Gabriele de Matteo


Gabriele De Matteo’s work is concerned with the photographic enlargement of found images. He takes illustrations from books and enlarges them, deleting the text and emphasizing, through the image’s large dimensions, what remains of the relationship of interrupted meaning. The image, now lacking anything that might restore it to a broader context, loses its informational function and becomes a sort of free-floating element. It is an open text, made more ambiguous by the residual captions, and referring to a nonexistent totality that, in the end, can no longer be analyzed.

Here, De Matteo has taken covers from a series of book from the ’60s, which he found during a trip to Spain. These books are devoted to leading figures from the history of art, or from culture in general. The cover of each monograph bears the portrait of its subject—Velázquez, Renoir, Leonardo, Tintoretto, Cézanne—which De Matteo has photographed and enlarged to almost gigantic dimensions. The enlargement takes place through a computerized process, which reproduces the colors but distorts them; we are never left with the same green or the same yellow of the original. This distorted reproduction leads to a process of falsification that is inherent to the chosen materials. De Matteo has discovered that one person is the author of all the monographs and that the names on the book covers are merely fanciful pseudonyms. The intellectual level of the texts is extremely low, and the veracity of their claims is debatable. Finally, the portraits themselves, obviously executed by the same hand, have scant hope of passing as realistic. In short, these books of “popular culture,” with their simplification of even the most complex events, become the means for a discourse on the simulacra nature of reproduction, indeed of reproducibility as such. He records the fact that this all began with the invention of printing, by presenting us with Gutenberg’s portrait, now painted. The apotheosis of the leveling of cultural signs to which De Matteo is dedicated brings us back to the necessity of analyzing our experience—beginning with our daily exposure to art.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.