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Marc Camille Chaimowicz

Viale Alemagna 6
October 14, 2016–January 8, 2017

View of “Marc Camille Chaimowicz,” 2016.

French artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz, one of the early proponents of a multidisciplinary approach to art that dovetailed performance and installation, now orchestrates a project devoted to the architecture of its venue, La Triennale di Milano. Chaimowicz compares the aesthetic affinities of this space to the oneiric aspects of metaphysics. “Maybe Metafisica,” curated by Eva Fabbris, follows a circular trajectory that—beginning with Giorgio de Chirico’s painting Figliol Prodigo (Prodigal Son), 1973—retraces in stages Chaimowicz’s expressive forms, seen in decorative panels, furniture, and highly theatrical installations, all either created or restaged for the occasion. The first work comprises a curtain draped over an installation of various objects––three small gashes in the fabric reveal a fox stole, flowers, lights, and architectural elements—accompanied by a perpetually gushing fountain (We Chose Our Words with Care, That Neon-Moonlit Evening; It Was As If We Were, Party to a Wonderful Alchemy, 1975–2008). In the melancholically monumental space of the main room, visitors encounter two sections of wallpaper with graphic elements that evoke Jean Cocteau. Three large arches (Arches, 1975–2016), similar to those in the museum’s vestibule but which cut off midway, rest defenselessly on the walls and floor, and lead to a space occupied by stairs with treads (Two-Speed Staircase, 1975–2016), as well as desks and floodlights in blue and red.

Visitors move on to encounter Rope Vase(s), 2014, ten glazed pastel-hued ceramics created in Italy with the help of a ceramics workshop in Faenza. The exhibition then concludes with nine empty bronze shelves (Venezia, Venice, 2016) made in collaboration with the Milan Battaglia Foundry. The work is made up of supports that hold nothing but instead function as demarcations of space, punctuating eight drawings on paper.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Chiara Valacchi

Patrick Tuttofuoco

Federica Schiavo Gallery | Milan
Via Michele Barozzi, 6
November 24, 2016–January 19, 2017

Patrick Tuttofuoco, Evan and Athena, 2016, coated steel, ink-jet print on PVC, ceramic 82 1/2 x 59 x 102 1/4".

Patrick Tuttofuoco’s first solo show at this gallery features five new works. The artist has long been interested in the impalpability of reality—the possibility that the past cannot be historicized and the future is the new present—and in this show, titled “Pretty Good Privacy,” he underscores a contemporary existence increasingly split between actual and virtual experience. As soon as visitors cross the gallery threshold, they catch sight of a work on the floor, A Better Place (all works 2016), a scrolling LED screen that both reproduces and parodies the extent to which cutting-edge technology influences and facilitates the world’s evolution. Two of the four installations in the space mirror each other, as if industrially reproduced. Differing only in color and subject, they seem to address the contradiction between anthropic uniqueness and manufactured multiplicity—an issue the artist often addresses. In Sheryl and Augustus, 2016 and Evan and Athena, 2016, two large, white ceramic pieces depict classical busts of Augustus from Meroë and of Athena, respectively, in fluorescent hues that differ only on the inner surfaces. Erected on dark metal tripods, they direct the viewer’s gaze to large, vertical PVC-printed panels, where it is possible to detect the eyes and mouths of Sheryl Sandberg and Evan Spiegel, the CEOs of Facebook and Snapchat—their features disfigured by saturated, psychedelic-looking magma. The tension between classical and contemporary symbols continues in the rest of the gallery, where Sundar and Athena, 2016 and Marissa and Augustus, 2016 echo the aforementioned works, with depictions, in different color schemes, of Sundar Pichai and Marissa Mayer, the chief executive officers of Google and Yahoo. The result encapsulates a range of concerns: from fear of oblivion to the immateriality of everyday life.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Chiara Valacchi

Giulio Turcato

Galleria Milano
via Manin 13
October 26, 2016–January 30, 2017

Giulio Turcato, Tranquillanti (Tranquilizers), 1968, pills, oil, mixed media on canvas on wood, 19 x 23".

