'Pompeii Tagged’ is a series of paintings and prints that evolved from Antonio Petracca’s previous series ‘These are not my Shoes’. In both bodies of work he explores the stereotyping of Italian Americans that is ubiquitous in our popular media. This new series is a blending of a fascination with the art and architecture of Pompeii and a social commentary.
“…A trip to Pompeii was an eye-opener for the artist because he discovered a level of sophistication in Southern Italian culture he hadn’t recognized before. The quantity of magnificent wall paintings with their superb use of perspectival devices, the sophisticated domestic architecture, the intricate mosaics, elaborate gardens astonished him. Petracca quite frankly admits to having experienced a profound sense of pride, ethnic pride really, in this personal discovery of Pompeii. The artifacts unearthed from the 45 acres of this prosperous city more than 1,500 years after the eruption were far more elegant, nuanced, and fascinating than he could have imagined, Why wasn’t it covered in any depth in art school?
Petracca took scores of photographs the single day he was there. Back home in New York, he began combining this Pompeian imagery on his computer with material generated by our American culture. Instead of doing it through side-by-side juxtaposition as he had in his previous series, he actually merged it with the photographs of the ancient works of art themselves. Words and text were superimposed upon the ancient murals. The effects Petracca achieved are more subtle than in the first series, because the ‘tagging’ actually appears to be part of the ancient works of art or as graffiti. The melding of the positive and the negative, the authentic and the parody underscores the insidiousness of interlocking truth and fiction, portrait and caricature present in ethnic stereotyping in general.
This new body of work uses the imagery of Pompeii as a metaphor for the artistic and intellectual contributions of Italians everywhere, most specifically here in America where these ‘tags’ richly deserve to be stripped away…”
Based on a catalogue essay “Identity Excavation: Antonio Petracca’s Pompeian Series”
by Dr. Marianne Berardi.