• Current

  • Past

Giulio Frigo

FRANCESCA MININI
Via Massimiano 25
September 17, 2015–November 14, 2015

Giulio Frigo, Stanza 0, 2015, oil on canvas, 63 x 63".

From the outset of the exhibition, Giulio Frigo demonstrates an interest in materials that have been used by man since the dawn of human history. A painterly silk panel imprinted with an image of hematite seen under an electron microscope opens the show. The microscope has read the black fragment electromagnetically, allowing for a clear and magnified view of the material. Interestingly, the etymology of the word hematite goes back to the Greek αἴματος, or aimatos (blood): Once the material crumbles, the black color turns to red. Visitors next encounter a silk-, oil-, and tempera-on-linen piece showing the Venus of Willendorf. After this, Fondale (all works 2015), a projection on a wall of strings, evokes a celestial universe (viewers can walk through these cotton threads). Beyond this is Stanza 1, a terra-cotta piece that resembles a gong and is printed with the image of a sonogram, which seems to express the sense of an identity before it emerges into the world.

Such pictorial presences become denser as one proceeds through the show, in which painting is interpreted as event. The most incisive work on view is undoubtedly Stanza 0, an interpretation of Mantegna’s Camera degli sposi (Wedding Chamber), which is positioned on the ceiling. Here, the figures who gaze down beneath a nocturnal sky seem to be looking at a square of earth located on the floor.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

“The Great Mother”

FONDAZIONE NICOLA TRUSSARDI
Piazza della Scala 5
August 25, 2015–November 15, 2015

Gillian Wearing, Self-Portrait as My Mother Jean Gregory, 2003, ink-jet print, 59 x 51 1/2".

For the exhibition “The Great Mother,” curator Massimiliano Gioni borrowed the title of a book by psychologist Erich Neumann—an analysis of divine female archetypes throughout history—and studied texts such as Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born, and Carla Lonzi’s Let’s Spit on Hegel. The result, with works by 139 artists from 1900 to the present, is a multifaceted and intimate portrait of women and the maternal phase’s role in the creation of ego. The exhibition begins with a Freudian play of symbolism and analysis via Magdalena Abakanowicz’s formal renderings of large genitalia, which viewers metaphorically pass through to embark on a journey back into the womb. Brancusi’s Le nouveau-né (The New Born), 1920/2003, a bronze ovoid baby, hangs in the balance between nature and artifice.

Proceeding into archives of photos, texts, and films, Salvador Dalí’s oneiric, ancillary nudes and Remedios Varo’s mystical figures make an appearance. In this show, women make decisions about their own bodies and interpolate the personal and the political, an attitude confirmed in the work of Ana Mendieta, Annette Messager, and Carolee Schneemann. Elsewhere, women are patricidal, as in the work of Louise Bourgeois, or in the case of Sherrie Levine’s and Elaine Sturtevant’s works, they usurp man’s creative role, copying and reexamining works by historical male masters. The mother-as-matron becomes once again central, spitting on her son’s face in Ragnar Kjartansson’s performance video Me and My Mother, 2000, though love still emerges. It all concludes with Gillian Wearing’s Self-Portrait as My Mother Jean Gregory, 2003, where the artist models a mask of her mother’s face to achieve an absolute symbiosis, encouraging the viewer to respect a human being’s experience beyond the biological role.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Chiara Valacchi

Enrico Castellani

CARDI GALLERY | MILAN
Corso di Porta Nuova 38
September 23, 2015–December 19, 2015

View of “Enrico Castellani: Alla radice del non illusorio” (At the Root of the Non-Illusory), 2015.

An essential classicism, almost as if we were within the regular and inexorable breath of painting itself, vibrates through Enrico Castellani’s latest exhibition. “Alla radice del non illusorio” (At the Root of the Non-Illusory) offers fifteen works created between the 1960s and 2000 and allows viewers to follow the consistent path of this protagonist of the poetics of expressive reduction and annulment. He has been working in what has become his characteristic manner since 1959: monochrome canvases with concave and convex folds punctuated by regular sequences of nails inserted below the surface. The works are arrayed in large rooms where the white canvases, broken up by extraordinary intervals of silver, then reds and blues, interpret the plastic qualities of convex forms. The early orthogonal formats are followed by jutting forms that accentuate the works’ three-dimensionality and visual, perspectival, and spatial progressions that spread beyond the dimension of the object circumscribed by its physical boundaries, opening up to an active relationship with the surrounding space.

Castellani’s goal has always been to reaffirm painting’s identity as a concrete translation of space and time, not as a representative fiction of some other place. He gives us a fragment of infinity that is the very substance of the real world, as the title of this show indicates. This ground zero of the image contains a concentration of the energy of a space in the process of becoming, which is both the origin and the experience of reality.

Translation from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

Gianni Piacentino

FONDAZIONE PRADA | MILAN
Largo Isarco 2
November 7, 2015–January 10, 2016

View of “Gianni Piacentino,” 2015–16.

