View of “Patrizio Di Massimo,” 2014.

View of “Patrizio Di Massimo,” 2014.

Patrizio Di Massimo

View of “Patrizio Di Massimo,” 2014.

Patrizio Di Massimo’s solo show “Are Ere Ire”—which included paintings, sculptures, installations, and performances, all from 2014—offered ample evidence of the multiplicity of languages he draws upon and of the vast iconographic and iconological repertory that drives his work. The exhibition’s title also suggested a literal orientation toward language, referring to the principal verb conjugations in Italian, which end in “-are,” “-ere” and “-ire.” The artist adopts these same infinitive endings to symbolically clarify the leitmotifs he explored in the exhibition: The Are piece is intended as an altar; the Ere piece presents a metaphor for time; and the Ire piece depicts mythological agents, specifically the Furies, also known in Greco-Roman religion as Erinyes or Eumenides. Beyond this, the eighteen works in the exhibition had subjects pertaining to an everyday reality as eclectic as it is elementary: human figures, clouds, pillows, trimmings, a Corinthian capital, computer tablets, and so on.

Di Massimo’s work has always been in dialogue with the history of art, but now its relation to the past seems to have evolved into something more mature and conscious, as if the artist has acquired greater awareness of the means he is using and is comparing them, face-to-face, with the historical sources that, at this point, he has fully assimilated. One recurrent reference is the metaphysical painting of Alberto Savinio and Giorgio de Chirico, referred to in four paintings on canvas: the densely colored Ara Ara Ara, Stream of Thoughts, and Mindfulness of Emotions, and the vivid Cosmic Joke. All these works accumulate heterogeneous elements in order to create fantastical compositions suspended in time and space.

Di Massimo has always acknowledged the influence of Surrealism, although he has reinterpreted this movement in a baroque and theatrical fashion. Indeed, his translation of Surrealism could be seen in the monumental curtain tassels that make up the three sculptures respectively titled Are, Ere, and Ire. A similar intention is visible in six pillows painted with figurative motifs (including Can’t Talk and In a Meeting) and in the black-and-white Curtain #20 (Are, Ere, Ire). These evoke behavioral practices expressed by neo-avant-garde movements in the 1960s, particularly body art, which came to life in Ara, Era, Ira, a performance in which young people moved about among the cushions variously painted or made of faux black leather or fake fur and colored ropes that made up three large sculptures, also titled Ara, Era, and Ira. The performance had a vaguely fetishistic air: Over the course of their slow, calibrated movements, the performers passed the time by virtually reworking their own images using the Morfo application (“Turn a photo of your friend’s face into a talking, dancing, crazy 3-D character!”) on iPads that they carried with them. Their action, dynamically explicated a theme that traversed the entire exhibition like a connecting thread: the concept of identity and the continuous mutation to which it can be subjected. Di Massimo seems to be concentrating on this, offering an astonishing anthology of visual and intellectual interpretations of his theme.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.