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Group Exhibition
F_AIR - Florence Artist in Residence
via San Gallo 45R, 50129 Florence, Tuscany, Italy
June 14, 2011 - July 12, 2011

All is Vanity

The evening of June 14th hosted the opening of F_AIR's exhibition, The Summer Issue. Entering into a white facade of single, simple pieces, a tone is set and the ambiance thrives in the curiosity of finding further value through the minimum. The artist's stories are not told, their personal theme is not bombarded into the gallery, they only have a single piece of themselves to epitomize their work, and to create a story that ties the show together. Inevitably, the showing of single pieces from each artist, is what brings The Summer Issue to life. Friends of F_AIR, the artist's friends, art lovers, and FUA students filled the gallery for a night of fine art, food and exploration of the classical theme of the vanitas. Ears were lent to hear and absorb Faustine, a video by Raffaele di Vaia, eyes were opened to the gallery and invited to explore the vanitas; which featured, the work by Fumitaka Kudo, the reactors of Fukushima atomic plant stand unharmed like a skeleton warning to the future generations; on the contrary in the photograph diptych by Christiana Caro (Jewish Cemetery, 2010), the trace of the single individual prevails over collective and nationalistic vanity. While the Spirals (2010) by Stefania Balestri and Faustine (2009) and Venere (2010) by Raffaele Di Vaia, can be read as a cultured update in contemporary terms to the classical vanitas, Valerio Ricci's gasoline cans (Untitled 2010), inevitably recalls the myth of King Midas.

When first entering the exhibit, Caro's photographs draw attention to the white walls with their impassive black frames. The photographs were taken from a series she did en-route to an island in Slovakia of a desecrated Jewish cemetery. The balance between beauty and sadness of the images makes the photographs incredibly powerful. Located in a cemetery far away from romantic churchyards, two cold, colored mug-shots in neutral lighting under glass nullify our pledge to the monuments of religion, ownership, and order. The theme of her identity stems from her captivation with the islands with locally curated museums in Slovakia.

Parallel to Jewish Cemetery is Spirale, the photographs on cotton by Stefania Balestri. The photographs are so delicate, we are challenged to use our sense of sight, and marvel it's process. Stefania Balestri does not just question what is art and what is nature or vice versa. The subjects are the colors and the forms of the butterfly, suspended and layered over the whirlpool and the basin. This evokes an abstract formal relationship between the bottom and the surface. She does not just question what is art and what is nature or vice versa. In fact, the subject is exactly the surrounding, the back noise of gnats and flies hovering the water and maybe harmful. If the subject is the butterfly, the flies are the intruders that make us interrogate ourself on the role of the art in the very moment the representation of art is just the medium and not the end.

Blocking the middle arch of the gallery are black and white images on canvass hanging sheet-like from the ceiling portraying a world impacted by nuclear disaster. This is the installation piece by Fumitaka Kudo. The allusion to the specular events in Hiroshima and Fukushima is not at all accidental. The images of the canvass by the Japanese were all the more powerful as the timing of the exhibition came after recent voting in Italy finished to abolish nuclear energy. Il Passato è il presente, il Presente è Passato (Past is Present. Present is Past) transmits and records burned grooves incised by a tumoral energy, which, while it destroys, it traces a final stratigraphy of pain, instead of a coil of positive rebirth.

After passing through the canvas, a piece by Valerio Ricci, to the left a fine gold chain links the apparently exactly alike two sculptures, making them have a dialogue, like if they were two specular identities, like the mirror and the act of looking at oneself reflection to gain awareness, evokes another famous myth, that of Narcissus, which retains the essence of the vanitas. In the presence of Valerio Ricci's sculptures, there is a familiar feeling, the aspect of installation is relevant, yet a concept of so much ambiguity is acquired from the blunt confrontation of reality. His piece is blatantly relevant, deepening the feeling of meeting a product that is extremely simple, still amazingly precious. Valerio creates such “intrinsic” preciousness is performed by the choice of material, shape, and color; the gold hued bronze of these luxury containers, and these works alluring to the eye. An echo to the myth of King Midas, where the process in inverse: not the man who touches, transforming into gold, but gold who invites to touch. Yet, sparkling gold is not just outside: the choice of the two containers, hermetically sealed, so visually powerful, makes wonder about their content. The actual dialectics between container (visible) and content (invisible) is one of the leit motiv of Valerio Ricci's research, present not only in his sculpture, but also in the drawings and in his last photographic production. The hidden content evokes an intimate secrecy, closed in a vessel, which indicates its inestimable value. That the container also refer to oil cans, therefore to gasoline, is just surplus value; the preciousness of the black gold is indissolubly linked to its dwelling in the bowels of the earth, like a secret to be kept. Its black body is perfect metaphor of the removed sediment, more than emblem of economic wealth. Maintaining the ambiguity which makes these works open to different suggestions, though sealed in their own unintelligibilty; precious since they hide something even more precious.

On the wall opposite Ricci's piece, is the work of Raffaele Di Vaia. Along the wall, a series of graphite frottages, on extremely black paper. The work conveys perdition and death because the depicted mirrors negate their evident reflective function, yet still simulate it, by recording the shadow of the human passage, without details and color. Raffaele Di Vaia reiterates topical themes, and objects. Di Vaia's work continues to the back wall of the gallery, where the video Faustine (2009) plays. The artists, at times in the guise of the devil or as the observer, waiting to ambush, is simultaneously a captured spectator, and creator of a rhythmic dance of shadows, like Morel, the inventor of the illusory world in the novel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. Differing from Venere, color and human presence mark the work Faustine, but the sensation of perdition and death is equally powerful: the aquamarine of Faustine's garment is in fact too high to be real; and the two women, in dialogue and dancing with the same amount of figures, are no more than immaterial projections of the evil demiurge.

Posted by Michelle Thompson on 8/2/11 | tags: sculpture installation conceptual photography figurative

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