Piero Golia, Finalmente Venezia (Grand Uniforme), 2013, acrylic paint on silk, 59 x 59".

Piero Golia, Finalmente Venezia (Grand Uniforme), 2013, acrylic paint on silk, 59 x 59".

Piero Golia

Piero Golia, Finalmente Venezia (Grand Uniforme), 2013, acrylic paint on silk, 59 x 59".

In the Italian Pavilion at this year’s Fifty-Fifth Venice Biennale, Piero Golia showed Untitled (My Gold Is Yours), 2013, a cube composed of cement with a vein of gold running through it. The public was invited to “mine” the precious metal by scratching into the cement, thereby modifying the sculpture until it nearly disappeared. Wanting to capture and in some way immortalize the fleeting moment of pleasurable surprise in being invited to exhibit in the Biennale, Golia devised the project presented in his recent exhibition “Finalmente Venezia” (Finally Venice)—a phrase that seems halfway between an exclamation and a declaration of intent.

The show included a series of seven vintage Hermès pocket squares, each framed, on which Golia had painted the phrase that gave the exhibition its title. In these works, he plays with the contrast between the preciousness of these veritable icons in the world of luxury goods and the rudimentary nature of the graphic lettering he superimposed on them in broad, colorful brushstrokes. The work in Venice was self-evidently a reflection on the social and economic value of things, and in particular works of art. The same was true here in Naples, with this alteration of such prized graphic and chromatic confections: silk accessories transformed into manifesto-paintings.

In the series sharing the title of the exhibition, “Finalmente Venezia” (all works 2013), each of the seven scarves carries a subtitle derived from the motif depicted on it: Caraibes (Caribbean), Maillons (Chains), Arcs-en-Ciel (Rainbows), and so on. In handling this material, Golia proceeded with the spontaneity and nonchalance that have always characterized his approach to artmaking, which is based on sheer creative energy with little apparent need for premeditation. This spirit was also evident in the only other work in the show, untitled and conceived expressly for the site: an installation consisting of a beige deep-shag carpet that covered the entire gallery floor. Every day someone went over it with a carpet sweeper, grooming the weave at right angles to the arches at the center of the room. As in a theater where the same performance is staged every night, the action was repeated every day throughout the day, allowing the carpet to remain perfectly clean and unmarked while, at the same time, articulating its surface in parallel bands, distinguishable from one another by the direction of the nap. The resulting “wave” effect gave the piece a three-dimensional quality that, while ephemeral and difficult to grasp at first glance, appeared capable of radically modifying one’s perception of the space. This further emphasized the paradoxical outcome: The elements employed to produce the mise-en-scène were as real and ordinary as the effect they created was surreal. The muffled background sound produced by the household appliance increased the feeling of general alienation, helping to turn the visual experience of the exhibition into a phenomenon in perennial renewal.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.