Reverse chronology is the unusual strategy taken by this anthological exhibition of more than ninety works by Gianni Piacentino, curated by Germano Celant for the Fondazione Prada—an exhibition that accentuates and emphasizes the creative vitality of an artist who surprises and enchants at every turn.

As early as the mid-1960s, Piacentino’s work was already seen as an alternative to American Minimalism; in fact, he had rejected the reductionism of “primary structures” in favor of a more complex notion of the essential. Following a strongly personal bent, he utilizes technological material, experimenting with its spatial and chromatic potential. At first he translates objective spaces, such as his so-called portals and tables into distilled and clear presences—then, from 1969 on, begins to reframe their identities as agile “vehicles,” in his words. Thus in the exhibition we encounter evocative images of cars, motorcycles, and airplanes, which annul any familiarity or quotidian quality that these references might have, thanks to the artist’s imaginative interpretation. Nothing is ever reproduced or purely described, because he reinvents every form, every material, in his own unmistakable visions, in which we recognize an intentional wedding of clarity and ambiguity.

In their constructive perfection and their symbolic reference to speed, which is central to his way of life, Piacentino has created something we might call a high-tech renaissance, due to the potent classicism with which he rigorously and continually builds these figurations of what lies ahead—thought-generating devices, if you will, that for fifty years have continued to project us toward the future, faster than light.

Translation from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

Calvin Marcus

PEEP-HOLE
VIa Stilicone 10
November 20, 2015–January 23, 2016

View of “Calvin Marcus,” 2015–16.

For his debut solo exhibition in Italy, Calvin Marcus has created a body of work that delves into different formal registers. Based on the gallery’s architecture, wherein three rooms unfold one after the other, the installation reveals dual aspects of solids and voids. The show’s path is laid out so that it appears dense with works as one progresses through the show but empty as one returns to the exit. As a result, the site is perceived first as an exhibition space and then as an untouched domestic environment.

In the first room, the artist has positioned eleven small ceramics on three plinths. The sculptures have a childlike quality, presenting groups of smiling cetaceans. This ironic and light beginning offsets the disquietude expressed in the rest of the show by a series of nine large paintings titled “Me with Tongue,” 2015. These are arranged as pairs of self-portraits and are based on smaller crayon sketches, which have been magnified onto canvas. Here, the artist obsessively offers a reflection on the authorial and narcissistic aspects of an artistic creative practice. Executed in black, red, and green oil paint, these works echo at times the small ceramic objects: There are smiling but also grotesque, satanic, and ridiculous faces that emerge from off-white or black monochrome backgrounds. Throughout the exhibition, Marcus has staged an emotional experiment in search of a point of equilibrium between poetry and discomfort, presenting a smart analysis of artistic identity.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Chiara Valacchi

“Susy Culinsky & Friends”

FANTA SPAZIO
via Merano 21
November 28, 2015–January 31, 2016

View of “Susy Culinsky & Friends,” 2015–16.

Blue velvet adorns the walls of Fanta Spazio for this curiously titled group show. A year ago, the artist Beatrice Marchi, who curated the exhibition, gave thirty-eight emerging female artists, all around the same age as her, an assignment to create works about sex on A4 paper without using digital techniques, which she has gathered here. The velvet that covers the walls evokes a theater curtain, and on it are the resultant drawings of phallic forms and a multitude of other erotic signs, all identically framed.

When asked about the show, Marchi astutely describes it simply as an encounter among friends. With this she adds to its indefinite nature, for, yes, it is an encounter among female artists who know one another, but it is also a recognition of the intimate, private visual imagination of a generation of women who here reveal their dreams, certainties, fragilities, and desires. The principal questions this exhibition poses to the viewer are: “Is there such a thing as gender-specificity in art today?” and “Are there impulses or perceptions that female artists feel they still cannot express?” The longing to produce an entertaining situation and to activate a debate around these questions seems to constitute the two polarities upon which this show rests. Yet it is ultimately a vague project, which reflects thorny questions shared by men and women, and may even result in ambiguous opinions.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Christoph Meier and Nicola Pecoraro

FONDERIA ARTISTICA BATTAGLIA
Via Stilicone, 10
December 9, 2015–February 12, 2016

Christoph Meier, Nicola Pecoraro, Untitled, 2014–2015, bronze, reed, dimensions variable.

Presented by the itinerant Ermes-Ermes gallery, “Lost Form” is a show that consists of a single piece by Christoph Meier and Nicola Pecoraro: a modular installation occupying an entire wing of the historic Fonderia Battaglia. The basic unit of the work is a five-way joint in bronze, which the artists molded by hand and then manufactured at a foundry. The joints connect horizontal bamboo reeds that form a grid of large squares. Vertical reeds are positioned at the intersections of the lattice, supporting it above viewers’ heads and creating an aerial structure that occupies a territory midway between sculpture and architecture, whose materials form a playfully “confusing quarrel over which is supporting what, what is displaying and what is being displayed,” as the show’s catalogue essayist, Pieternel Vermoortel, notes.

