Vedova Mazzei

One day while walking down the street, a pair of Neapolitan artists came upon a gravestone inscribed with the phrase “vedova Mazzei.” At that moment, they decided that this was the name under which they wanted to be known. Rather than being a clue to their identity, the name symbolizes their working methodology, for their art is also made out of whatever they stumble upon, whatever occurs more or less by chance, giving rise to the creation of unexpected syntheses of form and meaning. For Vedova Mazzei, these syntheses often evoke the body’s life force and the senses, and are usually expressed in humorous language, in which the sexual and the visceral serve at once as a means of playing things down and as agents of provocation. (That the two artists come from Naples must count for something.)

The works and cycles of works in this show were very different from each other. One series of photographs dealt with birds. Apparently, the two artists happened to see two sparrows fly into each other in the sky. Based on this event (real or imagined), they constructed images that address the blindness of birds: one ends its flight in the anus of another; another goes to the wrong nest and is looking for its young in the sphincter of one of the artists (here, the images are enlarged); a third, no longer photographed but represented in the form of a stuffed bird, was smashed against the gallery wall.

Another cycle of photographs showed a series of small, ephemeral sculptures. These pieces, made out of paper napkins, looked like the result of someone’s first attempt at origami, but were surprisingly inventive. In extremely lively fashion, the sculptures, thanks in part to a few daubs of paint, depict figures of animals or “self-portraits” of the artists, represented metonymically by their sexual attributes.

In a corner of the gallery, on shelves installed for the occasion, reams of paper were exhibited whose borders were decorated with landscapes, recalling the adolescent habit of doodling on the margins of textbooks. In an analogous gesture, the real shelves in one of the gallery offices, where all Claudio Guenzani’s books and catalogues are kept, were turned so that the spines were hidden from view, making the bookshelf useless for the duration of the exhibition.

The most impressive piece, however, was the video projection that occupied an entire wall, where the female half of the artist couple was shown in the act of applying pieces of adhesive tape to her face, which she immediately removed to replace with others, so that she was always partially disfigured. The video was shown at high speed so that the batting of the artist’s eyelashes became an act of self-denigration that was both comical and disturbing.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.