“In Part”

Largo Isarco 2
May 9–October 31

John Baldessari, Box (Blind Fate and Culture), 1987, color photograph, 48 x 64".

In Robert Rauschenberg’s Cy + Relics, 1952, the eponymous Mr. Twombly is shown dwarfed by the massive, pointing finger of an ancient statue of Constantine. Suggesting both the reverence that such colossal remains of antiquity continue to elicit as well as the possibility of irreverence toward them, the photograph opens the Fondazione Prada exhibition “In Part,” curated by Nicholas Cullinan. In an elegant if familiar conceit, the show announces the formal language of the fragment as a gesture of refusal or as fetish. Man Ray’s delicate mannequin’s hand, displayed in a glass case, actualizes the Surrealist juxtaposition evoked by the disembodied display of partial ancient artifacts. Anxiety toward the specter of classical sculpture persists: For artists of the twentieth century, its fragmentation becomes a living starting point rather than the mere documents of a vanished past.

A long row of windows illuminates Rem Koolhaas’s redesign of this former distillery, yet “In Part” often insists on obfuscation—a violent condition of the incomplete. A trio of collages by Llyn Foulkes, 2004–11, and John Baldessari’s Box (Blind Fate and Culture), 1987, are both marked by characteristic facial obstruction, while Richard Serra’s Hand Catching Lead, 1968, extends the metaphor of the severed limb to the mechanical crop of the video camera. And Pino Pascali’s freestanding piece isolates a bikini-clad canvas as a Pop-reminiscent segmentation of the black female form. If divorcing an object from its holistic self is an act tinged with aggression, consumption, or melancholy, the dialogues set up here also remark on the creative stimulation produced by that moment of separation.

Abbe Schriber

Lucio Fontana

Via Tadino 15
April 24–October 31

Lucio Fontana, Concetto spaziale, Trinitŕ (Spatial concept, Trinity), 1966, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Lucio Fontana often succeeds in surprising us, even after decades of exhibitions and studies, and here he does so once again, at this homage offered by the Fondazione Marconi in Milan in collaboration with the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, on the occasion of EXPO. On view for the first time in Europe is the monumental and unique Concetto spaziale, Trinitŕ (Spatial concept, Trinity), 1966, installed, also for the first time, as the artist himself conceived the work, via now-invaluable drawings from 1966, one of which is on display. The piece is a triptych of squares, each painted white and traversed by winding trajectories of holes, and it reflects on the absolute, with the progressions of piercings that activate the monochromatic surfaces adding a laic and profoundly human dimension. The installation includes blue plastic canvases above and below the work, as specified by Fontana, emphasizing its immaterial dimension, creating a sort of minimalist theater and highlighting both a spatial and a conceptual suspension.

Completing the effect of this installation, viewers encounter a series of works from 1951 through ’68 that retraces the various phases of Fontana’s production, ranging from material figuration and spatial abstraction to technical experimentation and expressive reduction. Among these, along with his trademark “teatrini” (little theaters) and sculptures in varnished metal, are beautiful sheets of blotting paper—particularly evocative and perhaps less familiar to the public. This is an exhibition where the specialist will make discoveries, the aficionado will rewitness the artist’s better-known works, and the neophyte will encounter the output of one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant artists.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

Vincenzo Agnetti

Corso Monforte 23
May 19–October 31

Vincenzo Agnetti, Permutabile (Permutable), 1967, painted wood with three movable modules, 21 1/4 x 23 1/2".

This exhibition, which also appeared in Galleria Il Ponte in Florence, offers a broad selection of work by Vincenzo Agnetti, one of the most eclectic and innovative figures in Italian art in the 1960s and ’70s. In the late ’50s, Agnetti worked with Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni to conceive of the magazine Azimuth and the nearly homonymous gallery, Azimut. But by 1967, he began forging an independent path, becoming a central figure in Italy’s Conceptual art practices. Agnetti’s particular brand of Conceptualism is exemplified by a series of works for which—rather than simply substituting objects with linguistic or theoretical formulations—he focused on hybridizing and cross-fertilizing material from different communicational codes (visual, verbal, mathematical, photographic) to create images of extraordinarily evocative power.

The show features significant examples of his “axioms,” word-and-image combinations carved into Bakelite—mental enunciations of sorts that challenge accepted conventions and facts, presenting contradictions, paradoxes, and tautologies, as for example in one inscribed panel from 1970 featuring the sentence “Il sistema usa gli oggetti come veicolo e le idee come combustibile” (The system uses objects as vehicles and ideas as fuel). Similarly, his celebrated book-as-artwork, Libro dimenticato a memoria (Book forgotten by heart), 1969, has rectangular voids in its pages, calling into question the very idea of knowledge.

The work that gives the show its subtitle, Paesaggio. Testimonianza (Landscape. Testimony) 1971, comprises painted felt and a shell—a poetic image, emblematic of the potential of Agnetti’s work, wherein the expressive simplicity of a monochrome and tactility of a plain felt surface are interrupted only by the a painted word, “testimonianza” (testimony), and the souvenir/object par excellence—the shell, which creates a seascape at once distant and present.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

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


San Marco 3780
May 9–November 22

View of “Proportio,” 2015

“Proportio,” curated by Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti, brings the concept of proportion into an architectural and broadly artistic context. Measure, geometry, and numerical relationships are distinctive, substantial features of the exhibited works. An ascending path leads from the building’s spare, severe substructure to the diaphanous presence of works on its upper floors. Tatsuro Miki and Vervoordt’s five pavilions—architectural artworks made of hemp and quicklime—pay homage to the golden ratio while embracing the organic nature of their materials. Markus Brunetti’s enormous photographs of cathedral facades and Heinz Mack’s Rotating Ziggurat (Zikurat), 2010, fit perfectly into the rough spaces on the ground floor.

The main floor offers mimetic, precious works, such as a faintly delineated face in plaster by Fausto Melotti and a neon sculpture based on the Fibonacci sequence by Mario Merz. At the entrance to the third floor, in a 1907 sculpture of Paris by Canova, chiastic patterns become apparent, hinting at a formal and chromatic reduction of compositional elements, a strategy later adopted by everyone from Carl Andre to Sol LeWitt to Pier Paolo Calzolari.

On the top floor, Marina Abramović’s Ten Thousand Stars, 2015, leads viewers into a sidereal dimension as they listen, via headphones, to Abramović’s voice chanting the names of stars. Meanwhile, Maaria Wirkkala’s half-full glasses set on swings oscillate silently like timeless pendulums. Together the works’ upended and dematerialized gestures suggest otherworldly proportions of intergalactic space. As its underlying theme unfolds, this dense, refined exhibition captures visitors in an arresting, immersive atmosphere.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

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