At first glance, the piece conjures Minimalist traditions, but the materials, which conjoin the irregular (and sensual) nature of the handmade with that of the organic, free the work from any sort of facile association with the industrial aesthetics favored by Sol LeWitt and his peers. But this association is most undermined by the fact that the grid—rather than adapting to the building’s design, as the formal etiquette of Minimalism would have suggested—instead imposes itself aggressively upon it: The walls have been perforated ad hoc to allow the bamboo reeds to pass through, and the structure invades every space (including the bathroom) like a parasitic plant—or, indeed, like bamboo, whose extremely rapid and voracious growth the piece seems to be emulating.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Simone Menegoi

“Imaginarii”

FONDAZIONE CARRIERO
Via Cino del Duca, 4
September 16–February 20

View of “Imaginarii,” 2015–16.

The debut exhibition at the Fondazione Carriero brings together the work of Gianni Colombo, Giorgio Griffa, and Davide Balula. There is no apparent or immediate connection between the three different artistic stories in the show, which curator Francesco Stocchi has conceived of as a dialogue. However, the exhibition focuses on the works’ relation to time and space. Stocchi states that the pieces here “do not exist through their physical presence but because of what we see.”

Griffa is represented by a set of paintings showing lines of color on raw canvas, which, even in their extreme reductiveness, do not reject poetic emotionality. Colombo’s work carries the balance between immobility and movement to extreme consequences, in a sort of contradiction, which is then reasserted in Balula’s pieces. Colombo is a kinetic and environmental artist, the creator of mutable structures—such as Spazio Elastico, Ambiente (Elastic Space, Ambient), 1967–68—that provoke topological alterations of geometric volumes and thus involve the viewer. Meanwhile, Balula’s approach to process starts with objects, habits, or ordinary events; he constructs an anima mundi where imagination becomes communication, and here his work reverberates with that of the other two artists. He stages force fields where intensities and opposing impulses are blocked in apparent stasis, as in Grand Opening, 2015, in which rocks hold red cables in tension. These sculptures can seem like threatening emblems or tools conceived to assault the space, to modify the surrounding environment with a commanding gesture. They are symbols of a desire for struggle and transformation, where rage and hope are concentrated. Moreover, they express a quantity of space set in motion.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Barbara Bloom

GALLERIA RAFFAELLA CORTESE | VIA STRADELLA 1
Via Stradella 1
December 3–February 27

GALLERIA RAFFAELLA CORTESE | VIA STRADELLA 7
Via Stradella 7
December 3–February 27

View of “Barbara Bloom,” 2015–16.

Los Angeles artist Barbara Bloom’s solo show at Galleria Raffaella Cortese consists of separate installations in two of the gallery’s three Milan spaces. In one, seven carpets seem to float at various short distances above the floor. Made of smooth moquette, each features a distinctive pattern of raised dots—Braille text, to be precise. Six of the carpets contain respective fragments of text from Bloom’s favorite authors: Raymond Chandler, André Gide, James Joyce, Gabriel García Márquez, Cormac McCarthy, and Haruki Murakami. Her excerpts are universally relevant, containing descriptions of atmospheric conditions. Each is also a different color, all complex tones that bring to mind open skies, bodies of water, or grassy expanses. Bloom is interested in absence and its representations. Here she constructs a work in which Braille texts communicate color to those who cannot see it, while using color as a stand-in for literary experience for those who cannot read the tactile notation. Finally, the seventh carpet describes, with both color and text, the meteorological conditions in Los Angeles at 2 AM on July 11, 1951—the artist’s time and place of birth.

The other gallery space contains the photographic series “Works for the Blind,” 1988. Each is a photograph of an optical illusion, featuring a phrase in Braille typed over the image. The same phrase is printed in the Roman alphabet, white on black, at the scale of a postage stamp. Images and texts (by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Roland Barthes, and Dorothy Sayers) refer to the difficulty of seeing things for what they really are. But even while observing the enigmatic photographs of illusions, few will register the content of the corresponding text, which is too small to read. Bloom’s visually impaired audience, however, are able to read her excerpts, as the Plexiglas covering each work, cut to correspond to the Braille text beneath, can be touched.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Benjamin Senior

MONICA DE CARDENAS | MILAN
Via Francesco Viganò 4
December 3–February 27

Benjamin Senior, Northen Arcade, 2015, oil on linen, 47 1/4 x 59".

In “Parade,” English artist Benjamin Senior’s second solo show at this gallery, seventeen new paintings on canvas and panel are distributed throughout the entire space and, for the first time in this artist’s work, feature dynamic and multiethnic scenes, urban and suburban in their feel. From depictions of subjects in gymnastic poses, Senior moves on to portray refined and vivid urban architectures, in which pedestrians can be seen engaged in ordinary acts such as reading or taking walks. The artist has always hewn to classical pictorial models, and he connects drawing to painting using chiaroscuro to define, in subtle shades, the volumes of figures arrested in time.

