Alessandro Pessoli

Alessandro Pessoli’s work is dominated by satirical images that are often sadistic, grotesque, and adolescent in their ability to induce nervous laughter. Pessoli has always given titles to his exhibitions which attempt to create a context for his often diverse works. His 1993 show “Maelstrom” consisted of the installation of some 1,900 drawings that served as a tempestuous diary of political, economic, and ideological breakdown.

The title of Pessoli’s recent exhibition, “In Marcia” (On the march), immediately brought to mind fears of enforced discipline associated with the recent resurgence of Italy’s fascist party. Here Pessoli presented 14 oil paintings and a set of 9 small, obsessively overworked drawings in simple ballpoint on board. Eyes seem to be the common denominator in these drawings: they are present on animated worm heads busy burrowing through an animal skull; they stare from their position on the wall at a mound of an unknown substance pierced by two nails; they are bloodshot, bulging and nailed to a board; or, for example, they appear in sacklike sets hooked to the wall, fixated on a group of hairy insects. In the past Pessoli has made extensive use of the common ballpoint pen, and other nonart materials, seemingly more direct and communicative, like body bags or knapsacks, for example, which contained portraits of his contemporary artist-friends as victims of physical abuse. With the introduction of painting, Pessoli accentuated the underlining sensibility of his work while broadening his horizons beyond the immediate effect of his often disturbing images. Both of these types of works are clearly dominated by the rawness of their images, but in the paintings the ugliness of the color coupled with a brushwork that can only be described as greasy or dirty, take us on a sort of nightmare Disney adventure as the work attempts to comment on an ambiguously bounded world.

Like Disney, Pessoli’s images often represent the human form only marginally. In Fungi folli (Mad mushrooms, 1994), a stampede of mushrooms with eyes, arms, legs, and sinister grins attack and almost completely cover a figure lying facedown as a jawlike rag approaches from the sidelines. This flurry of activity takes place under a dusty, dark-purple rain. In another image, Malamente (Badly, 1994), five apparently severed bird’s claws are perched on branches as they attentively stare at us from their murky gray-green world. Pessoli’s works seems to announce some imminent Kafkaesque metamorphosis that will transform us into snarls of nerve endings waiting to be spit on as in Sputo (Spit, 1994) or violently distorts our reality to include Ultracorpi (Outer bodies, 1994), red blotches of paint floating in an acid green-yellow air with the power to mesmerize a passing vagabond whose feet have been somehow replaced by large black chicken claws.

As with much of his past works, here Pessoli seems to locate us at the center of a terrain where different groups of “others” compete for the promotion of their private interest—whether they be killer mushrooms, the unseen sender of spit, waiting claws or real-world political leaders. Within this context Pessoli becomes the reporter and chronicler of the events in a wider world and in so doing breaks down boundaries between the “high” and the “low.” With this stance, Pessoli does not attempt to prepare the politically correct image, but rather circumscribes his position as observer within a framework of political and social injustice.

Anthony Iannacci