Maurizio Vetrugno


A series of small landscape photographs, which appeared to be three-dimensional because they were taken with a trifocal camera, were on display in Maurizio Vetrugno’s recent show. His images of rocky vistas and desolate moors weren’t particularly captivating in themselves, and this viewer’s initial impulse, faced with a stream of mundane, unidentifiable scenes, was to try to invent a narrative while groping for possible points of reference. Only through the artist’s direct intervention, however, could the motivation behind the images be grasped.

In a letter also on display in the gallery, Vetrugno explained a number of things about the pictures: he had chosen the desolate landscape depicted (Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands) while reading Frank Herbert’s science-fiction saga Dune; he was listening to an album by the band Cluster when he shot the images; and throughout this period he was undergoing “urine therapy.” Armed with this knowledge, the viewer could now register certain hitherto illegible aspects of the photographs—the aridity of the landscapes, for instance, now became reminiscent of Dune’s setting, a planet whose most precious resource is water.

Some might object to Vetrugno’s photos on the grounds that one should be able to understand them without having to read an explanatory statement. Those who have followed his work might also be troubled by the fact that one finds an overall attitude rather than a single style: he may take photographs now, but not long ago he wove tapestries that incorporated the names of people who have influenced his intellectual development and personal life. Perhaps next he will turn to making art that reflects his enthusiasm for surfing. This eclecticism is evidence of the intensely personal nature of Vetrugno’s project, rather than the lack of a coherent vision. It should also be noted that many contemporary artists are creating work that is similarly hermetic and self-reflexive—even if one doesn’t agree with Jean Clair’s claim that in the next millennium artists will have no choice but to resort to making self-portraits.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.