Michele Zaza


Michele Zaza’s work takes on a new character in this show as his photography enters into relationships with other media—sculpture, drawing, the space itself. Four principal “landscapes” are shown: photographs, repeated in series, are arranged vertically in groups of four, with each group occupying a wall of the room, Next to the photographed scenes, Zaza repeats the images in pencil drawings. Small geometric structures of painted wood hang above each group of photographs, forming a shape similar to the pointed roof of a house. In much current Italian art the theme of landscape is so obsessive that it is permissible to suspect that it reflects a secret disquietude, like that of someone trapped in a prison. Zaza seems to share this obsession, even if he assumes a critical stance towards it. I am personally suspicious of artistic activity that is born out of a dominant desire to take part in a polemic. Too often such work ends up taking on, even physically, the features of the adversary.

Cotton tufts, bread crumbs and crusts, abstract toys made from multicolored pieces of cardboard which are cut into geometrical forms, are infantile subjects for Zaza to explore. These shapes are cut up and arranged in groups, like a silent, miniature spatial theater. These elements seem suspended against the blue background of the photograph, creating a science-fiction atmosphere: the geometric cardboard shapes cast their shadows on the cotton tufts, which are transformed into clouds. Everything works to produce a magical effect on the person outside—outside both the photograph and the act of photographing. Zaza’s curse (which is also the curse of the photographed image) is to be always too close to the mechanism that artificially produces the illusion. Zaza’s fate is as sad as that of someone who has already seen the other side of the moon or who fabricates Christmas trees: busy making a mystery, Zaza is the only one who never experiences it.

To get even closer to the material of the image necessitates a move away from a metaphorical procedure. This is why the same characters, if we can call them that, in Zaza’s miniature spatial theaters also appear in the photographs and drawings. Zaza gives us both a critique of the image, and an expression of his nostalgia for it.

One can also speak about the opposition of “near” and “far” in a metaphorical analysis of the appearance of the image. From far away, each of the four vertical groupings of photographs forms a “building” which serializes, one floor above another, the same image of the spatial theater. “Landscape” thereby becomes the relationship among these four “buildings,” thus unifying them and placing them in a shared perspective. But close up, each element which comprises the “building” (each framed photograph) and each element of the immobilized image within the photograph, reveals its position within a material structure that can be dissected, and so becomes anti-symbolic. Equally, the little structures of painted wood that hang on the wall above these “buildings” (and outside the photographs) are at the extreme edge of the metaphor, like creatures flying in the cosmos of the walls, but upon close examination they, too, reveal their materiality.

Luciana Rogozinski