This show—which focuses on Giulio Turcato’s “Superfici lunari” (Lunar Surfaces) and “Tranquillanti” (Tranquilizers), two series emblematic of his 1960s production—reveals the nuances in a body of surprisingly poetic work that alternates between pure abstraction and Art Informel. The nine pieces on view from “Superfici lunari,” dating from 1965 to 1970, suggest an imaginary spatial realm while reinforcing the physicality of their “canvases.” Turcato painted in oil and mixed media on foam rubber, and thanks to these materials, his surfaces are never flat but appear rich in variations, signs, hollows, and reliefs: a vibrant field of events, a living skin. Superficie lunare, 1969, is a vast fragment of a starry night, slashed by a red blade on the right and marked by equally scorching craters elsewhere. A rough, irregular expanse and deep colors—blues, reds, browns—also typify the “Tranquillanti” series, represented here by four works from 1961 to 1970. Pill tablets placed against a colorful plane shine like stars. The works’ formal compositions seem interrupted by small events; they move beyond the physical evidence of their materials, resulting in paintings that resemble windows into the cosmos, with all its mystery and depth. The artist seems to become restless in the four pieces from the series “Itinerari” (Itineraries), 1970, wherein the freer gestural quality of the hand captures the form of nervous mental pathways.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Mario Deluigi

Studio Gariboldi
Via Privata Giovanni Ventura, 5
January 17, 2017–February 24, 2017

View of “Mario Deluigi,” 2017

This show focuses on the apical decades of Mario Deluigi’s work—the 1950s and 1960s—specifically documenting what is perhaps the artist’s best-known series: “Grattage” (Scrapings), 1953–78. First exhibited at the Twenty-Eighth Venice Biennale under the title “Motivi sui vuoti” (Motifs on Voids), the pictorial works feature painted surfaces that Deluigi carved with razor blades, shears, scalpels, and the handles of paintbrushes and spatulas, as if allowing a clear, sidereal light to emerge from preparatory depths, thereby drawing attention to the immaterial dimension of painting.

One of the leading figures of the postwar art world in Venice, Deluigi was active in Spatialism, a movement inspired by Lucio Fontana’s concept of the pictorial surface as a space of cosmic events. For Deluigi, “Grattage” shows traces of his invention of a distinctive technique, but also, and above all, the action he performed that allowed his vision of a new space to take material form. With their carved patterns, the intensely luminous paintings almost seem to give off intermittent vibrations, while also evincing a pervasive plasticity. The liquid, subtle colors all over these paintings bring to mind the hues and currents of the Venetian lagoon; they dissolve into undertones that merely hint at space. Seen together, they almost seem like swatches of light, perhaps the golden tiles of a mosaic—a medium that Deluigi, not coincidentally, embraced in parallel to painting throughout his career.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

Karla Black

Galleria Raffaella Cortese | Via Stradella 7
Via Stradella 7
November 29, 2016–February 25, 2017

View of “Karla Black,” 2017.

Conceived specifically for the spaces of the gallery, this show presents new works by Karla Black made primarily of cotton wool. Orchestrated as variations on a theme, these soft, sensual, and delicate abstract works first hide, then quietly reveal, a complexity of form and meaning. The artist establishes a long-distance dialogue of sorts with the tradition of abstract painting, investigating two-dimensionality but dismantling the canvas’s optical space in favor of physical, tactile work that ideally can be appreciated from more than one side. For example, In Place of Requirements (all works 2016), takes the form of a colorful quilt, evoking intimacy and the presence of the body. And the eight other, smaller “canvases,” which also hang from the ceiling, seem pillow-sized. On their sugar paper surfaces, Black creates chromatic and geometric modulations by manipulating cotton, as in Sourced and Unsourced, where her material appears to become denser in the center or at the corners. Using materials and colors traditionally marked as feminine, Black sometimes applies eye shadow in faint hues (pink, blue, yellow) instead of acrylic, as in the case of the balsa-wood piece State One. In the installation Admitting Amounts, cotton seems to form a lake over which a tangle of cellophane is suspended, expanding throughout the exhibition space. Black once again has created experimental, compositionally adventurous works, marked by an elegance that is never an end unto itself; light as clouds, they invite visitors to enter a magical and astounding realm.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Riccardo Beretta

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

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

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.

Marco Tagliafierro

Mario Milizia

Via Leopardi, 32
January 23, 2017–March 17, 2017

Mario Milizia, Onde sulle spalle_, 2016, mixed techniques on printed and canvased paper, 12 3/4 x 10 3/4".

For some years, visual artist Mario Milizia wrote poetry using a cut-up technique. Wanting to unearth his poems’ imaginative potential, he had some of them translated into Latin and then translated back into Italian. During this period, he also submitted a saliva sample for DNA testing (using a kit advertised in a National Geographic insert) in order to reconstruct his ancestors’ movements and migrations. In Milizia’s case, his forbears had Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, and, obviously, Italian roots. He had his poetry translated into these languages and then published, as well as immortalized on tapestries, made by hand in an ancient Florentine facility with the famous Gobelins technique.