Yet the artist dispenses with traditional approaches to delve into the compositional rules of painters such as Georges Seurat or Jean Hélion, and in works such as The Hound or Cat and Dog (both 2015), Senior applies a deep perspective from below, in homage to Andrea Mantegna. The faces of the figures in his tableaux vivants on canvas are often turned away or hidden by hair, thereby becoming structural layers perfectly linked to the background, while the texture of clothing becomes incorporated into the paintings’ overall visuals. The practice of the preparatory sketch (one of which is on view) becomes even more essential for the realization of four nudes, created from a live model. Here the skin tones and the shapes of the bodies activate a decorative divertissement with the objects that surround them, allowing numerous details and interactions to slowly emerge.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Chiara Valacchi

“Ennesima”

FONDAZIONE LA TRIENNALE DI MILANO
Viale Alemagna 6
November 26–March 6

View of “Ennesima,” 2015–16.

Ennesima,” best translated as “umpteenth,” is a meta-exhibition as it reflects on itself. It is divided according to seven working hypotheses that make it possible to interpret and reinterpret the past fifty years of Italian art through seven exhibition formats and 170 works by more than seventy artists. Curator Vincenzo De Bellis has clearly worked from a desire to express the natural coexistence of these formats, without locking himself into one project that attempts to show stylistic connections at all costs. Already in the first section, “Per la scrittura di un’immagine” (For the Writing of an Image), focused on iconography, De Bellis demonstrates sensitivity in establishing sophisticated relationships among the works on view. He has succeeded in explicating unexpected reverberations and resonances between the materials used by Diego Perrone and Carol Rama as well as between the folds of fabric immortalized by both the photographs of Giuseppe Gabellone and the paintings of Pietro Roccasalva.

Roccasalva and Alessandro Pessoli leave an indelible mark on the viewer’s memory. Pessoli is given a veritable solo exhibition. Titled “Sandrinus, il tutto prima delle parti” (Sandrinus, the Whole Before the Parts), it consists of drawings, ceramics, and paintings. Visitors will feel the strong emotional impact of the group of tableaux vivants that make up the fourth stage of “Ennesima,” including La performance del tempo sospeso: il tableau vivant tra realtà e rappresentazione (The Performance of Suspended Time: The Tableau Vivant Between Reality and Representation) and Tra i giovani della sesta mostra, intitolata: tempo presente, modo indefinito. Format: mostra colletiva generazionale (Present Time, Indefinite Mode. Format: Generational Group Exhibition). Here, Alessandro Agudio, an alchemist who worked with architectural materials and symbols, stands out.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Gina Folly

ERMES-ERMES
via del Gazometro 50
October 6, 2015–November 27, 2015

Gina Folly, Youth, 2015, chromium steel, pump, green tea, 35 x 20 x 16".

When entering Ermes-Ermes’s premises, the audience is immediately aware that the show isn’t set in an ordinary gallery but instead in the gallerist’s private residence. Artist Gina Folly responds to the venue by questioning the boundary separating the domestic sphere from the public one. Untitled (Hands) (all works cited, 2015), for instance, features stretched scans of the artist’s hand printed on polypropylene that covers three doorways in the house. This work forces spectators to cease their march, yet the transparency of the sheets of plastic attracts their voyeuristic gaze beyond them, revealing the blurry interior of two bedrooms and a kitchen. Intimate retreats designated for rest become subjected to the viewer’s imagination.

In the only accessible space of the home, the floor is covered with a peach-bisque colored carpet on which sits Youth, a steel fountain pumping green-tea-scented water. A lamp, whose light supposedly boosts serotonin levels, hangs from the ceiling for True Lights (Roma), while a photograph of a tabby cat, titled Ravel, stares at the fountain. The environment seems to be a meditative one, inducing viewers to take their time.

The adjacent balcony hides Magic Box VII, a polycarbonate box resembling a Minimalist house but which is actually a replica of a multilevel food container for monkeys used in zoos to encourage their creative and cognitive abilities. This work is visible from inside and outside the building, emphasizing the relationship between interior and exterior, between the complexity of a private life and the public representation of a subject. Engaging with the rich and concealed aspects of subjectivity, yet not completely disclosing them, the exhibition deals in questions of self-perception and the construction of a social image.

Ilaria Gianni

“Consequences”

FONDAZIONE GIULIANI
via Gustavo Bianchi, 1
October 10, 2015–December 12, 2015

Jay Heikes, Our Frankenstein (Bottom), 2015, cement, steel, plastic, fabric, paint, 43 x 13 x 9".

