Maurizio Vertrugno


Entering the gallery, the viewer was blinded by the light reflected from a wall covered in silver fabric and embroidered with threads of the same color. The images they formed turned out to be symbols associated with Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, of all people—leaves, snakes, and spirals that wrap themselves around the names of the band members, decorations that brought to mind the elaborate initials of illuminated manuscripts. On top of this wall covering were fourteen “paintings” of various sizes, these too created in embroidery but on white fabric and derived from photos shot by the artist in various places in Morocco. In the second room of the gallery, two facing walls were covered with the silver fabric. One wall provided a backdrop for three embroidery reproductions of famous fashion photos from the ’60s and ’70s; on the opposite wall four scarves by designers from the ’50s and ’60s served as supports for more embroidery work.

The iridescence of the wall covering reflected the colors of the embroidered paintings and, in the scenes of Morocco, conveyed the clear light of the Mediterranean. The images form a sort of diary of symbolic Moroccan places: the cannon in Essaouira, the port town where Orson Welles shot Othello in the early ’50s; an aerial view of Marrakech; a Délacroix drawing of a young Moroccan man; a Marrakech hotel “inspired by” Jimi Hendrix; the vacation homes of fashion designers Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Balmain; a cybercafe. The use of embroidery emphasizes the Orientalism of this lightning-quick literary and artistic history tour and, enhancing the tactility of the figures, creates an imaginary three-dimensionality. In the second room, the compositions became more rarefied. The wall with the scarves mimicked abstract painting without, however, actually becoming abstract; on the other wall, the black-and-white fashion photos had a pearly tinge—an effect inspired by what sometimes happens when black-and-white photos are copied on a color copy machine. The aura of preciousness that Vetrugno cultivates becomes a key to the dialogue between art and decoration as well as between anonymity and the renown of contemporary stars, be they famous models, singers, or fashion designers—those “Saints and Sinners,” as the exhibition title would have it.

Vetrugno’s pictorial process is based on the study of all variants of embroidery; executed on the computer in the case of the symbols that decorate the wall covering, done by hand in the Morocco paint- ings, and simply taken as it exists in the case of the silk scarves, which could thus be considered corrected and modified readymades. The fact that the embroideries are worked out and designed by the artist but executed by others emphasizes exchange, also found in the process of cutting and pasting when we are writing or composing images on the computer. Vetrugno’s embroideries enthrall with the primary attraction of the manual process within a contemporary artistic language and reconnect to the grand tradition of tapestry, which in the palaces of old acted as a backdrop for paintings, combining with stucco work to help make an all-encompassing artwork of the space itself.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.