Turin

Francesco Vezzoli, C-CUT-Homo Ab Homine Natus (C-CUT-Man from Man Born), 2018, concrete sculpture, bronze, marble head, alabastrine chalk, egg tempera, microcrystalline wax. Installation view. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano.

Francesco Vezzoli, C-CUT-Homo Ab Homine Natus (C-CUT-Man from Man Born), 2018, concrete sculpture, bronze, marble head, alabastrine chalk, egg tempera, microcrystalline wax. Installation view. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano.

Francesco Vezzoli

Galleria Franco Noero | Piazza Carignano

One of Galleria Franco Noero’s two locations is right in the center of Turin, on the stately Piazza Carignano, surrounded by historic Baroque palaces that house museums, theaters, and famous restaurants. Perhaps it was precisely as a reaction to all this pomp that Francesco Vezzoli wanted to besiege one of these palaces with something vaguely indecorous. The gallery’s large windows were obscured by heavy curtains, the light from outside replaced by that emanating from a strip of red LED lights running along the baseboards and purple spotlights pointing at the stuccowork and pictorial decoration. The unnatural hues of the lighting that so disturbed one’s perception of the opulent and venerable interior were meant to recall the Italian horror films of the 1970s—those of Dario Argento, say, who set his first films in Turin, though the simplicity of the installation here brought to mind the director’s later, technically rougher works such as La terza madre (The Mother of Tears, 2007), rather than his more renowned films, such as Profondo rosso (Deep Red, 1975). In short, this installation, which was credited to Filippo Bisagni, evoked a fairly kitschy horror film or even the decor of a porn shop, introducing a decidedly lower level of taste to the gallery’s noble spaces. The same treatment was given to every room except the central one, which contained a single sculpture.

By lowering the tone in this way, Bisagni had prepared a suitable atmosphere for Vezzoli’s work. The statue, placed on a rotating base and illuminated by theatrical spotlights, constituted a vision truly suspended between horror and kitsch. A gray concrete garden ornament made sometime in the twentieth century, it depicts an ancient Roman soldier in a cape. As it turns, however, it reveals its secret. The bronze mantle on the soldier’s back has been torn open to reveal, inside the concrete body, an ancient marble head: a Roman relic from the late Republican period. The garden statue, of scant artistic worth and unexceptional workmanship, contains an authentic ancient Roman head. To both heads, Vezzoli has added a teardrop running down one cheek, in bronze for the modern sculpture and in wax for the ancient marble.

The statue is called C-CUT Homo Ab Homine Natus (C-CUT Man from Man Born), 2018. The work’s Latinate title was also that of the show, suggesting that its subject was a sort of male birth: a man who brings forth another man from the hole in his back. At the same time, the gash in the figure’s back (not pretty to see) obviously refers to Lucio Fontana, evoking above all those works from his series “La fine di Dio” (The End of God), 1963–64, which are riddled with large holes rather than with the elegant vertical cuts for which he is better known. The themes and the image that conveyed it were utterly improbable, yet made sense in the deliberately tacky atmosphere that enveloped the entire gallery environment. In fact, Vezzoli’s show was another step in his ongoing project of, as Nietzsche would have it, the “transvaluation of all values”—which explicitly goes beyond the merely aesthetic. A soundtrack could also be heard above all in the last two empty rooms, where visitors took their leave. This, too, played on the high-low dialectic, featuring excerpts from Wendy Carlos’s 1968 album Switched-On Bach, in which the composer’s works are played on a Moog synthesizer—the appropriate seal for a show that only seemed aesthetically humble but in fact, as is typical of Vezzoli’s work, played ironically with a rich and complex pastiche of cultural echoes and references.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.