In an experiment in curating, Jay Heikes brought together his closest friends for a dialogue that moved across the Atlantic, resulting in works created specifically for this exhibition. This participatory proposal recalls structuralist criticism of the 1960s, but with a contemporary spin. At the entrance to the space, Heikes’s The Family Tree, 2003, heralds the exhibition’s distinctively collaborative nature. Frog Prints, 2014, by Heikes and Michael Stickrod, entrusts the execution of the work to the unpredictable movement of an actual frog sprinkled with paint. Elsewhere, Jessica Jackson Hutchins’s Painted with Starts, 2015, combines ceramics and fabric atop a picnic table that the artist received from the curator.

The multiple authors hidden behind each piece challenge the present-day obsession with personality in the art world, putting the focus back on the work. Heikes’s Our Frankenstein (Bottom), 2015, in which a single figure is composed from garments that the participating artists contributed, creating a monstrously jumbled creature, epitomizes the overall theme of this exhibition. This piece embodies the notion of authorship as Marcel Duchamp’s Rrose Sélavy taught us: nurtured by freedom and irony.

This exhibition as a whole refers to the Surrealist cadavre exquis, or exquisite corpse, and evokes that parlor game’s playful and surprising atmosphere. As Heikes bluntly states, we are confronted with a very American garden throughout the show: “Drunken, dumb, colorful and of marginal taste.”

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld

GALLERIA MARIO IANNELLI
Via Flaminia 380
October 28, 2015–January 16, 2016

View of “Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld: Excuse Me, May I Have Some Gravel Tea?,” 2015–16.

In Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld’s latest exhibition, “Excuse Me, May I Have Some Gravel Tea?,” organic and chemical elements collide with the digital, creating an inevitable short circuit. For example, in several photographic works from her “Universal Cleaner” series (all works 2015), Schönfeld exorcises a human fear of extinction. These ink-jet prints stem from images that dissolved on an iPad after she poured liquid detergent on its screen—a most feared technological threat—and photographed the results, as in Universal Cleaner (Blue Marble), Universal Cleaner (Tiles), and Universal Cleaner (Gravity Issues).

Throughout the show, Schönfeld renounces any dramatic aspect of loss for the creation of images and confuses boundaries that separate magic and technology. Several works from the “Shaman Coat” series are made with cowhide supports. The coexistence of the spotted hide’s natural colors and the nuances of the print produce visual landscapes, while the hide becomes a spiritual medium, capable of leading the viewer to other universes. A gestural aspect also underlies the entire show. Pouring the detergent onto a screen, like hurling squid-ink linguini onto the white walls of the gallery (for Octopus Oracle), here translates into an act of protest and a query into the authenticity of natural elements.

A reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey also leads to a reflection on the origins of the world as well as to the real possibility of the disappearance of the human species. For instance, in Shaman Coat I, Dr. Dave Bowman’s glance, emerging from the cowhide, exerts a magnetic, unforgettable power.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Mario Rizzi

STUDIO STEFANIA MISCETTI
Via Delle Mantellate, 14
December 9–February 20

Mario Rizzi, Al Intithar (The Waiting), 2013, color, sound, 30 minutes.

For more than a decade, Mario Rizzi, a photographer and filmmaker attuned to sociopolitical changes in the Islamic world, has been investigating the fates of individuals and communities uprooted from their cultural traditions and homes by regional conflicts. Al Intithar (The Waiting), 2013, the first part of his trilogy Bayt (Home), 2012–, is a thirty-minute film at the center of this exhibition. It was shot in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, just four miles from the Syrian border. At the time, the camp accommodated approximately forty-five thousand refugees (the number is now around eighty thousand) who were besieged by both the Syrian government and opposition forces. Surrounded by Jordanian tanks, the camp is an immense agglomeration of tents and containers in the desert, pounded by sudden sandstorms. Those in the camp cannot leave except with a permit or by fleeing, with the hope that some foreign country will welcome them.

Al Intithar focuses on the daily life of a young widow from Homs and her three children; it is through her that Rizzi examines the camp’s collective existence, despite desperate conditions. The women perform the usual caretaking, cooking, and cleaning; they maintain relationships and even arrange marriages via cell phone with families who have remained in Syria. The men, feeling useless, are troubled and want to get out and fight. In the outdoor shots, Rizzi gives these people an almost monumental dignity amid the dusty whiteness of their surroundings, while in the close-ups of interiors, he discreetly approaches a world characterized by renunciation and sacrifice but also affection and bonds.

Choosing a nonlinear narration style and allowing personalities to emerge from conversations and relationships, Rizzi conveys a state of mind that the refugees share: the maintenance of the family core as a foundation of identity that enables survival amid displacement. Bearing witness to how the concepts of belonging and home can be affirmed where boundaries have been annulled or redrawn by wars, Rizzi, with his empathic gaze, observes the birth of a new social model of coexistence—the cosmopolises of the refugee camps—from which a new generation is emerging that will lay claim to the history of its native land.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Ida Panicelli

Chiara Camoni

NOMAS FOUNDATION
Viale Somalia 33
November 24–February 26

View of “Chiara Camoni,” 2015–16

Chiara Camoni’s solo exhibition, curated by Cecilia Canziani and Ilaria Gianni, offers a space of meditation. Creating a sort of extended self-portrait, the show gathers together works from different times in the artist’s life, as well as newer installations, ranging from video to sculpture to painting and drawing. Like a paleontologist, the artist excavates the origins and nature of creativity and of her many media.