The cornerstone of this exhibition is a book collecting all of his poems, some of which are also exhibited in the form of tapestries and include their corresponding page numbers in the book. Perhaps drawn to Spain’s folkloric traditions, Milizia went to Malaga, where he researched Costumbrism, a typical pictorial genre representing the nation’s histories. Taking photographic reproductions from a seminal book on the subject, Milizia then joyfully and enthusiastically created paintings referencing those images, using his fingernails and quick-drying enamels found in shops in the vicinity of his hotel.

Two striking examples of inlay and cut-up work round out the artist’s show: The former is a fireplace molding element—created in wax then cast in bronze—whose decorative motifs derived from a plaster souvenir the artist had purchased. The gallery’s lower floor, meanwhile, is dominated by the latter, a sort of building maquette—a collage of pieces based on neo-Renaissance furniture that, to Milizia, resonates architecturally with his site. But the object is only plausibly a model upon first glance; closer examination reveals a panoply of incongruities resulting from a sculptor’s poetic license.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Giulio Paolini

Galleria Christian Stein | Milan
Corso Monforte 23 Milan
November 10–April 29

Galleria Christian Stein | Pero
Via Vincenzo Monti, 46
November 10–April 29

View of “Giulio Paolini: FINE,” 2017.

Galleria Christian Stein has been a sympathetic supporter of Arte Povera, first in Turin and then in Milan. For his show, in celebration of the gallery’s fiftieth anniversary, Giulio Paolini has chosen the title “FINE” (End). The image that appears on the announcement is a closed curtain, a choice more suitable for a farewell than an anniversary. In fact, word is out that the gallery is rethinking its status and mission. Whether this is true or not, the feeling of an ending, of a final review, pervades the show, particularly in its Milan location, which features a large ad-hoc installation (FINE, 2016). It is a sort of raft laden with objects from Paolini’s studio—his worktable, a ladder, an overturned armchair—precariously piled up along with reproductions of works by others (Watteau, for example) that have inspired the artist throughout his career, white canvases, frames, and an empty music stand. This is a classic Paolinian self-reference to the artist’s tools but now pervaded by an unusual, almost dramatic urgency. In the long text that accompanies the show, the artist polemically defends his idea, pursued for more than half a century and now (in Nietzschean fashion) unfashionable, of art that is indifferent to social and political causes, closed off in the contemplation of its own enigmatic essence. “Mi limito a dire che l’arte fa da sé, non sa che farsene di noi e si manifesta senza interlocutori e intermediary,” he writes. (I limit myself to saying that art acts on its own, doesn’t know what to make of us and appears without interlocutors and intermediaries.) The second part of the show, in Pero (both are curated by Bettina della Casa), features a broad selection of works that focuses on Paolini’s output from the 1970s to the 2000s. Here, a few large installations, particularly Hic et nunc (Le Radeau de la Méduse) (Here and Now [The Raft of the Medusa]), 1991, an abstract evocation of Géricault’s famous painting, are alone worth a visit.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Simone Menegoi

Rome Quadriennale

Palazzo Delle Esposizioni
Via Nazionale 194
October 13, 2016–January 8, 2017

View of “Cyphoria,” Rome Quadriennale, 2016.

The sixteenth edition of the Rome Quadriennale responds to strong expectations with energy in kind. With eleven curators, ten exhibition projects, ninety-nine artists, and 150 works, the show features a title, “Altri tempi, altri miti” (Other Times, Other Myths; a phrase borrowed from the writer Pier Vittorio Tondelli), that laconically summarizes the state of art in Italy. The decision to involve many different sets of eyes is both appropriate to the fragmentary and unstable state of today’s art languages, and suggestive of curators’ current roles as crucial mediators. In the exhibition segments, the works are autonomous in their specificity but also seem to connect to multiple larger avenues of research and interpretation.

