Pietro Roccasalva

V.le Premuda 46
April 10–May 23

Pietro Roccasalva, The Wooden O, 2015, neon, wood, paint, 23 x 194".

Through a process of successive condensation and rarefaction, Pietro Roccasalva is known for developing paintings that lead to three-dimensional compositions, which are then further concentrated back to painting. As the artist’s process of research and analysis gradually unfolds, the story lines in his work become denser, moving to the hypertextual. In his latest solo show, “The Wooden O,” Roccasalva presents paintings and drawings in which even an apparently long-forgotten sign can peek through unexpectedly. In the drawing Study for Just Married Machine, 2015, for example, Roccasalva transfigures a basket of fruit from a 1530s work by Michelangelo for the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome—a drawing with a diamond pattern that culminates in a twelve-pointed star. But, precisely because of the polysemous nature of these forms, what the viewer sees here may resemble something like a dream catcher.

Rising like a banner in the show is a rooster, which has literary associations for the artist. The rooster appears frescoed on the wall (it was painted in a single day) and clothed in garments that allude to the uniforms the Swiss Guards still wear at the Vatican. The rooster is inserted into a wooden ring, which turns out to be the letter O in the word ALLEGORIA, displayed in large neon letters on the wall (only the O is made of wood). The etymology and significance of the word bring us to the Greek allegoria—describing a thing through images of another—and allei (meaning otherwise). These, not coincidentally, are conditions that underwrite Roccasalva’s modus operandi, which stems first of all from the significance of the icon. His work walks a fine line between the category of the incontestable image and that which, once proposed, lends itself to different arguments.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Maria Morganti

Via Vigevano 8
March 25–May 16

Maria Morganti, Stratificazione, 2011, plasticine on wooden board, 8 1/2 x 7 x 10”.

Maria Morganti’s four-panel painting Polittico a ritroso (Polyptych in Reverse), 2013, lights up this gallery with color and offers an irrepressible vision. In a process of reverse sedimentation, four canvases were obtained by superimposing one layer of color after another, leaving only a thin trace of the individual stages along the upper edge. Also on view is Grumi (Clots), 2013, which consists of a series of sponges hanging on a string and saturated with the same colors that are layered onto the polyptych’s canvases. There is one color for each sponge, and, strung together, they stand out against the polyptych.

Morganti’s focus on exposing her process is the hinge of this articulate exhibition. Accellerazione (Acceleration), 2013, for example, is a painting that was begun and completed in a single day, where the paint, not having time to dry, mixes into a single material, almost in the way it does in Impastamento (Kneading), 2013, where the layers of plasticine that are spread onto the panels, day after day, unexpectedly get re-kneaded onto themselves. Similarly, Stratificazione (Stratification), 2011, like several of the other works on view, consists of more layers of plasticine, which this time emphasize the material nature of their hues. The show begins and ends with Impronta (Impression), 2010–12, which consists of the sheet of paper that protects the artist’s worktable in her studio and bears the traces of pastels and oil paints she used to create her ongoing Carte-Diario (Diary-Papers), 2010–.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Amalia Del Ponte

via Manin 13
March 5–May 9

View of “Amalia Del Ponte: La porta senza porta,” 2015. Background: Ars Memoriae (The Art of Memory), 2014. Foreground: La ruota della memoria (The Wheel of Memory), 2014.

Amalia Del Ponte’s latest exhibition presents visitors with a sensory experience of ineffable and barely perceptible signs, sounds, and passages of light and shadows. This is the first time the artist has exhibited the installation Ars Memoriae (The Art of Memory), 2014: twenty-one India-ink drawings of animal tails, which look as fleeting as ghosts, bodies that can be intuited but not seen. The animals are presented in alphabetical order.

At the center of the installation, the artist has constructed La ruota della memoria (The Wheel of Memory), 2014, in which visitors can turn two overlapping paper circles to discover fragments of discourses that come together in various ways, giving rise to surreal, incongruent phrases that leave space for the imagination, not without a sense of irony. Meanwhile, La porta senza porta (The Door Without a Door), 2015, is a paradox. It is a light projection on a wall accompanied by an emergency exit handle. Its extended luminosity finds a counterpoint in the small luminescent spot of Il nano illuminate (The Illuminated Dwarf), 2012, which is surrounded by a disproportionately large wooden frame. An LED here pulsates like a small star lost in deep space. The sound of Potnia, 1989, seems to arrive from similar depths: A lithophone made of travertine can be struck with a little hammer, making the idol-like face sculpted into its stone resound. Finally, witty reversals between seeing and imagining are condensed in a small wooden sculpture, Io (I), 2011, where the artist, via her negative profile, seems to look at herself.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Italo Zuffi

Viale Somalia 33
February 11–May 15

View of “Italo Zuffi,” 2015

Italo Zuffi’s reflections on the intellectual and social dynamics of art are on full display in his first institutional solo show, organized by Cecilia Canziani and Ilaria Gianni. In a video titled The Reminder, 1997, Zuffi is seen carrying out physical exercises to explore the space around him; Territorio (Territory), 1997, mines similar themes, as a photocopy, folded into eight parts, that alludes to the geometric scansion of the room captured in the video. Similar spatial investigations occur in Go away, 2003, in which two aluminum sawhorses appear in various arrangements, causing variations in visitors’ sense of equilibrium and proportions of the surroundings.

