Laura Ruggeri

Galleria Emi Fontana

In her recent show, “Il Maestro è un mostro” (The master is a monster), Laura Ruggeri surprisingly juxtaposed Lucio Fontana and Freddy Krueger. The title brought to mind the horror of a tabloid headline, from which one can surmise some sexual crime. But written in an infantile hand, the phrase also evoked the mysterious fear that wafts between rows of school desks, a fear brought on by the imposition of knowledge. It is also the “monstrosity” of a creative supremacy that, for millennia, has been delineated in strictly male terms.

What gesture is Ruggeri making when she pairs Fontana and Krueger and declares that the master is a monster?The two gestures, the cutting of the canvas (the body of the work) and the bodies of victims, converge in a common territory. It is an original and jolting scheme for confronting the age-old question of the neutrality of knowledge. But this is an impossible neutrality, for as soon as Krueger’s glove touches Fontana’s canvas, everything becomes stained with blood; and if Fontana’s sign migrates into the film, it opens up a purulent wound. Ruggeri in her turn lets us perceive the Monster that lurks in the transmission of information, in which every message is repeated, overflowing into another, in which special effects supplant reality, in which the scalpel transforms our bodies.

The gallery walls held 16 red monochrome squares. which supported an equal number of white waitress’ aprons tied to one another. Each apron was printed at a nude woman: to confront us with the with an image of Fontana’s cuts,images taken from photographs of the master’s canvases. Ruggeri doesn’t respond directly to the violence she has read into Fontana’s gesture, but instead marks it as an impasse: behind the cut canvas lies the wall—the failure to generate another dimension of dialogue. Photomurals of these two “fathers” appeared beneath the taut, knotted apron strings. They both faced the same direction, both were mounted on a wooden platform, as if on duplicate tombs. In another section of the gallery, a video showed images from the “Nightmare” series edited by Ruggeri. In the gallery office, above the desk, were three silver picture-frames containing photographs of Fontana, Freddy’s glove, and Freddy himself. On the opposite wall, inside a Plexiglas case, open at the top, were two volumes of correspondence between Fontana and Tullio d’Albissola in which they discussed their ideas about art and their adventures with women.

Ruggeri didn’t simply confront one act of violence with another. Femininity did not become a weapon; it neither lacerated nor wounded. The apron was transformed into a metaphor for being close to the matrix of life. To elaborate on the violence she read into Fontana’s work, Ruggeri chose to confront the master with a long chain of aprons that replicated his sign without repeating its gesture. Using herself as a point of departure, Ruggeri overcame the violence she saw. And in so doing, she surprised us a second time, for she played down the expectations of conflict raised by her juxtaposition of Krueger and Fontana.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.