Bologna

Giovanni Rizzoli

Galleria Otto Arte Contemporanea

THREE LARGE DISKS (two white, one black), each padded and covered with silk, protruded from the walls of one room. In the next, a small marble tablet advised that behind the wall (which had been sealed off with painted white bricks) a man was diving. The third and final space held three large tablets, again in marble, one bearing a cell-phone number, the others the message (in Italian and English) that the telephone company transmits to advise callers that a recipient's service has been turned off. In his most recent show, the thirty-seven-year-old Venetian Giovanni Rizzoli presented himself in apparently self-contradictory fashion. He sneers noisily at interpersonal communications, transfering to the eternity of marble something as ephemeral and personal as a telephone call to an out-of-service number. He uses words alone to make a recondite reference, inducing the viewer to think about an action—the man diving behind the wall. And then there's the elegant, post-Minimalist silence of the three large, mute objects that occupied the space with their pure presence.

A healthy dose of formal eclecticism has characterized Rizzoli's work over the past ten years. (At the last Venice Biennale, in 1999, he exhibited a vast enlargement of one of those plastic vases, pointed at the bottom, that are planted in the still fresh earth at newly dug gravesites while they await a more appropriate and enduring decoration.) Here, the differences among the various rooms might have seemed unbridgeable but for the artist's intervention with a lightning-swift and aggressive action: During the opening, in the midst of the usual chitchat, Rizzoli approached first one white disk, then the other, landing a series of very hard punches at their projecting centers; showing its wound, one of them began to “bleed” a blue liquid onto the floor, staining the immaculate whiteness with something that seemed organic.

With this gesture, what might otherwise have been a formal breach was overcame. The silent object, extraneous to events, revealed its essence, its “capacity for suffering,” and therefore its life. It reestablished a relationship with the artist, or in any case with the viewer. In this way, the three rooms became segments of a coherent path, at once intimate and universal. The difficult, conflict-ridden, even romantic relationship between the artist and his work here does not risk being solipsistic—that is, too self-involved, and therefore incommunicable and incomprehensible—because the form, treated in this manner, communicates just how universal personal uneasiness can be. In this way too, the cultural stereotype of the stone tablet shifts the minimal and singular event of a failed telephone communication to a collective level. The perfect disk, an absolute form indifferent to all events, loses its idealistic connotation the moment it begins to bleed. It becomes a vital, sensitive element, not just an ideal representation. Rizzoli thus managed to bring unequal elements, extremely diverse forms, onto the same level by emphasizing their expressive, personal component. And yet they remained unperturbed, measured, as in the best Italian tradition from Lucio Fontana to Alighiero e Boetti.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.