La neve gialla (Yellow Snow), (all works cited 2015), a performance staged at the show’s opening for a limited audience, told a story inspired by the artist’s childhood. A magic lantern containing a candle, projecting colorful figures as well as texts, offered a reexamination of the Platonic cave and referenced the direct antecedents of cinema. In the first room, terra-cotta sculptures arranged on an L-shaped table appear to be articles from a distant civilization that play a role in rituals and beliefs tied to the cycles of nature. The artist calls these primordial creatures “Ninesse,” and they seem to have been inspired by the Great Mother, a universal fertility symbol that many have posited has been present in mythologies since Neolithic times.

Nearby, two paintings are almost invisible on the walls, executed in pure tempera, prepared by hand using eggs and pigment and applied to paper. In the second room are two more works, Il Tronco e il Trapezio (The Trunk and Keystone), and Vasi (Pots) , made by the artist with others. Another example of collaboration—a frequent aspect of her practice—was a project she executed with her grandmother, who was entrusted to create a series of drawings. That work, La chanteuse au gant (The singer with glove), appears at the entrance of the show. Culling from her own daily life, Camoni creates work that describes people and their values; her art, by virtue of its sincerity and intrinsic poetry, immediately becomes universal.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

“Cobra. Una Grande Avanguardia Europea 1948–51”

FONDAZIONE ROMA MUSEO
Via del Corso, 320, Palazzo Cipolla
December 4–April 3

Pierre Alechinsky, Le Point du jour (Sunrise), 1966, oil on canvas, 51 x 32".

Among postwar art movements, Cobra undoubtedly played a decisive role in establishing a new and authentically European artistic language after the tragedy of World War II. This insightful exhibition is a unique occasion for those wishing to become acquainted with Cobra’s cultural revolution. The show includes 150 works by the principal exponents of the group—including Pierre Alechinsky, Karel Appel, Corneille, Constant, and Asger Jorn—selected and presented to construct a geographic, typological, and stylistic mapping that is truly exemplary of Cobra’s distinctiveness. These works are accompanied by a core group of drawings and a documentary section of publications from the time, including a complete set of the “Bibliothèque Cobra,” 1950, a series of fifteen monographic studies on members of the movement.

Here, one can clearly see how Cobra’s originality in the context of postwar art informel lies in its fusion of typically Surrealist elements—automatism, primitivism—and its visionary quality characteristic of Northern European expressionism. Despite its brief duration as an organized group from 1948–51, Cobra was immensely influential because of these roots and assumed a significance that was not only artistic but also more broadly cultural, political, and social. Many of the works on view evince imaginative, unrestrained chromatic gestural qualities and an expressive spontaneity of great evocative power. All this takes on a cogent relevance today, in part because of the transnational nature of the movement, which would prove crucial, in subsequent decades, for the evolution of global art.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

Brigitte March Niedermair

MAMBO - MUSEUM OF MODERN ART OF BOLOGNA
via Don Minzoni, 14
December 15–April 3

Brigitte March Niedermair, “Transition _ Giorgio Morandi,” 2012–13, C-print, 22 x 28 1/2.”

A contemplation of the horizon marks South Tyrolean artist Brigitte March Niedermair’s current solo exhibition at the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (MAMbo). This study connects two different photographic investigations: “Are You Still There,” 2011–14, and “Transition_Giorgio Morandi,” 2012–13. The latter series was made possible by a program the Museo Morandi has developed in recent years that encourages contemporary artists to measure their art against the great master’s. Working with the collection, which is housed at MAMbo, Niedermair considered Morandi’s historic studio on the Via Fondazza in Bologna. He spent nearly his entire life there, and Niedermair attempts to capture this through her attention to his perspectival and existential condition. Many of her shots are populated with objects that Morandi depicted in his paintings, which are still present in the studio.

In these pictures, Niedermair focuses on the horizon instead of the objects, and this elegant stance imbues her work with extraordinary pictorial value. While the individual photos in “Transition_Giorgio Morandi” do not have titles, those in “Are You Still There” reveal their provenance in both their titles and in the works. For example, the photo The Shining Pyramid, Pharaoh Sneferu Red Pyramid-Dahshur, which shows exactly that, is an exemplary work in this show. Like the other photos from this series, it seems to convey the origins of the very concept of the horizon, or rather the origin of human awareness of that concept.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

“Nobody Home”

A PALAZZO GALLERY
Palazzo Cigola, Piazza Tebaldo Brusato 35
September 25, 2015–November 14, 2015

Christina Mackie, Filters, 2014, silk, linen, nylon, resin, aluminum, pulleys, glass, fiberglass, dye, hemp, sisal, ropes, each 26' x 24".

