces the stand. Wall texts are virtually absent throughout, except in one room: a facsimile museum gallery (Viebrock’s Exhibition Room, 2017) stocked with social realist paintings. Although the labels state that Angelo Morbelli painted the works in the 1880s, amid so much fraudulence they feel fake. In reality, he did paint them, but the resulting feelings of uncertainty are all too frightening in a sinking city.

Lucas Matheson