Comprising the only team among the curators, Simone Ciglia and Luigia Lonardelli—in their section titled “I would prefer not to”—present artists who have made subtraction and reduction a stylistic cipher: Matteo Fato reduces painting to figures isolated against monochromatic fields, in both pictorial and installation-oriented work; Nicola Samorě strips away layers in her brooding portraits, allowing underlying traces to emerge. Curator Matteo Lucchetti, in his section “De rerum rurale,” recounts the countryside’s settlement as a metaphor for contemporary social dynamics: Michelangelo Consani takes a scene from Giuseppe De Santis’s film Riso amaro (Bitter Rice, 1950) and projects it onto a bust of Masanobu Fukuoka, a pioneer of natural farming. In the section “La seconda volta” (The Second Time), curator Cristiana Perrella uses the concept of recycling as the framework for a new and compelling circular economy, through the works of Francesco Vezzoli, who seizes and reworks classical sculpture, and Alek O., who transforms the blue back of street posters into a new harmonic composition. Finally, curator Luigi Fassi, in his section “La democrazia in America” (Democracy in America), retraces the steps toward Italian democracy, presenting, between the others, the brothers Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio, who use images and sound to recount the dismantling of the Platz in Turin, one of the largest shantytowns in Europe—perhaps capturing that which has been fated for other times and other myths.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Adriana Varejăo

Gagosian | Rome
Via Francesco Crispi 16
October 1, 2016–January 14, 2017

Adriana Varejăo, Azulejăo (voluta) [Big Tile (volute)], 2016, oil and plaster on canvas, 70 7/8 × 70 7/8".

For “Azulejăo” (Big Tile), Adriana Varejăo has covered the gallery’s curved walls with enormous pieces inspired by traditional Portuguese tilework. Square tiles of enameled terra-cotta have served a dual function since the Middle Ages—they’re ornamental but also practical for cladding and waterproofing buildings. Here, Varejăo, who is interested in the history and culture of Brazil, employs the highly recognizable material to represent her native land’s ties to Portugal, ties established through the vicissitudes of trade and colonialism. She allowed a layer of plaster on each of her large canvases to dry until it yielded cracks and rifts. She then applied blue and white oil paint, creating resolutely enlarged details (an angel’s head, a Doric column, a rose, a shell) that approach a gestural abstraction evoking the works of Franz Kline or Emilio Vedova. The show opens with Monocromo Roma II (Rome Monochrome II), 2016. With a paucity of color that seemingly pays homage to Alberto Burri’s “Cretti” series, it serves as a tabula rasa that launches the rest of the work conceived specifically for the show.

A single totemic sculpture destabilizes the viewer’s gaze. It, too, is clad in majolica tiles, but tangles of bloody viscera emerge, like a trompe l’oeil that verges on splatter. The show concludes with Transbarroco, 2014, a unique multichannel video installation. Wide-angled shots present the spectacular interiors of Baroque churches in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais and Bahia, and a captivating recording of a Candomblé ritual is interspersed with readings of texts that examine Brazilian identity.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Joan Jonas

Galleria Alessandra Bonomo
Via del Gesů, 62
December 2, 2016–February 28, 2017

View of “Joan Jonas: Minds of Their Own,” 2017.

The dramatic feel of the 2015 Venice Biennale US pavilion, featuring work by Joan Jonas and titled “They Come to Us Without a Word,” is woven through the artist’s third solo exhibition at this gallery. Viewers find themselves placed within a theatrical dimension, where their surroundings are subjected to the performative aspect that has always characterized her output.

In the first room is Minds of Their Own, 2016, an immersive video installation projected onto three separate screens. The performers in the video transform into diaphanous shadows. Here, Jonas seems to imagine a modern Platonic cave, where it is no longer possible to distinguish who is being looked at from who is looking (and viewers, passing in front of the projection to traverse the room, themselves become shadows). Several tables in the space present found objects and drawings, each a different size and produced on various supports (black cardboard, white drawing paper, and ivory, among others.). The second room of the show offers copious drawings to the point where it is almost obsessive. Outlines of animals—birds, seahorses, and tortoises—reduced to childlike strokes seem to lose weight and substance; indeed some are positioned on a small table of light-colored wood that brings to mind a nursery school setting. Jonas herself has aptly stated, “I think that children should figure out how to draw at the same time as they are learning how to read and write.”

A sound track by Jonas with some musical phrases by Jason Moran accompanies the show, which provides a narrative thread and, massaged by the artist’s mellow voice, creates an environment that is irrefutably immersive.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Elisabetta Benassi

Via dei Prefetti, 17
December 15, 2016–February 28, 2017

Elisabetta Benassi, Mimetica, 2016, artificial palm tree, steel, resin, natural fiber, polypropelene, 10' 2“ x 9' 10” x 22' 7 1/2".

“In the back of the car, the bronze shells of two tortoises emerge from a uniform layer of fresh earth.”

