Pordenone, Italia 1969
Live in Milan
Simple Is not Simplistic
by Milovan Farronato
Crashing into a wall and rubbing yourself against a wall. The wailing wall or the western wall. Talking to a wall or banging your head against a wall. Walls speak and walls have ears too. Bouncing off the walls or, alternatively, putting up a wall of silence. In her 1995 work Wallfuckin' Monica Bonvicini shows a woman copulating with a wall: her identity is not relevant, her face is outside the frame. The act of intercourse, which certainly does not have the nature of an attraction to the other, is carried out between the rigid architectural structure, historically and pragmatically regarded as male, and the female body as locus of political and sexual dissent. In Hammering Out (an Old Argument) (1998), again by Bonvicini, we see the hands of a woman attacking a wall with a sledgehammer, revealing a second layer of bricks under the top one. In the video Total (1997) Dara Friedman tears a whole room to pieces and then, by projecting it in reverse, tries to reassemble it after having laid it bare with so much effort. A couple of decades earlier, in 1974, Bruce Nauman made Body Pressure: the viewer/performer was invited to press his or her body against a simulated wall, concentrating on the tension in the muscles, the friction of the skin and even the position of the body hair, the emergence of odours and the effect of breathing in this attempt at total adherence. 'This may become a very erotic exercise' was the last sentence in the artist's instructions for the performance.
Mauro Vignando's series of Black Paintings (I admit they are not walls and yet I still feel the need to set the questions within the framework of these references) are pictures of large size, and not strictly monochromatic as part of the coat of paint has been intentionally removed in what is almost an act of vandalism. Pictures painted in a uniform black that absorbs the light, mock walls where a simple gesture is held, condensed, and crystalized. Vignando literally charges his painting with his shoulder in order to impress the autobiographical trace of his passage; to leave the signature of his body. Is he undermining the painting? Or completing its representation? In the end I think that he deliberately leaves it poised between pure abstraction and attempt at figuration. Both important, both characterizing and inescapable. It is a gesture, not an image. A limited and contained action that does not make a depression in the canvas, but gently caresses its surface, producing the sensation of a brusque rendezvous. It is him, and no one else. Often it is him repeated several times, always at the same height, occasionally using his elbow as well to emphasize the impression, to signal, with conviction, the collision with his work, which only in that moment has been completed. In his series of Sweat Paintings Prem Sahib also creates the pictures by a process of apparent subtraction. For him it is a question of depositing drops of transparent resin on aluminum panels, covering them entirely apart from the restricted area where, in negative, an impression appears. A quasi-pictorial simulation of windows misted over with condensation on which a hand, perhaps, has tried to clear a space to see through; or where a body has passed, leaving its silhouette, perhaps because squeezed by a furtive embrace. In both there is a sort of melancholy romanticism: print, impression, memory. And one of the oldest myths on the origin of painting comes to mind: the story told by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia of the young Kora, daughter of a potter in Corinth, who to preserve the memory of her lover, a soldier leaving for the war, drew the outline of his shadow cast on the wall by a light. Seeing her capture a mental and physical image forever in this way, her father realized the possibility of creating a relief. The circumductio umbrae, or 'circumscription of the shadow', inextricably links the portrait to the function of re-creating the presence of a person (who in all probability will never come back, at least as he or she was at that moment).
In the beginning it was often a simple gesture for Vignando, but one endowed with an epic, almost heroic energy. His recent collages also stem from a fortuitous discovery, that of a simple mechanism capable of making perfectly circular cuts, applied in conjunction with the desire to produce works by limiting and simplifying the actions, by containing the gesture. A collection of fadedpostcards accumulated over time, and often, whenever possible, in duplicate, becomes the starting point for a study of movement and ambiguity. The images are catalogued on the basis of recurrent types: one-point perspectives, religious figures, works of architecture, outdoor settings (fountains or parks), classical sculptures and cathedrals. And then a long series of portraits of actors, most of them from a minor Olympus. It's true, the timeless Marilyn is there too, but more often it is the features and actions of forgotten stars that are manipulated and thus delivered, for one last bit part, from collective amnesia: Rosalind Russell, Lilli Minas, Maureen O'Hara, Rossano Brazzi, Andrea Checchi, Isa Miranda, Paola Barbara, Sonya Henie... Even the interventions that are made on the surface are governed by a well-calibrated protocol of action. There is no improvisation. Perhaps there was at the beginning, but very soon conscious and above all unconscious memory started to play a dominant role, defining a rigorous modus operandi. Often coupled in diptychs, the portraits come to each other's aid. What is removed from one is given to the other and what is missing in the first is replaced by what would have been concealed in the second. And if the portrait is duplicated the manipulation becomes stratified. The cuts are multiplied and the composition becomes more complex, the exchange between the twin images closer still. In the first case the bizarre effect of a verisimilar but unreal portrait is created. (It would be pertinent here to speak of being caught off guard, however overworked the expression). While in the second case it is the sense of a de-location that dominates: the portrait is petrified in movement. The verisimilitude remains as does the anomaly, but absurdly the features grow more rigid, the figures turn into tetragons. The sense of rotation prevails, the image plunges into the abyss of its fragmented repetition.
