San Gimignano

Giovanni Ozzola, Light Blue Wall, 2018, silicone, paint, wire mesh, 84 5⁄8 × 84 5⁄8".

Giovanni Ozzola, Light Blue Wall, 2018, silicone, paint, wire mesh, 84 5⁄8 × 84 5⁄8".

Giovanni Ozzola

The first room of Giovanni Ozzola’s recent exhibition “Octillion” contained three large, colorful paintings—Light Blue Wall, South Wall, and North Wall, all 2018. To make these works, the artist first used silicone lift an impression from the graffiti-covered walls of abandoned buildings and deserted bunkers along the coast of Tenerife, the Spanish island where he lives. After fixing the sheets of silicone onto wire mesh supports, he intervened with paint and sand, appropriating the anonymous markings, signs of the universal desire to leave a trace of one’s existence, and recontextualizing them as paintings. The show also included two large photographs suggesting the kinds of sites where these works were made: One of them, azul (Blue), 2018, depicted an abandoned indoor space whose walls are full of marks and colors within a bunker-like building that stands out against the sea.

Another group of works on view were actual maps of land, sea, and sky: Universe—Chart, Stars—Chart, Ocean—Chart, and Earth—Chart, all 2018. These, too, were completely reinvented by the artist, who reduced them to tangles of bronze lines hammered into expansive aluminum surfaces. “Duemiladiciotto—fallen blossoms(Two Thousand Eighteenfallen blossoms), 2018, a group of small color photographs, presented vanitas imagery: petals, fallen to earth, their colors still vivid, but mixed with garbage both organic and otherwise, from dead leaves to shreds of plastic. In short, these flowers were symbols of transience and finitude. In three bronze sculptures of leafy plants from the series “Plants—Tus lunares son estrellas” (Plants—Your Beauty Marks Are Stars), 2016–18, the leaves turned out to be the only elements that had actually been cast; the stems were nothing but the channels through which the liquid metal passed, drawing attention to the similarity between the process of casting and the natural passage of sap to the veins of the leaves.

The video Sin tiempo (Timeless), 2017, was presented in the gallery’s other San Gimignano location, near the main piazza of this splendid medieval Italian town; it recapitulated all the show’s themes. With a rapid, thrilling approach from a bird’s-eye view, the camera captures the open sea, the island of Tenerife, its port, a pier, and a small point that grows until it is revealed to be a man standing in front of the sea; his entire figure fills the frame, but we only ever see him from the back. As he looks out upon the infinity of the sky, we hear him whistling, modulating his sounds in the indigenous language known as Silbo Gomero, a form of communication developed centuries ago on the neighboring island of La Gomera. He is whistling a rendition of a text written by the artist, which speaks poetically of the relationship with distance, of losing one’s way and finding one’s path back, of leaving and returning. (English subtitles were provided.) The discordant but evocative noise of the wind that blows across the island acts as a sonorous counterpoint to this flow of verbal consciousness translated into a concert of harmonious human whistles, reminding us of the bond between culture and nature.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.