Marina Paris

De Crescenzo e Viesti

In this exhibition, Marina Paris created an original, violent contrast between the classical tradition of Western figurative sculpture and the progressive disintegration of the body in contemporary modes of representation. The gallery was invaded, as it were, by three installations of such banal items of clothing as military jackets, ski masks, and baby clothes—all treated with glue in such a way as to make them rigid and self-supporting. The three-dimensional pieces looked like they had been cast from the human figure, as if the person who had been inside them had just evaporated, leaving only a bodily impression. And in each installation, the slight variations in the sculptural forms—individual deviations in the folds of the petrified fabric—worked at odds with the serial nature of the project, an uncanny effect familiar from everyday life, when, for example, habit is interrupted by sudden recognition of the particular.

In Rosa Carne—Taglia 52 (Flesh pink—size 52; all works 1998), twenty-five ordinary military jackets were placed casually in a heap on the floor of one of the rooms, as if the jackets’ “potential inhabitants”had disappeared and the portion of space they had previously occupied had slightly collapsed. The integrity of the jackets seemed violated, irreparably lost; their maimed anthropomorphism became a vehicle for communicating a profound sense of emptiness, an unspecified but nonetheless dramatic absence. This broken tie between human presence and individualization, emphasized by the absence of a specific face, was further heightened by the flesh color Paris gave these sculptures, which conveys an illusory heat that is almost immediately annulled, leaving a silent, even marmoreal chill. The fragmentary work’s aura of decay also evokes the impression often left by ancient statuary, rendered headless or handless by the passage of time and the violence of man—perhaps a visual legacy of Rome, the city where Paris lives and works. The use of military garments also placed the installation within the rhetorical narrative of the heroic, reminding us of one of the principal functions of traditional sculpture: to glorify the warrior’s sacrifice of life and limb in the interests of the reigning power structure.

In another room, a work entitled Baby Doll featured twenty newborns’ gowns, likewise treated with glue. The dresses, nailed to the wall in four vertical and symmetrical rows, were painted a pale blue that made them seem oddly opaque. There was something peculiarly disturbing about this anguished visual nursery rhyme caught up in the abstraction of serial production. The exhibition concluded with the ironically titled Ritratto (Portrait), comprising forty-five ski masks piled haphazardly on the ground. The absence of eyes and nose—often people’s most distinctive features—created a black void in the three-dimensional helmetlike masks, perhaps evoking the anonymity of urban violence. These negated faces remind us of the infinite possibilities that each of us, only as individuals, can pursue.

Mario Codognato

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.