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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

Giovanni Anselmo, Wolfgang Laib, and Ettore Spalletti

Via Stilicone 19
May 3–July 18

Wolfgang Laib, The Rice Meals for Another Body, 2015, rice, dimensions variable.

The most surprising thing about this exhibition is the natural way in which Giovanni Anselmo’s, Wolfgang Laib’s, and Ettore Spalletti’s visual languages tackle the space in their own ways. Each artist has created a site-specific installation on one of the gallery’s three floors, and their use of materials to allude to immateriality seems to be the subtle connecting thread.

On the ground floor, Laib’s The Rice Meals for Another Body (all works 2015) consists of an expanse of grains of rice organized in Laib’s usual fashion into small, regularly spaced piles. In a sort of rarified counterpoint and ideal nourishment for a possible future body, the artist engages viewers with the ingratiating pervasiveness of an organic reality that is both mental and physical. Entering the second floor, visitors encounter Spalletti’s Parole di colore (Words of Color), which offers a sequence of panels in the artist’s characteristic tones—sky blue, gray, dark blue, purple-red, and pink. Here, it is color that becomes a sensitive description of space: insinuating and present, material and evocative. On the third floor, Anselmo has chosen to create a new relationship between two of his older works, both tied to the relationship between vision and the impalpable. Oltremare mentre appare verso nord est (Ultramarine while it appears toward the northeast) is a dense chromatic “thrust” into the wall, while La luce mentre focalizza (Light while it focuses)—which consists of the word PARTICOLARE (detail), projected deliberately out of focus—instead concentrates on luminous pulsation as perceivable energy.

Overall, the show conveys an experience of profoundly significant levity, through which these three artists, with constraint and originality, turn these spaces into something unexpected and surprising, charged with wonder and amazement.

Translation from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

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

Adam Avikainen

via Sforza Cesarini 43a, Palazzo Sforza Cesarini
May 19–July 12

View of “Adam Avikainen: CSI: DNR,” 2015.

A lively dialectic between apparently dissimilar elements typifies Adam Avikainen’s work. The American artist confronts the pictorial through predominantly abstract themes but maintains an implicit need for narrative, which is often expressed through texts and photographs. His latest solo exhibition, “CSI: DNR,” short for Crime Scene Investigation: Department of Natural Resources, alludes to “bodies”—real or painted—presented as if involved in a violent, unresolved event.

The show is installed like a split screen. In the room to one side of the entrance, ten large-scale canvases are suspended in a modular and vertical installation, with one piece next to another tumbling down to the floor, where an abundance of material invites the public to walk. The colors in these works are magnetic—natural pigments are mixed with honey and mint, arousing the senses of smell and taste. Moreover, these works bring to mind the all-encompassing experiments of Pinot Gallizio, particularly Caverna dell’antimateria (Cave of Antimatter), 1959, in which he transformed the artistic gesture into an infinite reiteration, industrial in tone.

In the other room, 333 photographic images and an equal number of texts can be consulted. Here, micro- and macrocosm, human and terrestrial body correspond continually in Avikainen’s stream-of-consciousness writings as well as in emails he sent to heads of governments and other key figures, composed in an enigmatic and divinatory style. Throughout this show, Avikainen invites the viewer to accompany him on a journey along a temporal, diachronic line, where scientific and fictional data coexist as hypothetical solutions to contingent and universal questions.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Tauba Auerbach and Charlotte Posenenske

Via dei Mille, 6
April 23–July 11

View of “Tauba Auerbach and Charlotte Posenenske,” 2015.

Entering into a dialogue both personal and creative, works by Tauba Auerbach and Charlotte Posenenske together investigate the notion of the threshold. Posenenske was recognized as an artist who sought out collaborative situations, and the actual configurations of the models that make up her “Series D Vierkantrohre” and “Series DW Vierkantrohre” (both 1967/2015) are sometimes entrusted to curators, collectors, or, as in the current case, to another artist choosing to interact with them. Embracing the alliance with Posenenske, Auerbach here reinstalled the industrial cardboard and aluminum structures with deference to the contours of the Roman cityscape that act as an inescapable frame. Their collaboration almost becomes a partnership in a game of bridge, with Posenenske as dummy letting Auerbach play her cards.

A circular and rotating movement imbues both Posenenske’s sculptures and Auerbach’s densely plotted and interwoven canvases (Transom/Trans Ray I, Bitmap Gradient Ray III, and Fret/Slice I, all 2015)—mostly white monochromes with layered geometries that create vertiginous shifts in forms and colors. The works are sensitive to their location, blending in with the crumbling floor and ceiling decorations in remembrance of past splendors. Repetition and modularity are common denominators, whether in the form of an industrial-democratic spirit in Posenenske’s case or a mantric reiteration in the work of Auerbach, whose surfaces feature diamond shapes, Greek fret designs, and optical motifs. What first appear to be two-dimensional works in fact preserve voluminous and sculptural formal structures in their rendering and methodology. The interplay between symmetry and asymmetry, fundamental to Auerbach’s aesthetic research, here grows from the interweavings and motifs that are interrupted then taken up again, like a binary language awaiting decoding.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

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

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