The artist’s role and relationships become central in three works, Una linea nell’arte italiana (A line in Italian art), 2010; Zuffi per Bonami (Zuffi to Bonami), 2010; and Esponenti (Exponents), 2010–15. The first is a group of aluminum plaques that commemorate Mario Sironi, Gino De Dominicis, and Roberto Cuoghi. The second, a performance involving scarves and steel cable, commented ironically on the role of chance in an artist’s career success: At the piece’s end, a gallery returned to Zuffi two CDs of his portfolio that may or may not have been passed along to curator Francesco Bonami. And the third is a photographic sequence that recounts the artist’s difficult relationship with an art dealer. Investigating much more than the systems through which art circulates, Zuffi’s other works range from blank keys, in Quello che eri, e quello che sei (What you were, and what you are) to Gli ignari (Those Who Are Not Aware, 2013–15), a surreal installation of ceramic pods that emit sounds.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Charles Mayton

Via Angelo Masina 5
March 19–May 10

View of “Charles Mayton: Tableau Table Tavolo,” 2015.

Visitors to Charles Mayton’s solo show at the American Academy in Rome first encounter four paintings, all the same size. Two depict an enormous bunch of purple grapes that competes with two gigantic eyeballs to dominate the pictorial space. The two other paintings, installed between these works, employ two different forms of Abstract Expressionism, one tending toward a vague idea of spatial architecture constructed through various brushstrokes, and the other with brushstrokes that come together in a strongly gestural manner. Continuing through the exhibition, one encounters several overturned fruit boxes, whose bottoms become an ideal canvas on which the painter depicts grotesque-mask designs that seem to portray the god Bacchus. Other works have interweavings of white surfaces into which a wooden spoon is inserted, the concave end of which is densely painted, as if it were presenting a miniaturized version of large paintings.

Finally, there is another series of five paintings, abstractions again, except in one case, where there is a representation of mythological figures against a geometric background with strongly contrasting colors. Historical references jump out when one least aspects them. The works condense the history of painting in Rome, from classical times to the 1930s Scuola Romana of Scipione (aka Gino Bonichi) and Mario Mafai to the Pop art of Tano Festa and the Transavanguardia. It is as if Mayton has produced “condensers” capable of concentrating this millennial history through a linguistic triangulation of tableau, table, and tavolo (also the title of the show), so that the table is a work table but also the dining table on which painting is consumed.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Cory Arcangel

Piazza Vecchia, Sala dei Giuristi
April 1–June 28

View of “Cory Arcangel: This Is All So Crazy, Everybody Seems So Famous,” 2015.

Cory Arcangel’s site-specific installation Photoshop CS: 1060 by 2744 Centimeters, 10 DPC, RGB, Square Pixels, Default Gradient “Spectrum,” Mousedown y=1800 x=6800, Mouseup y=8800 x=20180, 2015, is a wave that disseminates the full spectrum of Photoshop’s color gradient by way of a two-hundred-square-meter carpet designed by the artist for a room in this twelfth-century palazzo. This is the first time the artist has placed work in a historical context, therefore the reflection on the obsolescence of technologies, which his Pop investigations usually involve, here acquires a tone of meditative concentration.

Along the walls, Arcangel has arranged works that belong to the sculpture series “Screen-Agers, Tall Boys, and Whales” and “Lakes,” both 2011–15. The carpet, part of his “Photoshop Gradient Demonstration” series from 2007–15, connects the different pieces that make up this show, titled “This Is All So Crazy, Everybody Seems So Famous.” Elsewhere, the floating-cloud backgrounds from a Super Mario video game, Super Mario Clouds, 2002, appear near a fresco depicting Saint George, inspiring questions about which iconic images endure and which evaporate over time. Moreover, the frescoes, which were completed throughout different historical periods, have now become faded fragments of their former glory. The exhibition inevitably invites a comparison between these relics of different eras and the different velocities of their consumption and decay. There is a collision here between the rapid decline of the image, its relevance in our society of technological consumption, and the slow time of history—and between artifacts that become old and nostalgic and those that are ancient or could become so.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Alessandra Pioselli

Francesca Grilli

Via Alabardieri 1
March 12–May 12

Francesca Grilli, Kepler 62h, 2015, intaglio printing on paper, 11 1/2 x 1'.

In Francesca Grilli’s first solo show at the Umberto Di Marino Gallery in Naples the artist presents five pieces she conceived during her residency at the American Academy in Rome, all focusing on the theme of anger. Gliese 581i, Gliese 581p, and Gliese 581m (all works 2015) are intaglio plates covered in ink and bile, the fluid produced by the liver, which here becomes a metaphor for fury. When the original chemical admixture is applied to the copper plates, it corrodes their surfaces (an allusion to the caustic effects of anger) into landscapes. The fantastical vista becomes heightened in Kepler 62h, a scroll print Grilli made by rubbing seven lined-up plates with the solution so that they formed one large sheet, on which esoteric signs and shadows seem to surface.

A similar atmosphere is found in Terra (Earth), a work made from vinyl paste and meteorite and inspired by a novelty record player known as the “enigma disc.” Now in the collection of the Discoteca di Stato in Rome, it was produced in 1913 for the centenary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth; due to the contraption’s special structure, users placing the stylus on its record are unable to predict which of three tracks will play. Instead of music, though, Terra features a succession of recordings of natural phenomena we might associate with rage—a tornado, an erupting volcano, breaking ice. These moments of pathetic fallacy alternate with voices that recite I Ching prophecies, which symbolically frame the work’s enigmatic structure.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Pier Paolo Pancotto