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Juan Muñoz

Via Chiese 2
April 9–August 23

Juan Muñoz, Waste Land (detail), 1986, papier-mâché, bronze paint, rubber, dimensions variable.

Spanish artist Juan Muñoz’s sculptures and installations are the stuff of dreams, or nightmares. The geometric patterned linoleum floor he designed, which greets visitors entering the main exhibition room, seems to infinitely extend the space. The diminutive bronze ventriloquist figure seated on a ledge affixed to the wall in The Wasteland, 1986, stares across the floor’s dizzyingly linear expanse at his double in The Waste Land, 1986, perched atop a small white wall.

Muñoz’s doubling effects and optical tricks are only compounded as one turns the corner. Dotted around the space or suspended from the ceiling, polyester resin figures in a restricted palette of muted beige and gray recall the plaster casts of Pompeii or the Chinese terra-cotta army. By turns Caucasian or Asian, feminine or masculine, their features and bodies are suggested rather than fully formed. They come in pairs, small groups, or entire assemblies, as in the case of Conversation Piece, Dublin, 1994, or Many Times, 1999, beautifully installed in a room all its own. Beneath the variety of miens and expressions, each ensemble seems a version of the same figure, returning with the insistence of the repressed.

This is especially true of Double Bind, 2001, the show’s centerpiece, conceived for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall but here made to fit HangarBicocca’s equally monumental space. The ashen denizens who inhabit the in-between zone of the three-tiered installation, linked by two elevators ceaselessly going up and down, are modeled on Muñoz’s wayward older brother Vicente. All, that is, but one: a light-bearing figure made in the artist’s own image.

Agnieszka Gratza

Jannis Kounellis

Via Vincenzo Monti, 46
June 29–September 25

Corso Monforte 23 Milan / Via Vincenzo Monti 46 Pero
June 27–September 25

Jannis Kounellis, untitled, 1967, cloth, canvas, bird cages, live birds, 110 x 118”.

For those who want to encounter some of the mythical sites of Jannis Kounellis’s work, this two-venue show is not to be missed. The Milan gallery hosts monumental wall pieces from the early 1960s, works that go beyond the traditional coordinates of painting toward a primordial iconicity. Letters, signs, and fabric roses stand out against muted white backdrops, forming a new visual alphabet. The Pero exhibition space, in contrast, has a series of works that puts more emphasis on installation, where it is possible to discern some salient turning points in Kounellis’s language: from his revolutionary works from the mid-’60s, made with organic materials and live animals, to his grandiose progressions of objects in the ’80s and ’90s, all of which, at the time, were seen in epochal exhibitions.

In Pero, an untitled piece from 1967 is particularly noteworthy as it was Kounellis’s first presentation of fabric roses sewn onto canvas alongside cages of live birds, re-creating the compelling and disorienting experience of his solo show at Galleria L’Attico that same year. This can be compared to an imposing untitled work from 1987 made up of sixty-nine iron shelves with fragments of wood, girders, and jute sacks, and to another made in 1993, where solemn sheets of iron support a sequence of quivering oil lamps. Both are still striking and newly surprising at every encounter.

The exhibitions do not give the impression of a retrospective glance. On the contrary, the relevance of Kounellis’s work has endured through the decades, and indeed his ouevre seems even more significant given its tangible and undeniable historic centrality, confirmed by its powerful and still meaningful impact.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

Anna Maria Maiolino

Via Stradella 7
April 30–August 7

Via Stradella 1
April 30–August 7

Anna Maria Maiolino, inATTO, 2015. Performance View, Galleria Raffaella Cortese, 2015.

Two things about Anna Maria Maiolino’s show are particularly striking: The first is the quality of her recent production. Her latest works (this show, with a few small exceptions, consists of pieces from 2014 and ’15) are among her freshest and most inspired yet. The sculptures, in raku ceramic or cement, vie with her drawings to define a profoundly personal, biomorphic language that combines the artist’s manual gestures, the nature of her materials, and chance elements. The exhibition’s second striking feature is more general: its evidence of Maiolino’s capacity to communicate on an intuitive and sensitive level. Viewers need not know the affinities between her work and Brazilian Neo-concretism or notions of phenomenology—topics often discussed in critical writings about the artist—in order to instinctively grasp the essential coordinates of her work: an experience of the sensual (and sexual) world; an amorous interest in the living body; a stubborn overhaul of “humanistic”—to a great extent patriarchal and rational—culture, in the name of the body itself and its rationales. These same coordinates are precisely defined in inATTO, a performance she created on the occasion of the show’s opening, based on an intense dialogue comprising not words, but smiles, gestures, and inarticulate sounds exchanged between Maiolino and Sandra Lessa, a young Brazilian actress and performer, who began the performance wrapped in bandages like a mummy but ended up freed—and dancing.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Simone Menegoi