Everything about this exhibition leads one to conclude that the building where the gallery is located is its true subject. It is a place simultaneously precious and fragile in its decorations and frescoes, and the curator, Gigiotto Del Vecchio, has skillfully created a reverberation between the artists’ gestures and the sumptuous rooms. Enchanting are Natalie Häusler’s slabs of acrylic-painted cardboard atop a floor piece and completed by a sound recording in Monika/Subway, 2012. Two works from Christina Mackie’s “Filter” series, 2014, are equally magical and fascinating—featuring cones made from silk gauze, each absorbing pigment from basins for the entire duration of the exhibition. Magic also reoccurs as a preposterous attitude in Charlie Billingham’s dexterous paintings, the most striking of which is Post Horn, 2015, a sort of screen executed in oil on linen. There are also hints of witchcraft in the work of Douglas Gordon, especially his two pieces titled “Self Portrait of You + Me,” 2012, made of burned paper, smoke, and mirrors.

Giulio Delvè addresses the unearthly as the enchantment of the ordinary, recording the small but great miracles of everyday occurrences such as those encountered on the street. His surprising and apparently spontaneous pieces include Azione meccanica (di una roccia effusive su un solido amorfo) (Mechanical Action [of an effusive rock on an amorphous solid]), 2011, made of a small, porphyry cobblestone, perhaps one used for street paving, which in turn is covered in little cubes of glass resembling bits of a shattered shop window.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Alice Cattaneo

GALLERIA COLLICALIGREGGI
Via Indaco 23
January 23–April 20

View of “Alice Cattaneo: Un qui puntiforme unitissimo (A Very Uniform Punctiform Here),” 2016.

While Alice Cattaneo’s slim, untitled sculptures seem barely there in her debut solo exhibition in Sicily, every piece maintains its materiality. The title of the show, “Un qui puntiforme unitissimo,” which can be translated as “A very uniform punctiform here,” is both the vision the artist has of the air around things and a verse by the Italian poet Andrea Zanzotto. But it also becomes the hypothesis for being aware of how these new works establish their intimate relationship to the space. This is not an immediate process but is marked by a growing rhythm.

Indeed, the show creates an ever-stronger and pervasive sensation of finding oneself inside a three-dimensional plane wherein the artist has designed and installed various forms. The use of certain materials—such as iron, PVC, nylon thread, plastic cable ties, and Scotch tape—is functional but does not always dictate the work’s direction. Instead, there is an interest in the coexistence of elements of different natures, which clash and seem to not coincide. Everything is subject to the artist’s visionary will, and the works appear to balance between lightness and suspension, alternating the feeling of a widespread disconnection and a perception of solidity.

The “punctiform here” could be a possible modality for uniting points in space. When observing visitors in the show, one notices that their movements almost seem to change the pieces, as if the lines of the works were repositioning themselves in the gallery. Even after one leaves, this uncanny effect continues beyond the exhibition.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesco Lucifora

Jan Fabre

GALLERIA IL PONTE
via di Mezzo 42/b
October 2, 2015–December 18, 2015

Jan Fabre, Teschio con le chiavi dell’inferno (Skull with the Keys of Hell), 2015, jewel beetle wing cases, polymers, iron, 9 x 8 x 7".

“Knight of the Night,” Jan Fabre’s current exhibition in Florence, is wonderfully nocturnal; one might call it a voyage into the unknown regions of the regenerative power of one’s inner being, a visionary itinerary studded with glimmers and depth. Here, symbolic and archetypal figurations are arrayed—sculptures of scarab gems that depict skulls and of fragments of body armor—and the knight is the artist himself. Fabre identifies with Lancelot, of the Arthurian Breton romance and protagonist of the twelfth-century medieval poem by Chrétien de Troyes. Fabre first references the knight in his 2004 film Lancelot, referring to him as “the knight of desperation [who] triumphed over himself.”

The sculptures where pieces of armor coincide with body parts are powerfully evocative, as in Armatura (Pettorale) (Armor [Breastplate]), Armatura (Braccio) (Armor [Arm]), andArmatura (Gambale) (Armor [Leg]), all 1997. Along with these, some skull sculptures, such as Teschio con le chiavi dell’inferno (Skull with the Keys of Hell), 2015, stage a theater of nature. All these works are made with insects, shimmering beetles that, with their polychrome armor and radiating antennae, draw upon an amazement that comes directly from natural physicality and gives rise to a fantastical world. Images of the corporeal fragment or of the skull thus become the place where a dialectic between beauty and transience unfolds that is fundamental to Fabre’s work. These are images of a precious and shining vanitas, metamorphoses that are between horror and wonder, astonishment and fascination.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Francesca Pola

Hella Gerlach

GALLERIA ACAPPELLA
Via Cappella Vecchia 8
October 29, 2015–December 20, 2015

View of “Hella Gerlach: paradise garage,” 2015. From left: Cremona (Kopfüber), 2015; Satellite I, 2015; Satellite II, 2015.

