"Gli amori difficili"

Jennifer Bartlett

Alighiero Boetti

Paul Branca

Oliver Lutz

Michelangelo Pistoletto

Jonathan VanDyke

Opening:               Thursday, July 12, 6 - 8pm

Exhibition Dates:    July 12 - August 10, 2012

Scaramouche is pleased to present the exhibition, Gli amori difficili, inspired by the collection of tales by author Italo Calvino. Impressed by banal oppositions of daily life, Calvino penned several amorous stories which make up Gli amori difficili (Difficult Loves) in Italy of the 1950's and 60's.

Calvino’s storytelling is simultaneously simple and complex. His sheer range in subject matter from the tragic to the quotidien, from the Neo-Realist to the experimental, is consistently softened by his Mediterranean humanism, and is phenomenal in its clarity and lightness. Gli amori difficili (1970) presents the reader with 15 novellas, each sharing the theme of love’s often inescapable condition of being misunderstood by its protagonists, and how communication is pertinent yet its mutual sharing is rare. Calvino gives us a gift of written beauty in his descriptions of life’s everyday, yet amorous, situations tinged with playfulness and charm.

Scaramouche’s summer show, Gli amori difficili, proposes 6 artists who deal with various interpretations of love’s wide range of emotions, its conditions and patterns, its faults and problems. Calvino’s collection of short stories sets the stage for individual interpretations of some of love’s more difficult qualities.

Alighiero Boetti’s Arazzi (wall hangings or tapestries) propose ideas of labor, translation, truisms, and wordplays, reflecting opposing factors such as the individual and society, error and perfection, order and disorder. Boetti often collaborated with other artists and non-artists, giving them significant freedom in their contributions to his work, as with the Arazzi, which were created in collaboration with craftswomen and embroiderers from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Consisting of colored letters embroidered in grids, upon closer inspection, they reveal phrases in Italian, for instance Una parola al vento, due parole al vento, tre parole al vento, 100 parole al vento (One word in the wind, two words in the wind, three words in the wind, 100 words in the wind),(1989) or Si dice chi finge di ignorare una situazione che invece dovrebbe affrontare (It’s said that one who ignores a situation should instead confront it), (1986).

Michelangelo Pistoletto’s two iconic Specchi (mirrors) contain banal elements that enable the viewer to situate themselves within the frame of the works alongside the printed object upon the pictorial field. His still life Rosa (1981), is nothing more than a lonely rose atop a table whose negative space is a reflection of life outside of the work. The viewer is implicated and contained within the confines of the rectangle and a certain choice is posed- that of self-admiration or the admiration of the floral still life below. La Gabbietta (1969-70), also by Pistoletto, shows a half-covered birdcage printed on top of a mirrored surface. The caged bird, unseen, but presumed inside, is no longer free, yet perhaps, still admired by its owner, contained, imprisoned. The symbolic nature of this is intensified when the work’s viewer, whose head is tilted back, catches a glimpse of both him or herself and the cage simultaneously.

Jennifer Bartlett’s Fire/Fallen Table (1988-89) asserts the viewer by pronouncing the artist’s desirous need to present both a painted work and a physical object. A painted articulation of a table on fire is frozen within her systematic mark making, while an actual table is positioned tilted in front of the canvas upon the gallery floor. Her use of intense color is amplified beyond natural expectations: the painting spews the table out into real space, away from the fire, and towards the viewer. The difficulty of doing two things at once, creating both a sculpture and a painting dependant upon spatial discrepancies, a work being both destroyed and salvaged, perhaps symbolic of a couple, spending their lives together and apart.

Paul Branca’s works concern the space between objects and events- his practice often incorporates a deliberate use of the dismantled language of painting as a starting point. His work Untitled (Indigo), (2012), addresses an interstitial zone of production that synthesises both the conditions of a traditional studio practice and ‘real life’ outside. Each layer of standard 8 ½ x 11 inch oil paint needs to dry before the next can be painted atop, culminating in both a visual and transparent record of time and labor. The ‘standard’ monochrome is set askew, scale-wise appearing almost as papers upon a desktop, referring to photography in its transparencies, and also playing with the comma, as Boetti often includes in his ballpoint pen drawings, which acts as a pause, a break, between the duty of the painter and life outside of the work. Branca’s painting Magnani Rocca, (2012), performs almost as a visual pun. Canvas keys in Italy’s national colors are carefully painted upon a stretched and gessoed souvenir canvas tote bag he procured while researching Morandi at the Fondazione Magnani Rocca, near Parma. Magnani Rocca pokes fun at Alberto Burri’s sacchi, as well as art tourism’s rendering of the tote bag as a cultural relic- and Branca reified these signifiers as a work itself.

Oliver Lutz's painting installation, Untitled (Punishment by crucifixion and spearing), (2012) raises questions about our relationship with - and attraction toward - images both as image-makers and as viewers. In this work, the painted image of a photograph taken by Felice A. Beato (1833 - 1907) showing the scene of a crucifixion during the Meiji era Japan (19th century) that was published in a souvenir photo album for foreigners, has been reduced to a mediated form in which the viewer also becomes the subject of the work. The image is beneath layers of a painted monochrome canvas and is revealed to the viewer through an infra-red surveillance camera trained on the work and monitors set close by. Similar to Pistoletto’s mirrors, here by way of the monitor, the viewer observes him/herself standing in front of the canvas, effectively becoming part of the work. Lutz’s installations investigate the viewer's customary relationship to looking at art, deconstructing and reconfiguring normal codes of viewer, subject, and representation.

Jonathan VanDyke’s Mike Piazza at Home reproduces an Architectural Digest feature on baseball player Piazza, who infamously held a 2002 press conference to announce that he was not gay. Piazza and his wife are shown smiling in their newly furnished Miami apartment. Using a popular method for reproducing family snapshots as “paintings,” VanDyke has printed this article onto canvas and framed it behind glass. The center of the article, moreover, is pierced by a tube that drips paint inside the frame itself, slowly covering up the article with layers of striped paint, performing an interruption of the couple’s staged bliss. VanDyke’s large sculpture The Disappearing Core acts like a freestanding doorway, just large enough for two viewers to face each other on either side. From inside this framework, hundreds of beaded aluminum chains hang in an ordered, optically dazzling pattern, interrupting the view. Liquid paint slowly drips down these chains; week after week the paint accumulates new colors and moves from chain to chain, measuring the passing of days, the accumulation of histories, and the loss of the work’s original form.