Another simple and decidedly epic gesture is the one potentially contained in the sculpture The Pedestal for the Last Cigarette, which is exactly what the title says: a plinth with sharp edges (to suggest, I imagine, the sense of a veiled danger) of a height that would allow any hand to reach it without difficulty and deposit on its top, perfectly prepared to receive it, the last, ill-famed cigarette. Nothing could be simpler and yet the sculpture remains open to various convolutions of meaning and interpretation. Is it a monument? A war memorial? A testament to the passing of time? To self-harm? To the need to take a stand, to have just one face and just one word? Or the opposite, Zeno's last cigarette, and the possibility of always changing your mind (after all the pedestal survives with or without it there)? And along with these questions, the complexity of a work that is principally a device. The same complexity for the equally simple crucifix pushed into a corner (the naughty one?). Even this simplistic (in this case) description would in any case be valid enough to offer Untitled (2015) an immediate point of visual reference. The orthogonal planes of the wall (an integral part, without its knowledge, of the work) support in the angle between them a crucifix measuring 240 x 60 x 60 cm. The body and its mystery is sucked into the wall and all that remain visible, looking like an image from a Rorschach test, with all its implications, are the two perfectly symmetrical arms. In this case too what survives is the display: the cross that ends up in the corner.
All that's missing is you, curated by Milovan Farronato, ABC-ARTE, Genoa, IT.
Opere da 1 Kg, Wilson Project Space, Sassari, IT.
Opere Cartesiane, Cripta747, Turin, IT.
15:09:11, Galleria Alessandro De March, Milan, IT.
Absent Bulletin, curated by Chiara Agnello, Careof DOCVA, Milan, IT.
Réel, Gallery Lucie Fontaine, Milan, IT.
Hidden Geometry, Placentia Arte, Piacenza, IT.
ZUDTQCSS, curated by Claudia Battistella, Spazio FVG Villa Manin, Udine.
Mauro Vignando, Room Galleria, Milan, IT.
Tower - an expansive group show of works on paper with artists ranging from Egon Schiele to Flora Hauser, Ibid Project, London, UK.
Desiderio, curated by Arianna Rosica e Damiano Gullì Museo L'ARCA, Laboratorio per le Arti Contemporanee, Teramo, IT.
14 | 14 Modernityʼs first century, curated by Georgios Vogiatzakis, Plasma, Milano, IT.
Miraggi, curated by Samuele Menin, Palazzo Cittadini Stampa, Abbiategrasso, IT.
Convivio, curated by Paola Manfrin, Fiera Milano City, Milan, IT.
This Is Contemporary, X Giornata del Contemporaneo, Fondazione per l'Arte Bartoli Felter, Cagliari, IT.
Enzo, curated by Dario Costa, Wilson Project Space a Sassari, IT.
Summer Show, Spazio Borgogno, Museo Pecci, Milan, IT.
Fessure, curated by Ermanno Cristini, Samuele Menin, Luca Scarabelli, Museo Internazionale Design Ceramico, Varese, IT.
Click or Clash?, curated by Julia Draganović e Federica Patti, Galleria Bianconi, Milan, IT.
Les Associations Libres, curated by Nicola Setari and Dena Foundation, Maison Rouge, Paris, FR.
We love you, Limoncello Gallery, London, UK.
Straight Up, project by Elena Tavecchia and Alice Conconi, Family Business, New York, USA.
Estate, curated by Lucie Fontaine, Gallery Marianne Boesky, NY, USA.
Monochrome, curated by Michal Novotny, Gallery Skolska 28, Praha, CZ.
Run°3, Room Gallery, Milan, IT.
Patterns of the mind, Turku Biennal 2011, selected by Milovan Farronato Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Turku, FIN.
Domesticity - Prague Biennale 5, curated by Lucie Fontine, Prague, CZ.
SC13, curated by Chris Fitzpatrick & Post Brothers, San Francisco Antique & Design Mall, San Francisco, USA.
Persona in meno, curated by Chris Fitzpatrick, Angelique Campes and Erika Cooke, Palazzo Ducale, Genova / Palazzo Guarene, Alba, IT.
Persona in meno, Fondazione Sandretto / Fondazione Garrone, Turin, IT.
Interludium, curated by Milovan Farronato, conference hall de arte disputatio, Miart, IT.
Titolo Grosso, curated by Renato Leotta, Cripta 747, Torino, IT.
Mal d'archive, curated by K.Anguelova-C.Agnello and G.Mansart, La Friche La Belle de Mai, Marseille, FR.
Spasticus Artisticus, curated by Jota Castro and Christian Viveros-Faune, Cery Hand Gallery, Liverpool, UK.
Festa Mobile, curated by Davide Ferri and Antonio Grulli, various locations, Bologna, IT.
La meglio gioventù, curated by Andrea Bruciati, Galleria Comunale d'Arte Contemporanea, Monfalcone, IT.
Italian open!, curated by Paola Clerico, Annet Gelink (the Bakery), Amsterdam, NDL.
L'indiano in giardino, curated by Alek O. and Santo Tolone, neighborhood Isola, various locations, Milan, IT.
As you enter the exhibition you consider this a group show by an artist you don't know by the name of Mr Rossi, curated by Paola Clerico, Spazio Minerva, Milan, IT.
New Italians Epic, curated by Andrea Bruciati, Brown project space, Milan, IT.