Viewing Hella Gerlach’s exhibition “paradise garage” resembles a spiritual exercise. In an effort to unlock the individual works and installations via their titles and configuration, linkages appear on divergent levels. Cremona (Kopfüber) (all works cited, 2015), for instance, extends through the space like an awning held up by two sulfur-yellow poles, which are mounted between two walls. The black bar pattern on its fabric is reminiscent of the facade structure of traditional wooden-frame houses commonly seen in historic city centers or suburbs of Germany. This architecture is based on the mathematical system of Luigi Cremona, who promulgated the formula that balance arises at every junction of a built wooden framework through the push and pull of forces exercised. Gerlach translates this principle of construction into social structures, which are also ordered by the exchange of different, more emotional forces—whether within the family unit or otherwise communal spaces.

Two installations, Satellite I and II, present the most concrete approach to this notion of structural elasticity. These metal sculptures rise out of concrete bases and branch out into new bifurcations, suggesting an equilibrium of forces. The dominant note, though, is carried by two individual works, Nervenkostüm and Nervenkostüm (Timeless Light), which are made from neoprene, and Nervenkostüm is draped over the first Satellite. In this display, the fabric’s weight suggests a mental state. Throughout “paradise garage,” Gerlach creates a multifaceted representation of collective realms of experience, in which inside and outside are connected through a subjective and rather personal perspective.

Translated from German by Diana Reese

Melissa Canbaz

Paloma Varga Weisz

CASTELLO DI RIVOLI MUSEO D'ARTE CONTEMPORANEA
Piazza Mafalda di Savoia
October 27, 2015–January 10, 2016

View of “Paloma Varga Weisz,” 2015–16.

What if memory were not a trustworthy and responsible means for gauging a life? And what if the simple reason for this was that memory does not give priority to the truth? Is memory actually more pragmatic, devious, and cunning? Not in a hostile or malicious manner—on the contrary, it might act to satisfy our needs. This exhibition by the German artist Paloma Varga Weisz poses such substantial questions. It is a show of anthropomorphic sculptures endowed with mysterious protuberances, which appear as ideal extrusions of our sensory systems. The sculptures seem to be the result of a syncretic action between the kinds of sculpture that one still sees in European alpine regions and early examples of three-dimensional art, particularly the Venus of Willendorf. Many of the gouaches also on view here establish a discourse with the sculptures, while the film Deux Artists, 1986, by Varga Weisz, Bernd Stoll, and Feri Varga, documents a surreal dialogue between two protagonists: the artist and her father.

There is something about this show that pushes memory into the void of oblivion, distorting it into something unrecognizable. The installation gallantly misinterprets it, but then clearly restores it. Memory an idea also supported by the exhibition’s title, “Root of a Dream,” which is taken from a poem by Paul Celan and here refers to Varga Weisz’s investigation into the relationship between recollection and the return of the repressed.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro

Paul Etienne Lincoln

GUIDO COSTA PROJECTS
Via Mazzini, 24
November 7, 2015–February 7, 2016

Paul Etienne Lincoln, The Glover’s Repository, 2007–2015, mixed media, 78 x 145 x 20"

Archival research is often the engine behind Paul Etienne Lincoln’s projects. He customarily works with allegorical devices inspired by a wide range of circumstances usually linked to historical or literary figures. His mechanical installations and sculptures almost always require many years of work to reach their definitive forms. The results of something between anthropological research, physically motivated experimentation, and an exploration of formal concerns, they delineate universal themes, inflected by the contingencies of exemplary figures’ lives.

On the occasion of his fourth solo gallery show, the artist has constructed a mental and geographic map alternately informed by history, literature, and science. Lincoln has chosen twenty-four figures, drawn from three centuries, who have all committed—or been victims of—great betrayals: the Countess of Castiglione, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Irene Adler (a fictional character from a Sherlock Holmes story), and Yuri Gagarin, among others. Each is described in a detailed biographical entry on the wall and by either an original glove owned by the corresponding historical figure, or a replica or creation based on primary sources. The gloves rotate on vertical axes at speeds determined by the life spans of their putative owners. With all its elements together, the large sculpture becomes a “storage closet,” a “warehouse” of ideas, existences, and objects, as the show’s title announces, but also an enormous clock of sorts, activated by a complex mechanism that recounts the peculiarities of each referenced character. The exhibition also resembles a miniaturized planetarium, a sophisticated allegory in which each glove symbolizes a life lived, and where the relationship of its elements’ different velocities—and the dovetailing combination of its moving parts—give rise to unrepeatable circumstances.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marta Silvi

Sean Scully

PALAZZO FALIER
San Marco, 2906
May 9, 2015–November 22, 2015

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

“Proportio”

PALAZZO FORTUNY
San Marco 3780
May 9, 2015–November 22, 2015

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