Hilla Ben Ari and Alice Cattaneo

Via di Pallacorda 15
June 22–September 12

Hilla Ben Ari, Na’amah: A Tribute to Nachum Benari, 2015, video, color, sound, 14 minutes 17 seconds.

The exhibition at Galleria Marie-Laure Fleisch sets up a comparison between two languages that seem very different but share a functional and aesthetic viewpoint. While Hilla Ben Ari employs the expressiveness of the body and tells stories through images, Alice Cattaneo constructs abstract forms through materials and their reciprocal combinations.

Ben Ari shows Na’amah: A Tribute to Nachum Benari (all works 2015), an homage to her great-uncle who was an essayist and playwright. Issues of gender and other dynamics intrinsic to human relationships are described in the video without ever becoming pedantic. Projected on the wall, this work depicts individuals and groups forced into unstable and precarious positions or unnatural and uncomfortable configurations. Plotless, its story emphasizes bodies’ plasticity. A fly runs undisturbed over a tense forearm, a temporary stage has a plein air landscape as a backdrop, actors say their lines while assuming forced and improbable positions, and music absorbs noises and any surrounding suggestions. This all paints a surreal but tangible picture. Also included here is a second video, Drum, of a close-up of hands rhythmically caressing a percussion instrument.

In the same space, Alice Cattaneo transfers power, vulnerability, and insecurity to her untitled sculptures, imbuing them with life. The materials seem to resist attaining definitive form, and the way they join together gives a winking nod to Calder’s masterful mobiles, as if alluding to new, future forms. Her pieces seem about to lose their unstable equilibriums, designating the gallery as a fragile and delicate space.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Jacopo Miliani, Fay Nicolson, Jackson Sprague

Via Giovanni Pascoli 21
July 9–September 5

View of “Jacopo Miliani, Fay Nicolson, Jackson Sprague,” 2015.

In this group show, Jacopo Miliani, Fay Nicolson, and Jackson Sprague reflect on the body and its expressive capacities through various connected means. The works benefit from an installation that emphasizes their dialectical character. See Miliani’s three sculptures—Cupid, Devil, and Adolescent (all 2015)—made [of knotted ropes cast in bronze, which represent a concrete translation of a muscular gesture. This is also underscored by the wooden bases that support the works, whose lumber’s striations echo those of the twisted rope. There are four 2015 canvases by Nicolson—Dream Job, Less Work, Work with Rhythm, and Overworked Rhythm—each of which incorporates painted stripes and prints of geometric hands and arms, whose soft gestural quality recalls an unknown dance. Last but not least, there are three sculptures by Sprague. The Artist’s Wife, 2015, is two-dimensional and hung from the ceiling, and Breathing Heads, 2014, is three-dimensional and on the floor. Both are made with painted wood, and bring to mind studies of the communicative potential of the face, executed via an ironic reinterpretation of Picassian post-Cubist work. Finally, Hard not to be clumsy when analyzing my impulses, my mind asks: is this right? and then it answers yes or no further examines the historical avant-gardes.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Piero Golia

Via Francesco Crispi 16
June 9–July 30

View of “Piero Golia: Intermission Paintings,” 2015.

Highly conceptual and provocative, with a particular penchant for mischief and irony, Piero Golia’s work always ends up making a strong statement. It’s fitting that in a city famous for the monument par excellence, visitors to “Piero Golia: Intermission Paintings” first encounter a small, irreverent, upside-down bronze cavalier (Upside down equestrian figure as public sculpture, 2013). The subversion of the equestrian sculpture alludes to, but doesn’t fully yet reveal, the conceit of this show.

