Stefano Arienti

Galleria Planita / Galleria Alice

Behind this pair of shows lies a diary, a canvas-covered cardboard box in which Stefano Arienti gathered some 50 images he likes. Actually the diary is a multiple of 100, each an apparently disorganized accumulation of postcards—famous works of art (from Rubens to Salvador Dali, from Gauguin to Velázquez), Carlo Carrà’s “metaphysical muse” in puzzle form, portraits of rock stars, Disney cartoon characters, and a series of works by young contemporary Italian artists.

Arienti is one of a generation of artists that tries to stop or to span the uninterrupted flow of images that informs every perception, and reflection, today. In earlier work, with patient, almost maniacal obsessiveness, he would meticulously fold the pages of books, newspapers, and comic books into ephemeral sculptures, playing lightly with used imagery, ready to be crumpled up and thrown away. Without pretending to any large political or symbolic statement, Arienti restored these images to the world of the living, transforming them into works to be viewed with a smile. The same intention accompanied the works shown at the Galleria Planita: large, somewhat kitschy found posters showing such scenes as an autumn wood, a landscape, and a reproduction of a Monet seascape. Into the first of these Arienti set the small pieces of an orange puzzle, hiding them in the foliage and barely changing the composition. In the second, he broadened the outlines of the clouds by subtly scraping off the surface of the paper with a razor. And in the third, deliberately clumsy fingerprints of plasticine restored the dimensionality of Monet’s pigment and brushstrokes to the flat reproduction.

At the Galleria Alice, some 50 large polystyrene sheets were stacked one upon the other. Each was roughly incised with one of the postcard images from the 100 canvas-covered boxes. Images and then more images; this is Arienti’s poetics, and it summarizes, openly and simply, how the undifferentiated flow of pictures today has displaced the image’s potential for meaning as a symbol. If symbols have been lost, what can the artist do but try to restore the ritual of art making, transforming the artisanal gesture into a new, patient, meticulous mode of working that recalls the learning by play, and by copying, of early childhood. Aren’t we perhaps facing a new childhood of humanity? Aren’t the great technological and communications revolutions establishing a new perception? Doesn’t the end of the millennium, like every end, prefigure a rebirth?

Arienti may be asking himself such questions. More probably, though, he is experimenting intuitively with his playful game, and with the equally playful declarations that allow him to say, in an innocent tone,“I like to do everything alone, especially boring things.”

—Alessandra Mammi

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.