Enrica Borghi

Galleria D’Arte Moderna

Enrica Borghi is now well known in Italy for sculptural work using recycled plastic materials ranging from fake fingernails to fragments of plastic bottles. In the unfortunately rather unattractive Spazio Aperto (open space) that Bologna’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna reserves for the work of young artists, Borghi showed pieces in her familiar style along with a new installation, Gioielleria “Tiffany” (Tiffany jewelers), 2000. Seven pedestals covered with elegant black satin draperies and topped by Plexiglas showcases were arranged along a corridor. Similar to jewelry display cases, these objects, in fact, constituted an exhibition in and of themselves. What they, in turn, exhibited as if in a jeweler’s display were intricate necklaces, rings, and earrings with flower shapes. First the viewer was struck by the pieces’ unquestionable beauty, then by the artist’s technical command of the processes of engraving, carving, and sometimes using heat to manipulate the colored plastic to give it appropriate and complex form. In fact, the mimetic effect was perfect, and only close examination revealed the humble artificial nature of these works seemingly made of glass and gems, while traces of handiwork emerged in the inevitable imperfections of details, such as the clasps of the necklaces.

With the reuse of plastic and everyday objects, Borghi doesn’t mean to establish a new “funk” aesthetic, but rather to explore the relationship between reality and fiction—to make works that are true perceptual illusions. Beside such characteristic works as a Venus of the type found in petit-bourgeois gardens (only covered with artificial fingernails) and a sculpture-garment made from blue plastic was a piece that may indicate a new direction for Borghi. Danubio blu (Blue Danube), 2000, was a sort of mandala made from 13,000 plastic bottle caps in red, white, and blue, arranged on the floor. From these the artist constructed a perfectly symmetrical schema in the form of a star, embellished with stone beads of the type used to decorate aquariums, one placed on each bottle cap. The association of the mandala with the plastic of the bottle caps can be seen as a commingling of high and low, as well as of opposing cultural worlds, in the service of an ironic and understated decorativeness. Similarly the plastic jewels represent a parody of the refined object. This does not detract from the fact that Borghi’s irony can lead to serious reflection, for example, on ecological urgencies: The Strauss waltzes played at full volume in the exhibition space referred explicitly to the currently catastrophic condition of the Danube.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.