Vedovamazzei, Oct. 7, 2004-June 1, 2005, at the Galleria dArte Moderna, Turin, Italy.
The young Italian artists Stella Scala and Simeone Crispino, who are currently having an exhibition at Turins Gallery of Modern Art, like to tell stories -- that embrace the long tradition of Italian metaphysical investigation, from Giorgio di Chirico to Maurizio Cattelan. Their eclectic, quirky works develop mainly through installation, although they also involve other art genres -- photography, watercolor, drawing, painting, sculpture and design.
These two Neapolitan artists, now living and working in Milan, first exhibited together as Vedovamazzei at the French Institute of Naples in 1991.
Both born in the early 1960s, they met as teenagers at art school, and pursued their fine-arts avocation at college, working as an art team like the Christo and Jeane-Claude, or or Ilya and Emilia Kabakow. However, Scala and Crispino decided to take on a new identity. They chose Vedovamazzei, which is composed of the noun vedova (Italian for widow) and Mazzei (an Italian surname), and suggests a concept rather than a person. The name could be a random, Dadaist conjunction of words meaning nothing at all, or it could also signify "the widow of Mr. Mazzei," evoking the relationship between life and death.
This mortal threshold is synthesized in the work For Once in My Life (2004), an arrangement of colored, shaped neon tubes that is installed in a darkened museum gallery like a group of electric brushstrokes. The curious scene includes the figure of a bird, outlined in white and red neon, standing in shallow water, indicated by ripples of blue neon.
On the wall, spelled out in white neon, is a short abstract taken from the writings of the Italian ornithologist Carlo Vogt, telling us about a pair of storks, a male and a female, that is approached by another male stork, which kills the first male with the help of his female mate. Vedovamazzeis installation, inspired by this true story, represents the male stork, alone in the middle of a lake, just before the murder.
A second work, titled Short Sighted Mirror (2002), has to do with abjection. The viewer sees what appears to be a round mirror that curiously reflects only a blurred and disfigured image of the person looking into it. On approaching the mirror, however, the viewers reflected image becomes more focused -- an eerie effect, to be sure.
The illusion is caused by a hidden motor, which makes the mirror rotate at 3,000 rpm -- even though it appears to be perfectly still. Vedovamazzeis mirror rejects our image, becoming a rather disturbing object, denying the narcissism inherent in us all.
In Go Wherever You Want, Bring Me Whatever You Wish (2000-04) Vedovamazzeis work becomes provocatively and impolitely interactive. On the top of a trailer-truck filled with 28 tons of water, the two artists have reproduced in three dimensions an aquatic scene like one we would see in a painting by Monet. Viewers climb up a ladder and literally step into a transportable, Impressionist ambience that includes a pond, water plants, water lilies, a pier and a rowboat -- an oddly Italian, postmodern reinterpretation of the history of art.