A blue Ford station wagon, a typical 1970s model, appears clumsily parked in the courtyard near the gallery’s entrance. In the back of the car, the bronze shells of two tortoises emerge from a uniform layer of fresh earth. The objects that Elisabetta Benassi has chosen for her third solo show at this gallery are not what they seem. A life-size palm tree literally bursts through the dividing wall of one of the two gallery spaces, as if seeking to reveal its true essence. Made out of steel, resin, natural fiber, and polypropylene, Mimetica (Camouflage, all works cited, 2016) is in fact an artificial plant of the sort used to conceal antennae and transmitters. Its hollow trunk, exposed in cross section, immediately reveals its fictions, even as the overall work evokes a sense of captivating harmony.

Timezero (Used Before 1973 1989) comprises two well-preserved packages of Polaroid film hung on the wall. Still intact and sealed, dormant in emulsion and not yet exposed to light, they seemingly contain the potential for images. Yet on closer inspection, the film turns out to be expired. Rendered unusable by time, they now register a loss while also speaking of potential, as evidence preserved, as memory of a now-distant analog past. The exhibition concludes with Shit!, an ethereal piece that seems to cast the solipsistic scope of Piero Manzoni’s iconic work against a geological perspective, fossilized excrement ensconced inside a cocoon of gold thread that conceals the original nature of what’s within—as if evoking a state of sleep enduring for thousands of years.

Irony and seduction, nature and artifice are the indispensable ingredients of this show, which poses questions and prompts reflections on possibility and uncertainty. In “Letargo” (Hibernation), suspension, whether voluntary or not, yields the possibility of a second chance.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Walid Raad

Fondazione Volume!
Via Di San Francesco Di Sales 86
February 3–April 28

View of “Walid Raad: Yet Another Letter to the Reader,” 2017.

More than thirty wooden transport crates form a kind of interlocking tapestry of paintings for Lebanese artist Walid Raad’s solo show. Building on an existing body of work that explores both the corruption at the heart of Lebanon’s system of cultural heritage and the Western-centric nature of the global art scene, this exhibition aims the spotlight on forgotten Middle Eastern painters. A space with a low arched, wooden ceiling appears to have been turned into an eclectic painter’s studio, with each crate featuring a reproduction of a work by an artist from the region. The pieces were painted in situ by a team of local assistants prior to the exhibition opening and range from figurative expression to Surrealism and abstraction.

The installation raises complex issues of authorship and identity as Raad strives to compensate for the way history has overlooked fellow artists—such as Khalil Gibran and Hassan Sharif—from the Middle East, based on the success that he himself has found in the West. Each work draws parallels with the history of Occidental art, yet together they form an independent collective identity. Re-creating these works gives them a new life and the audience they deserve. Of particular note is a copy of Marwan Kassab Bachi’s Munif Al Razzaz, 1965, a Kokoschka-esque portrait of a mustached and balding man who bears a depressive expression with furrowed brow. Another standout depicts a Fauvist landscaped garden with a Buddha statue in its foreground. The opportunity to see these paintings is a welcome one.

Mike Watson

Lynda Benglis

Thomas Brambilla
Via Casalino 25
December 10, 2016–February 24, 2017

Lynda Benglis, Torso, 2016, Giallo Reale marble, 50 3/4 x 31 x 8".

“Benglis and the Baroque,” Lynda Benglis’s first solo show in Italy, highlights the artist’s long-standing interest in the period in question. The sinuousness of seventeenth-century sculpture, along with the Baroque enthusiasm for artifice, is reflected in the American artist’s magmatic forms. In this exhibition, she continues to address themes of the knot and the torso, interpreting the topos of the male bust without limbs. As such, in Torso, 2016, a piece comprising five torsos created for this show, Benglis reprises the sculpture of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Here, for the first time, Benglis has exploited the pictorial properties of five different types of marble—Marquina black, Carrara white, Giallo Reale yellow, Rosso Francia red, and Guatemala green—each forming the material of a single figure. Her choice of polychrome marble refers less to its use in a decorative tradition enduring from antiquity to the Baroque era than to Bernini’s treatment of the material as a means toward theatrical, symbolic, and structural ends. Looking at the spiraling twists of Bernini’s statues, Benglis freezes the body’s energy in the lucid beauty of the marble. The corporeal becomes abstract while remaining organic and alive; the stone, in turn, comes alive. In the red sculpture, for example, it becomes pulsating flesh, traversed by veins. In the white piece, the marble seemingly reaches toward a state of purity, suggesting movement and capturing light. Benglis exploits the characteristics of the different marbles: Inscribed on the torso’s surfaces are lattices of signs that follow the shapes’ convexities and concavities, unequivocally giving them a heightened physical presence.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Peter Buggenhout

Banca di Bologna Hall
Palazzo De’ Toschi, Piazza Minghetti 4/D
January 27, 2017–February 19, 2017

Peter Buggenhout, The Blind Leading the Blind #65, 2014, iron, wood, aluminum, rubber, polyurethane, fabric, 32 x 19 1/2'.

