Alessandra Spranzi

Fotografia Italiana arte contemporanea

The enigmatic title of this exhibition, “Selvatico (colui che si salva)” (Savage [He Who Saves Himself]), refers back to Leonardo da Vinci; the exhibition itself had the force of a political statement, albeit one made in the form of somewhat surreal but modest photographs. A few large-scale images looked out at each other from the gallery walls, while one wall contained a large number of small works. At the entrance were Vendesi tavolo (Table for Sale), 2007–2008, an image of a broken table, clearly the enlargement of a reproduction, and Fototessera di spalle (Passport Picture from the Back), 2008, four very small, passport-size photos of the artist seen from the rear, showing only her long, thick hair—metaphors for futility and refusal. Savage is he who returns to the wild, abandons civilization and its influences, and thus saves himself from alienation in resisting the civilized order (in fact, the word Leonardo used was salvatico; Spranzi twists this play on words in order to find the selva, the forest, within salvezza, salvation).

Spranzi’s color photographs are the result of attentive strolls through the city, her camera ready to capture images of people, objects, and animals that, for her, are emblematic of such untamed resistance, of salvation through the act of removal. Her subjects remove themselves from adulthood and return to a childhood of pointless gestures, as in Peso (Weight), 2006, which shows the artist seated at a desk, eyes closed, a pile of books on her head. Likewise, objects are removed from their utilitarian servitude in such aptly titled images as Lampadario rotto (Broken Lamp), 2007, and Ombrello rotto (Broken Umbrella), 2008; Pane sull’asfalto (Bread on the Asphalt), 2008, which depicts a loaf of bread thrown on the ground; or a shabby hotel sign with one star that has been amended with a tail, turning it into a pathetic comet (Albergo a una stella [One Star Hotel], 2007). In Spranzi’s pictures, animals, like plants, represent the pure drive that lives within us, both near and yet very far from our logical way of thinking: a group of turtles on a log (L’isola delle tartarughe [Turtle Island], 2008); a spider covered with drops of dew (Ragnatela nera [Black Spider Web], 2006); a child observing a small bird (Elia e l’uccello sul tavolo [Elia and the Bird on the Table], 2006); the snout of a cat that is being held in someone’s arms (Vendesi gatto con occhi gialli [Cat with Yellow Eyes for Sale], 2007–2008).

A wooden table is a natural element transformed into a tool—domesticated, in a certain 
sense; Spranzi’s broken tables and misbehaving
 hotel signs show how material resists that
 domestication, as if trying to return to nature. 
This exhibition (and its accompanying cata
logue) seemed dedicated to that sense of resistance: Spranzi’s photograph of the cat with
yellow eyes speaks of oppression, since the ani
mal has its eyes covered with a large blindfold; but also of freedom, since we see nothing of architectural enclosure. Instead, the entire background against which the small animal stands out is open sky.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.