On the walls of the gallery’s main space, a series of colored marble slabs stand out in archeological-seeming magnificence. Dazzling shapes, formed from ancient Rome’s most precious and sturdy building material, strike viewers with their iridescent shades. Only at close glance does the weight of these relics become apparent: The marble is in fact made up of perishable chunks of sparkly foam, offcuts of a giant replica of George Washington’s nose from Mount Rushmore that Golia created for Comedy of Craft, 2014–15, his earlier sculptural-performance trilogy.

In the deceitful essence of this exhibition, the monumental, in Golia’s hands, becomes ephemeral, and spectators find themselves face to face with an act of illusion. The key to the show lies in another work also titled Comedy of Craft, 2015, an architectural model of Gagosian Gallery’s oval room that contains an exact replica of the exhibition. The tiny marble relics here, however, are made of real stone. The permanent manifestation of the show—the physical memory—stands within what seems to be a temporary maquette. Discussing ideas of endurance and ephemerality, time and immanence, “Intermission Paintings” renders history illusory. Even the eternal city can mislead.

Ilaria Gianni

Jean-Luc Moulène

Viale della Trinità dei Monti, 1
April 30–September 13

Jean-Luc Moulène, Les Trois Grâces (The Three Graces), 2012, HD video, color, silent, ten minute loop.

Il était une fois” (Once upon a Time): Judging from its (slightly ironic) title, this solo exhibition by Jean-Luc Moulène alludes to the artist’s use of context, which is outstanding and laden with history. Numerous references connect the works on view, both preexisting and new, to the French Academy in Rome and to the splendid Renaissance villa that has housed it since 1803. Monocromi (Monochromes), 2015, sheets of bronze affixed to a wall, are the same size as certain standard sizes for historical European oil paintings; Les Trois Grâces (The Three Graces), 2012, a video based on the title’s iconography, echoes a third-century AD bas-relief located on the villa’s interior facade; La Pucelle (The Maiden), 2013, an assemblage of three figurative sculptures, establishes a dialogue with casts once selected by Balthus for the garden (he was director of the French Academy from 1961 to 1977); and so on.

Despite this central theme, the variety of materials, techniques, and registers is such that distracted viewers might be led to think they have wandered into the wrong wing of the building and are looking at a group show. Historical citations contrast with strictly contemporary references, such as in Tronches (Faces), 2014, twenty-four cement casts of rubber carnival masks, while figurative elements face off against abstract forms derived from geometric speculations, such as in Gnou (Wildebeest) and Samples (Onyx), both 2015. As is usual with this sophisticated artist, one wonders about the deeper connection among the works, each of which tends to be presented as a the solution—often admirably precise—to a enigmatic problem that changes in every piece. When asked in a 2008 interview what holds his work “together,” Moulène responded, quite enigmatically: “The obvious absurdity, horrible revelation, bursts of laughter.”

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Simone Menegoi

Tracey Emin

Vicolo dei Catinari 3
May 9–September 5

View of “Tracey Emin: Waiting to Love,” 2015.

“Waiting to Love,” Tracey Emin’s first solo exhibition at Lorcan O’Neill’s new Rome gallery, is an homage to real love. The show presents twenty-four works—all making their debut—including sculpture, neon installations, embroideries, gouaches, and three large acrylic paintings on canvas. The paintings reactivate a relationship with the medium that the artist had consciously suspended in 2007, after her exhibition in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale. These new pieces particularly bear witness to Emin’s long history with the reappropriation of a visual language, which, as in her other works, narrates scenes of life and sexuality while dismantling and subjectifying the tradition of the female nude.

In the main gallery, a neon work offering the phrase “The More of You the More I Love You” reigns over the paintings and three white bronze bas-reliefs of heroic and vulnerable nudes. At the center of the room, two summarily modeled plaster sculptures evoke mutilated and voluptuous bodies that are stripped of any malice. The show continues with three large-scale portraits of women; here, Emin turns to the ancient craft of weaving to reproduce on fabric, in only a few gestures, her typical drawings. A sequence of ten small selfies in gouache and two bronze works, Belligerence and Grotto, both 2014, conclude the exhibition. Emin, once a YBA “bad girl,” seems to have abandoned intemperance in a fervid expectation of more profound feelings—namely, love.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Chiara Valacchi