Amid the whiteness of a large room in the Palazzo De’ Toschi an installation by Peter Buggenhout takes on the significance of an imposing archaeological find—a mass of detritus, postatomic in feeling, that has touched down from the sky. For his debut solo show in Italy, curated by Simone Menegoi, the Belgian artist offers one of his largest works to date, The Blind Leading the Blind #65, 2014. The title, taken from a masterpiece by Pieter Brueghel the Elder and a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, is a metaphor for Buggenhout’s poetics, which aims to demonstrate the fragility of human knowledge and the impossibility of rationalizing reality. While this piece, thirty-two feet long by nearly twenty feet high, is scrupulously designed, it comes across as a chaotic arrangement of recycled materials. Iron, wood, aluminum, rubber, polyurethane, and fabric are rhythmically positioned in a variation of solids and voids, pushed toward movement but then crystallized. Covered in a blanket of dust, this corridor of objects is barely contained by a few drywall panels. The complex sculpture continuously reveals new details, leaving the viewer unable to immediately define it in its totality or to identify its process of deconstruction and mental reconstruction.

In an adjacent room, the show concludes with a piece from the same series, The Blind Leading the Blind #25, 2008. Smaller than the other work and installed in a transparent display case, it resembles a precious and enigmatic discovery: a contemporary vanitas.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Chiara Valacchi

Irma Blank

Via Azzo Gardino 9
January 28, 2017–March 18, 2017

View of “Irma Blank: Life Line,” 2017.

Irma Blank’s works—whether on paper or canvas, large or small—assert themselves in this Apollonian space invaded by light. “Life Line” includes fifteen pieces from her “Radical Writings” series, 1983–95, and three new works from “Global Writings,” 2016. While at first glance one might consider Blank’s art as visual poetry, closer examination reveals how her path is a solitary and existential journey that reflects a private quest, resulting in a complete identification between writing, artwork, and life. Here, Blank’s calligraphy completely loses legibility through an exhausting ritual dictated either by the physical space of her arm’s movement, from left to right, or by the time articulated by the rhythm of her breath.

Among the “Radical Writings,” seven Gesetztafel (Tables of the Law), each from 1993, stand out; these are unique monumental works on wooden supports, executed in an ultramarine blue in which, beginning in 1987, the artist began taking refuge. Their installation in this show makes it possible to reflect on the importance of Blank’s recurring association between paintings and books, which she suggests through the thick material density of color in each work. These pieces transport the viewer into another dimension, one that exceeds linguistic significance, where rules definitively lose meaning.

After a period of relative obscurity in the art world, it is important that Blank, now more than eighty years old, should be considered one of the leading figures in Italian art. It is no accident that she will be one of the few artists representing the country in the next Venice Biennale.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Adriana Rispoli

Guy Ben-Ner

Palazzo Ducale - Cortile Maggiore, Piazza Matteotti 28r
December 20, 2016–March 3, 2017

Guy Ben-Ner, Escape Artists, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 37 minutes.

Escape Artists, 2016, a video by Israeli artist Guy Ben-Ner, is the sole work in this exhibition and documents the existential condition of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum-seekers being held at Holot, an Israeli detention center the Negev desert. While teaching cinema at Holot once a week for two years, Ben-Ner observed how his students were trapped in a limbo created by Israel, a country that cannot expatriate people whose lives would be at risk in their native lands yet refuses to grant them refugee status. The work’s narrative structure lies in the relationship between people as they carry on in everyday life and in Ben-Ner’s lessons as a form of art. The result is a video about education that analyzes the dynamics of contemporary society within a physical and political space of suspension.

In one scene, we see the artist and his students gathered closely around his computer discussing Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922). Ben-Ner’s work constantly moves between the individual dramas of the refugees in the room—whose lives are taken apart for an unpredictable span of time—and Nanook’s themes of invisibility, speechlessness, and surreal segregation. Frame after frame, Ben-Ner’s video brings the viewer closer to an understanding of how the artist worked in at Holot: He interweaves the famous film’s footage with video clips taken by class participants.

