Gilberto Giovagnoli: "The Worst" (works: 1983 - 2015)
Opening: Friday, May 15, 2015, 6-8pm
Exhibition dates: May 16 - August 8, 2015
Gilberto Giovagnoli's work is driven by contemplations of sovereignty, tyranny, eroticism and transgression - all given free reign within his self-conceived utopian chaos. Giovagnoli was born in 1954 in the tiny Republic of San Marino, and received his BA from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Urbino, Italy in 1975. After several years of critical success, his artistic career experienced a self-imposed six-year hiatus, during which time his focus shifted to existential ruminations on politics, dictatorships and Stalin. Following this period, the artist never fully conformed to modern luxuries (i.e. driver's license, smartphone, internet, television) instead submerging himself in literature, in particular that of Louis-Ferdinand Celine and Georges Bataille, and the music of The Animals.
In his first-ever trip to and exhibition in the United States, Giovagnoli brings "The Worst" of the past three decades in a distinctly unprecedented body of work. Among the pieces in the exhibition are three large-scale plasticized drawings and collages, two paintings from the early 80's associated with the Italian Transavanguardia movement, a hand-made book of drawings in homage to artist Paul McCarthy, an extensive work on paper composed of 49 portraits of Nazi generals, and a transfigured Voodoo Christ statuette.
Giovagnoli's work, while reminiscent of Art Brut, is laced with ironic violence, irreverent text, and unrestrained human desire. Pieces of hallucinatory reality push the limits of censorship, yet are rendered with bright colors and the "sprinkling" of confetti made out of construction paper, cut-out images and candy wrappers. Objects and human-like creatures pile up on one another like the ruins of a fantastical and chaotic war of living that never ceases. The critic Luca Beatrice writes of the artist's universe: "...Giovagnoli's organization of space and thought takes its cue from the psychic automatism of Andre' Masson, from Pollock's early drippings, until arriving at Alighiero Boetti's Tutto (Everything): but this is a Tutto/Rutto (Everything/Belch) that comes straight from the sewer, where everything is waste itself, bad art, bad cinema, images to be thrown away, entirely covered by plastic tape, as the ulterior lowering of the artistic level, the worthy burial of painting, not in the least, a philosophizing about its death."
One of the exhibition's prominent pieces entitled Lord Auch or Lord to the Shithouse, is a massive painting, six yards wide, that the artist has completely sealed in transparent tape. At first glance, the work has the appearance of a delicate Persian rug, but upon closer inspection, an imperial orgy takes shape. Inspired by the outré novella "Story of the Eye" by Georges Bataille, Lord Auch brings to life the wickedness within the body and thoughts, as troublesome taboos are liberated in a microcosm that surges with compelling issues of our common humanity and present society.
The spectral delirium of the work "Vampyr" is palpable as the canvas transforms into a playground of supernatural haunts, evildoers and souls trapped in a parallel world. Creatures are intertwined with mutated limbs, caterpillars and fish bones. The piece, while layered with malignity and madness, achieves a sublime, dreamlike state. And like so much of Giovagnoli's work, the experience is like opening a newspaper, or walking down the street, eating the news, the forms, the colors, the passersby, the sounds - and then spewing it all out, including yourself, onto the painted surface.
Gilberto Giovagnoli has been featured in exhibitions throughout Europe including Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara; Grand Palais, Paris; 40th Venice Biennale; Palazzo Lanfranchi, Pisa; Antonio Colombo, Milan; 1st Drawing Biennale, Rimini; and Galerie Springer, Berlin. Solo exhibitions include, Emilio Mazzoli, Modena; Studio Cavalieri, Bologna; Diagramma, Milan; Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, San Marino; Mondo Bizzarro, Roma; D406, Modena; The Municipal Museums of Rocca di Cento. Giovagnoli's work has been the subject of texts and exhibitions curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, Alberto Boatto, Maria Luisa Frisa, Italo Mussa, Luca Beatrice, Valerio Deho', and Alberto Zanchetta, among others.
A special thank you to D406-Fedeli alla Linea, Modena, Italy for their collaboration.