Daniel Buren

Palazzo Donnaregina, via Settembrini, 79
April 25–August 31

Daniel Buren, Comme un jeu d’enfant (Like Child’s Play), 2014–15, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Comme un jeu d’enfant (Like Child’s Play), 2014–15, in a presentation curated by Andrea Viliani and Eugenio Viola in partnership with the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain in Strasbourg, is the first of three site-specific interventions Daniel Buren will create for this museum. Buren’s association with Naples dates back to 1972, when he had his first exhibition at Lucio Amelio’s Modern Art Agency. He then had a solo show in 1989, at the Museo di Capodimonte, and in 2004, he created a large-scale project for the redevelopment of the former Arin site (Arin is the city’s agency for water resources) in the Ponticelli. Buren has created this piece for the museum’s Re_PUBBLICA MADRE venue—so named to emphasize the concept of res publica, encouraging a direct, dynamic, and responsive relationship between space and the public.

Comme un jeu d’enfant is composed of overlapping archetypal forms in wood and colored steel and is inspired by the playful constructions of the German pedagogue Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel. Here, columns, tympanums, and architraves, placed in a regular and symmetrical sequence, unexpectedly transition from white to an explosion of complementary colors, suggesting the passage from a hypothetical empty sheet of paper to the practice of drawing.

Featuring arches lined with Buren’s hallmark black and white bands, each nearly three and a half inches wide, the work confounds the viewer’s perception and activates multiple viewpoints. Realized in collaboration with the architect Patrick Bouchain, it is a complex game and a homage to the instinctive depth of a child’s world, as is Buren’s use of his familiar stripes—impersonal and adaptable—which he employs to reveal the intrinsic charm and nature of the objects on which he places them.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Chiara Valacchi

Ian Cheng

Via Modane, 16
April 23–October 11

View of “Ian Cheng,” 2015.

A “smart story” is how Ian Cheng describes Emissary in the Squat of Gods, 2015, the latest of his live simulations and the centerpiece of this exhibition. Neither a movie nor a video game, yet partaking of both, this never-ending auto-generative animation indebted to Japanese film director and manga artist Hayao Miyazaki is smart in more ways than one: It combines artificial intelligence with a slick presentation.

Placed aslant in relation to the wall on which the two-channel simulation is projected, a large white podium, whose single step viewers can sit on, bears the twin projectors, speakers, and cables. Two screens of different sizes, displayed side by side, present the same ecosystem, characters, and story from two vantage points: The large one offers a bird’s-eye view of a proto-community faced with the constant threat of an active volcano, while the small one zooms in on certain areas of this desolate landscape—its dusky violet backdrop conjuring volcanic ash and the dawn of time—and privileges particular story strands, such as the rise of consciousness of the eponymous emissary.

Consciousness does not exist in isolation or independently of language. In this fable of origins illustrating the inherently social nature of consciousness, the first faltering steps toward the acquisition of verbal communication made by our distant forebears are vividly portrayed, both visually (in the shape of white runic characters signposted here and there or gliding along the screen in clusters) and orally (as anguished monosyllabic utterances growing in complexity).

Agnieszka Gratza

Minjung Kim

Via Garibaldi 1643
May 5–September 27

Minjung Kim, You and Me, 2013, mixed media on mulberry paper, 7 x 6".

The title of Minjung Kim’s solo exhibition, “The Light, the Shade, the Depth,” is indicative of the simple yet potent evocations that her ink-wash paintings on paper conjure. The clear highlights among those here are her renderings of mountains. Kim captures the essence of stillness in Mountain, 2012, one of the more masterful works, in which craggy formations emerge in the top half of the painting as smoky, ghostlike emanations that seem to blend into one another before becoming gradually denser as they move down the plane, eventually culminating in blackness. In a smaller painting from 2008, also titled Mountain, the smoke seems to hover over the mountains, whose forms are more rigidly announced through a spidery outline.

In her more abstract works, Kim shifts away from the light, the shade, and the depth to attain a different result. The tiny drawing You and Me, 2013, executed on thin mulberry hanji paper and measuring just under seven inches on its longest side, is the one that won me over. The center is a swirly mess of thread-thin black lines punctuated by miniscule cigarette burns, while the top right contains a dark-gray smudge, a sort of moon-bird belching into the twilight ether.

Travis Jeppesen

Sean Scully

San Marco, 2906
May 9–November 22

Sean Scully, Landline Brüke 5.14, 2014, oil on linen, 85 x 76 x 3".

