Vittorio Messina

Galleria Il Milione

Vittorio Messina’s Grande Cella (Large cell, 1988) is a corridorlike sculptural work composed of white plaster blocks, corrugated steel sheeting, sealed cardboard boxes, and other prefabricated building materials. With this work, Messina creates three distinct, separate, almost domestic spaces; the sculpture is like an uninhabitable human shelter. The central space is the only one of the three that has been left partly open. But the pristine whiteness of the floor and walls and the harsh white-blue light seize the space from the sphere of domestic or even industrial architecture, and reanchor it within the realm of sculpture. Another of the cell-like spaces features a windowlike external wall; its passage is blocked by an orderly stack of sealed cardboard boxes. Suspended in the passageway of the last of the three spaces is an aluminum ladder, which functions as an effectively unstable barrier. Messina evokes questions regarding the difference between the found and the architectural, the evolved and the constructed. When his industrial readymades attempt to spiral back toward their original sites of removal, their tracks or histories are erased by the current context. What remains is the active absence of both the found and the architectural.

For Colonna tangente (Tangent column, 1989), Messina has replaced the capital of an industrially produced cement column with two irregular, broken slabs of travertino marble. They have been attached to the column’s curvilinear surface with simple clamps. Between one of the slabs and the column Messina has also placed a sheet of brass. The broken marble, which has an aura of antiquity, contrasts with the newness of both the clamps and the column to create an image without a place in time. For Labirinti (Labyrinths, 1989), Messina strung throughout the gallery 24 paintinglike works. Each is the same size, hung at the same height, and hosts a worn lead surface into which various combinations of capital letters have been embossed. In some of these works, simple words can be constructed out of the chaos of characters, but the letters often appear upside-down or inverted. These labyrinths play an antilinguistic role, in showing an inability to construct language, and their “absence” is coupled with the absence of painting, per se. Throughout, Messina’s works seem actively to-circumvent their subjects and, consequently, they express a kind of ontological absence.

Anthony Iannacci