Escape Artists also uses cinematographic didactics and editing as tools for acting on reality, as he emphasizes the human condition and its differences. This is evident in the film when, during a car trip with Joshua, one of his students, Ben-Ner shows the student speaking as the landscape rushes past behind him. When Ben-Ner is in the frame, however, the car proceeds forward.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Paola Nicolin

Zehra Arslan and Nuria Fuster

Fondazione Zimei
Via Aspromonte 4
December 3, 2016–February 3, 2017

Nuria Fuster, Bone J, 2016, brass, 13 x 11 x 16'.

Last July, during their short residency at the Fondazione Zimei, German artist Zehra Arslan and Spanish artist Nuria Fuster each produced a series of site-specific works that are now exhibited together in an integrated vision, curated by Massimiliano Scuderi. The pieces, which reflect on concepts such as familiarity, displacement, transformation, and process, proceed from different practices but flow together in brilliant and often linguistic intersections.

Arslan often employs painting to engage with a given space, using objects and materials found on site. For example, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha (all works cited, 2016) aims at disorientation through the presence of cuts, plastic materials, and a coin that precede the pictorial composition and put into play an open-ended definition of the work, capable of imbuing the canvas with the plasticity of sculpture. Meanwhile, Fuster’s Minimalist work underscores the practice of sculpture as the possibility of achieving an experience. For the large-scale piece Bone J, which is installed in a corner of the foundation, she intervened in a stone wall, creating three brass lines that redesign the framework of an otherwise indistinct space, granting it a structure that recalls the conceptual moves an architect might make when beginning drawings for a project. Overall, this is an exhibition that embraces slow speeds, and it is symbolic of artistic investigations that make the art the focus of attention, never giving in to the temptation of facile or quick reads.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesco Lucifora

Gian Maria Tosatti

Palazzo Donnaregina, via Settembrini, 79
December 17, 2016–March 20, 2017

Gian Maria Tosatti, 6 Miracolo - archeologia (Portale) (6 Miracle - Archaeology [Portal]), 2015–16, metal, wood, gold leaf, 13 x 9'.

The ambition and scope of Gian Maria Tosatti’s “Sette Stagioni dello Spirito” (Seven Seasons of the Spirit), 2013–16, have been translated to the institutional spaces of this museum. The series, made up of seven large-scale works arranged across abandoned buildings in Naples, draws its concept from the 1577 book Il Castello Interiore (The Interior Castle), by the mystic Teresa of Avila, in which the human spirit is divided into seven rooms. Tosatti has translated those chambers into seven site-specific monumental installations that perceive the city, and its empty edifices, as facsimiles of the human spirit.

This show presents a number of objects from the installations together with a film documenting the project and the path of the artist; his ethical diligence borders on a quasi-spiritual obsession. Tosatti speaks about “healing” the areas of a troubled city that bears the ravages of a not-too-distant conflict (World War II) and ever-present dereliction, corruption, and gang warfare. Indeed, Naples uniquely houses a working-class population in its historical center. As such, the social problems that beset any urban place are impossible to hide. What Tosatti tries to do—as evidenced by the video—is work with the city’s spaces and to sublimate them. For example, for the sixth installation, held in a former glass factory in the Forcella district, the artist, along with local residents, “healed” a bullet-riddled and long-closed stone building by plugging the holes with gold leaf. The door from that factory is installed in the show.

Mike Watson

Eugenio Tibaldi

Museo Ettore Fico
Via Francesco Cigna 114
October 28, 2016–January 29, 2017

Eugenio Tibaldi, Seconda chance, fontana (Second chance, fountain), 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Eugenio Tibaldi is an anomalous migrant. Born in Piedmont, he moved to the outskirts of Naples to acquaint himself with what he saw as the “most plastic and mobile” region of Italy. His work often favors so-called peripheral zones: places of stagnation that nonetheless afford greater freedom. In this show, which inhabits the entire upper area of the museum, viewers confront an original artistic and anthropological investigation of the Barriera di Milano neighborhood of Turin, where the museum is located. At the show’s entrance is a beaded curtain that bears the phrase “L’ideologia č la falsa coscienza…” (Ideology is false consciousness…). The phrase dissolves as visitors pass through, then recomposes when they disappear beyond the curtain. The show’s title, “Seconda Chance” (Second Chance), refers to the second life of objects that the region’s inhabitants have sold or donated to the artist. A kitchen cabinet contains jars of Nutella taken from Tibaldi’s house; equipped with glass slabs, they are transformed into elegant if improbable wine chalices—an astute self-portrait of sorts.