There is a soothing calm to Sean Scully’s way with color—his paintings glisten with a new-car sheen. This current exhibition, “Land Sea,” focuses on the painter’s output from the past seven years, with more of an emphasis on the sea than land—an apt choice considering the show’s location in Venice. It is easy to be persuaded, as well as delighted, by the sludgy brushwork of paintings like Blueland (all works cited, 2014), sexy in its stilled sloppiness, which ideally would have had its colors scooped up from the water of the Grand Canal, shimmering directly beneath the palazzo here. That is, until you go outside and realize that the water is actually green, not blue. Still, if the paintings are convincing enough to cause this slip of memory, it says something in their favor, no?

Nearby, the oil-on-linen work Landline Brüke 5.14 is a medley of horizontal blues with two well-placed swaths of yellow toward the top and bottom of the canvas, as if thrown in to give these blankets some well-deserved punctuation. Even when Scully’s paintings are at their most earthy—as in the two gigantic paintings on aluminum, The Gatherer and Slope—you still want to wrap yourself in them.

Travis Jeppesen

Cy Twombly

Santa Croce 2070
May 6–September 13

Cy Twombly, Untitled (New York City), 1968, oil-based house paint, wax crayon on canvas 68 x 85".

Cy Twombly was the greatest American painter of the twentieth century, and the greatest painter after Picasso, period. Such seemingly hyperbolic assertions are necessary, and even understated, in that they can only infer the myriad ways in which Twombly’s century could not wholly contain him. His works are as enduringly elegant in their wretchedness as ever, and thus an exhibition of the artist’s work, no matter how large or small, is always a welcome event.

This current one, housed in the airy rooms of a baroque marble palace on the Grand Canal, brings together a career-spanning selection of the artist’s paintings, works on paper, and a sculpture, with the earliest work dating from the 1950s. Among the flashier highlights is the large triptych Ilium (One Morning Ten Years Later), 1964–2000. What appears to be its pasty foundation is, upon inspection, just thin enough to hint at but not fully reveal the dark muck of underpainting. On the topmost layer, the triumphant anarchy of Twombly’s graffiti-esque scrawls reigns, resembling the inner door of a bathroom stall frequented exclusively by poets.

Fans will be equally pleased to see some of the artist’s greatest hits—such as a large four-panel painting from his 2008 “Rose” series—as well as a selection of rarely exhibited items, including an untitled series of hot-pink and violet acrylic dabs on paper dating from 2005. Even one of his early so-called chalkboard paintings, Untitled (New York City), 1968, is on display, this one comprising a series of long skinny cursive S’s and 8s—show-off-ish, sure, but also dazzling in its curled elegance.

Travis Jeppesen

Jacob Hashimoto

Lungadige Galtarossa 21
May 16–September 12

Jacob Hashimoto, Never Comes Tomorrow, 2015, wrought iron, wood, plastic, cardboard, stickers, dimensions variable.

The title of Jacob Hashimoto’s new site-specific piece for his solo show in Verona, Never Comes Tomorrow, 2015, seems to allude to the inventive, cyclical nature of his work. Yet while remaining faithful to his signature style, Hashimoto is always able to find a new way of working, without repeating himself. Thus the pieces in this exhibition feel at once recognizable and surprisingly new. The show presents in sum a monumental, immersive installation of suspended wooden cubes, wrought iron, plastic, cardboard, and stickers, and new works from his well-known series of work developed from kites (created with bamboo, Dacron, paper, nylon, acrylic, and pigments), which are inspired by Japanese tradition and are placed in dialogue with some previous works.

If these wall pieces are also influenced by hard-edge California painting, with patterns that bring to mind both the graphic image and the objective nature of the work’s physical presence, the aforementioned large central piece draws inspiration from Sol LeWitt’s cubic modules via a large, irregular grid structure that simultaneously swallows up and expands on its spatial substance. The piece seems to follow an allusive, almost science-fiction impulse that can be found in other works in the show, which are inspired by star systems.

Lightness, immateriality, suspension, a dialectic between reality and artifice, luminosity and transparency: These are all characteristic elements of Hashimoto’s work, seen here in the accumulation of delicate structures, in the multiplication of nearly immaterial grids. Hashimoto’s work is a sort of evocative Minimalism, in the sense that he modulates artificial landscapes that appear to reproduce themselves by themselves, designating horizons of a future that is already present.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola