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Via G.B. Piranesi 10
April 8–June 15

View of “L’Inarchiviabile” (The Unarchivable), 2016

Curated by Marco Scotini in collaboration with Lorenzo Paini, “L’Inarchiviabile” (The Unarchivable) is an exhibition of over two hundred works by nearly sixty artists that allows viewers to fully appreciate the ’70s Italian art scene—rife with practices that defied categorization due to their specific ephemeral and performative natures, and with operations implicitly aimed at the classification and inventory-taking of often elusive forms and actions. The exhibition is organized into ten chapters that trace heterogeneous points of inspiration and reflection.

In Photomatic d’Italia (Photo Booth from Italy), 1973–74, Franco Vaccari collects photo-booth strips shot at sites all along the Italian peninsula, turning the booth, which reached that country in 1962, into a democratic and revolutionary means of telling stories through images. In Tutto (Everything), 1973, Giovanni Anselmo applied self-adhesive letters to canvas, spelling out the titular word, its letters spilling over onto the wall as if part of a field of activity that could no longer be contained within a pictorial surface. In Misura mano sinistra (Left Hand Measurement), 1971; Tre palmi quadri (Three Square Palms), 1972; and Spalla-medio (Average-shoulder), 1973, Paolo Icaro proposes alternative methods for taking stock of space, employing his own body parts (hand, thumb, shoulder) as units of measurement.

For A scatola chiusa (Leftovers), 1975, Gianfranco Baruchello gathered what remained on his worktable at the end of each day, collecting it in series of identical Plexiglas boxes; the results are archives of superfluous and nonselective memory governed by happenstance (in contrast, for example, with the experiments of Joseph Cornell, who composed his boxes as deliberate collections of experiences, imagination, and mental connections, or Marcel Duchamp, whose Boîte-en-valise offered a miniaturization of his creative world). In Tentativo di formare quadrati invece che dei cerchi intorno a un sasso che cade nell’acqua (Attempt to form squares instead of circles around a stone that falls in the water), 1969, Gino De Dominicis recapitulates and describes the aspiration to the infinite and to utopia that embraces an entire era.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Goshka Macuga

Largo Isarco 2
February 4–June 19

View of “Goshka Macuga,” 2016

Goshka Macuga’s work envisions the apocalyptic fate of a human species whose demise is hastened by a robot takeover, the robots being instances of a “man-made man” (as exhibition didactics put it) whose processes of learning and execution improve. Her practice encompasses various disciplines (sculpture, installation, photography, architecture, and design) and synthesizes the art world’s various roles (curator, artist, collector, researcher).

An android with human facial features and a scrambled body that gives the show its subtitle, To the Son of Man Who Ate the Scroll (all works cited 2016)—a modern Icarus, or an updated Frankenstein—occupies the ground floor, dispensing phrases of great thinkers. In the vicinity, works of impressive scale evoke the idea of the cosmos by artists such as Phyllida Barlow, Robert Breer, James Lee Byars, and Ettore Colla.

On the upper floor, neon spelling out “What Was I?” interrogates a distant past, perhaps one that never truly occurred. Here, the installation Before the Beginning and After the End, a collaboration between Macuga and Patrick Tresset, presents six tables on which very long sheets of paper, covered with sketches, drawings, texts, mathematical formulas, and diagrams drawn in ballpoint pen, created with the help of a robotic installation, illustrate the history of human progress. Works by Hanne Darboven, Lucio Fontana, Sherrie Levine, Piero Manzoni, and Dieter Roth, alongside rare objects, books, and documents, appear around the collaboration.

A new installation by the artist in the three cisterna spaces comprises seventy-three bronze heads of sixty-one historical and contemporary figures (from Albert Einstein to Sigmund Freud, Martin Luther King to Karl Marx). Connected to one another by long metal bars, they form a molecular structure, a mental map of human knowledge. Meanwhile, in a small office space, Macuga stages public readings in Esperanto of a series of significant texts.

Overall, the work offers reflections on the concept of memory both as personal and individual baggage, and as a collection of universal knowledge and stories, where art becomes an indispensable tool of preservation.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

“Mundus Muliebris”

via Ricciotti 4
April 27–June 17

View of “MM – Mundus Muliebris,” 2016.

MM (for mundus muliebris, or trousseau) is the acronym for a brand conceived for this occasion, an experiment curated by Nicoletta Lambertucci that relates the worlds of art and fashion. The spaces of Basement Roma have been transformed into a laboratory of sorts, where clothing, furnishings, and accessories absorb the uniqueness of art, playfully taking its place. Viewers are welcomed by a multicolored environment that itself becomes a site of creation as well as an unusual showroom. Two mirror-image rooms by Patrizio di Massimo face and refer to each other: One features a majolica floor and a green backdrop with drawn images of cushions and wavering ropes (Inductive Deductive [Mundus Muliebris], 2016); the other has a similar floor but a purple backdrop (Deductive Inductive [Mundus Muliebris], 2016). Both offer scenes that evoke a theatrical production in several acts.

A collaborative project by Than Hussein Clarkand Marini Calzature—an imagined bespoke shoe manufacturer, established in 1899––comprises reproductions of shoes worn by Valentino and Renato Balestra, memorable rivals in fashion and taste whose polar presence extends outward like the ripples of a stone dropped into a pond. In an installation dedicated to Tennessee Williams, three women’s gowns by Hussein Clark, created in collaboration with G.A.N. (Federica Ducoli and Gaia Fredella), establishes a dialogue with a mannequin/suit/sculpture by George Henry Longly (Untitled, 2016) that uses trousers by Fabio Quaranta to allude to a male presence. Di Massimo reworks the decorative motifs for fashion designer Benedetta Bruzziches’s “Carmen” purse with a gilded miniature hand-shaped clasp. And the mirrored surfaces and geometries of another work by Hussein Clark—comprising a display unit and chairs—wink at 1970s aesthetics. The installation catapults the viewer into a kaleidoscopic universe where objects become works and creativity transcends functionality.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Francesco Vezzoli

Piazza Piero Siena Platz 1
January 30–November 6

View of “Francesco Vezzoli: Museo Museion,” 2016.

There are two related exhibitions that have taken over this institution: the first retrospective of Francesco Vezzoli’s sculptures, which are on view through May 16, and a show the artist has curated of historical works from the museum’s collection, which runs through November 6. Collectively titled “Museo Museion,” the double exhibition begins with a large wallpaper installation that blows up a painted Roman vista by Giovanni Paolo Pannini (Gallery of Views of Modern Rome, 1759). Sandwiched between two burgundy velvet curtains, the work seems to exist in a state of continual unveiling, and it has been revised in postproduction to allow figures such as Nicki Minaj to peek out, among many painted by the eighteenth-century artist. It is no accident that Vezzoli has chosen Pannini; also working in Rome, Vezzoli too has devoted himself to restoring, copying, researching, and evaluating works by past masters. Indeed, the very Italian and very international artist sometimes recalls Aby Warburg; Vezzoli always finds taxonomic reasons for combining his historical sources with modern and contemporary subjects. See his series of sculptures here, some twenty in all, where, for example, he associates Carla Accardi’s Labirinto (Labyrinth), 1957, and Titian’s Fête champêtre, 1510–11; as well as Sophia Loren as the “muse of antiquity” with Giorgio de Chirico. In all, this is a personal staging of part of the museum’s collection by an artist who is a living contradiction. But in a literary more than a visual sense, he seems to always express a reasonable foolishness.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Pietro Ruffo

Via Vittorio Emanuele 122
April 3–July 10

Pietro Ruffo, Hegel, 2009, graphite and cutouts on paper, 87 x 67".

This exhibition, ten years in the making, of Pietro Ruffo’s work is titled “Brief History of the Rest of the World” and is a suitably expansive atlas for perusing time and space via the artist’s oeuvre. The installations here engage the geopolitical landscape and examine the process of historical reconstruction as it has been impacted by contemporary cultural and anthropological changes. Addressing the struggle for liberty during the 2010 Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, and the way social networking was used by young Arabs to communicate their frustration, the series “Arab Spring,” 2012–13, consists of works that unite the geometric design of a floor in the Alhambra in Granada with words from recent political manifestos disseminated on the Internet, including blood, struggle, despot, and connecting.

Influenced by the radio broadcasts of political philosopher Isaiah Berlin, Ruffo addresses the concept of self-determination in the series “I sei traditori della libertà” (The Six Traitors of Freedom), 2009, where large cutout pencil portraits on paper of figures such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Joseph de Maistre, Claude Adrien Helvétius, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel are traversed by a swarm of dragonflies. The exhibition, though, curated by Laura Barreca, concludes with the present day. Madri del Mar di Sicilia (Mothers of the Sea of Sicily), 2016, is a large wallpaper piece full of maternal figures, courageous mothers who, today, flee with their children from war in search of dignity. This bitter and tragic backdrop passes before spectators who are increasingly inured to reality, a scenario that the language of art refuels with hope.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesco Lucifora