A massive, grid-like structure of pipes and scaffolding extends through the space, never touching the floor or walls except through the objects in question, which have been modified into what one might call auxiliary readymades and are interspersed among the structure and its resting points. The framework’s solidity, the artist seems to suggest, invariably passes through human presence, history, and memory. As it turns out, the grid depicts a captivating mental map of the neighborhood where the artist stayed and wandered for months. The result is something between a Situationist psychogeography and an impassioned collector’s accumulation of junk. Ultimately, the show becomes a second chance for visitors to inhabit a physical place the artist left some years ago, but also a second chance for objects to find new form and new, unpredictable significance in the world.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Wael Shawky

Castello di Rivoli
Piazza Mafalda di Savoia
November 3, 2016–February 5, 2017

View of “Wael Shawky,” 2016–17.

Wael Shawky’s serial film project “Cabaret Crusades,” first presented in its complete form in 2015 at MoMA PS1, maintains its macabre ability to fascinate and horrify at the Castello di Rivoli. For his one-man show at the Castello, Shawky produced an entirely new site-specific environment for the films, with two of the three projected in bubble-gum pink facsimiles of medieval fortresses that forcefully occupy the venue’s cavernous top floor. Grotesque in appearance but comically subdued in their dramatic presence, the puppets that populate Shawky’s films commiserate, betray, and murder their way through the artist’s phantasmagoric retelling of the Crusades. Many of the puppets of the third film, The Secrets of Karbala, 2014, are also exhibited at the Castello. Specially produced for Secrets by glass workers in Murano, the marionettes evince a monstrous fragility, combining human and animal features in chimerical concoctions. The puppets that play the part of the treacherous Venetians in Shawky’s film are especially fantastical, chthonic fusions of doge and crustacean that reflect the gallery lights with their glossy shells.

New to this show are three large-scale wooden relief sculptures that appropriate Crusades-related painterly compositions by Eugčne Delacroix, Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen, and Alexandre Jean-Baptiste Hesse. Collaborating with woodworkers from the Veneto, Shawky has reimagined these artists’ works by inserting bizarre additions, such as a colossal leviathan that squats on the horizon of van Wieringen’s naval battle and a cane-wielding aberration that perches on a balcony in Hesse’s court scene. As the final stage of Shawky’s engagement with the Crusades, which brought together artistic traditions from throughout the Levant and beyond in a truly cosmopolitan, utopian vision, the reliefs mark a triumphant conclusion to his artistic dialogue with the material and visual cultures of the medieval Mediterranean world.

Dan Jakubowski

Carol Rama

GAM - Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
Via Magenta 31
October 12, 2016–February 5, 2017

Carol Rama, C'č un altro metodo per finire (There Is Another Method to Finish), 1967, mixed media, 13 x 19''.

Carol Rama’s traveling retrospective concludes in Turin, the artist’s native city, where she lived and worked. One of the most significant presences in twentieth-century Italian art, Rama was honored with the Golden Lion award at the 2003 Venice Biennale. This show, the most comprehensive exhibition of her work to date, retraces the salient moments and series of her production, with approximately two hundred works dating from 1936 until her death in 2005.

Rama was self-taught as an artist, and early on, during the years of Fascism in the 1930s and 1940s, she already was addressing the thorny subject of the body, depicting, with pronounced sensuality, amputated limbs or erect tongues. A decade after participating in the MAC (Movimento Arte Concrete) during the ’50s, she adopted her characteristic bricolage technique, putting together on canvas letters and mathematical signs, porcelain dolls’ eyes and stuffed animals, as well as fingernails, metal threads, and other well-worn objects, all laden with experience. She also included other heterogeneous materials such as biological elements connected to the body, creating organisms that are both abstract and organic. In the ’70s her experimentation with materials evolved through the creation of two-dimensional assemblages, where she focused exclusively on the use of rubber from bicycle tires, a direct reference to her father’s work as a bicycle manufacturer (her childhood was marked by his suicide). In the ’80s she returned to surreal and unconventional figuration tied to the body, culminating in her notorious “La mucca pazza” (Mad Cow) series, ca. 1996–2001. This work once again conjoins identity and politics, where a contorted and post-human anatomy reconfirms the central focus of her research on the topicality of contemporary poetics that reflect on the feminine.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola