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    letter from italy
by Gianni Romano
 
     
 
Sam Taylor-Wood
Sam Taylor-Wood
Hysteria
1997
 
Sam Taylor-Wood
Sam Taylor-Wood
Soliloquy III
1998
 
Soliloquy III
Soliloquy III
(detail)
 
Sam Taylor-Wood
Sam Taylor-Wood
Noli Me Tangere
1998
Sam Taylor-Wood at Fondazione Prada

Who wouldn't want to see a comprehensive solo exhibition by the super-hyped yBa (young British artist) Sam Taylor Wood? Her recent show of new works at Fondazione Prada has validated her rank high among the art-world brat-pack.

Taylor-Wood's panoramic photographs often have the quality of a freeze frame, and frequently deploy several actors across interiors that seem like stage sets. Her videos of individual actors, on the other hand, have focused on subjective, repetitive actions of the body. In her Prada installation, Wood divided the complex exhibition space into three distinct areas.

The entry has been transformed into a dark room where the video Hysteria is screened. It shows a close-up of a woman's face laughing and shedding tears at the same time, and is supposed to be an investigation of different "methods of madness." The second gallery holds a new photographic series titled "Soliloquy." As in her previous series, "Five Revolutionary Seconds," these photographs show various individuals in different psychological and emotional states.

The five large works in "Soliloquy" consist of a large single portrait positioned above a "predella" (used in Renaissance painting to describe stories or legends in a narrative way and positioned beside or below the central image of the main character, most often a saint). In Soliloquy III, the predella presumably depicts the inner world of the reclining Venus, an oneiric vision of mostly erotic feelings. Taylor-Wood describes the scene of this work as "a common apartment, almost like in public housing, the ones the government builds with subsidies. Thus it is a modest dwelling, but one that maintains strong connotation of decay. However both the furnishings and the type of activity, the poses and the colors, the dresses and the actions, reveal a rich and sumptuous condition. I was also looking for a contrast between the anonymous and banal space and the carnal power of the bodies."

The strongest work is a large video projection in the final gallery. Titled Noli Me Tangere -- the well-known warning of Jesus to his disciples after his resurrection -- it pictures an almost naked body builder. He seems caught in the act of supporting the weight of the ceiling of the large room, just like the mythological Atlas. After a while, we realize that this image is misleading and, in fact, the projection is reversed upside down and the athlete is simply standing on his hands while his feet don't even touch the ground. After five minutes his muscles start trembling, his body sweats and he finally falls to the floor (although we see him falling towards the ceiling).

For more information about the Fondazione Prada, visit its new website at http://www.fondazioneprada.org/.
     
 
Grazia Toderi
Grazia Toderi
video stills from
Castle Twins
(Reversed Time)
1998
at Castello di Rivoli
 
Grazia Toderi
Grazia Toderi
video stills from
Castle Twins
(Reversed Time)
1998
at Castello di Rivoli
 
Grazia Toderi
Grazia Toderi
video stills from
Castle Twins
(Reversed Time)
1998
at Castello di Rivoli
 
Grazia Toderi
Grazia Toderi
video still from
The Atrium
1998
 
Grazia Toderi
Grazia Toderi
Grazia Toderi at Castello di Rivoli, Turin

Once a year the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea at the Castello di Rivoli devotes its noble spaces to an emerging artist. This year the exhibition went to Grazia Toderi, who was born in Padua in 1963 and is one of the few Italian artists to do anything interesting with a video camera. In the country that is celebrated for Arte Povera and the Italian branch of Neo-Expressionist painting, there has always been a certain skepticism towards the use of new media in the arts. But we're making progress.

Toderi has previously shown at the Frac Bourgogne in Dijon and Casino Luxembourg in Luxembourg, exhibiting works that focus on simple daily objects and domestic life. Her video installations at the Castello investigate more abstract issues of space and time and our own perception of the world. Three of the five works were shot last summer inside the Castello itself, and these tapes seem inspired by the baroque iconography of its rooms.

The exhibition opens with a diptych titled Castle Twins (Reversed Time) (1998). Two video projections face each other. In each of them a juggler sits cross-legged on the floor in one of the Castello's elegant rooms. The lighting is moody and theatrical -- the figure is almost in silhouette. The juggler spins a plate on his finger, tosses it into the air, catches it. The second image reflects the first like an out-of-phase mirror. The performance refers to gravity, inertia and the laws of motion.

Curator Marcella Beccaria notes, "These figures of the double, the two twins, each with his own action or immobility, inhabit separate realms, one in the real space of the room where the video was shot, the other in the illusionistic dimension of the mirror placed on the wall. Their positions are reversed in each projection. This exchange creates a complex labyrinth of spaces that open, one into the other and blur the distinction between the illusory and the real."

Another diptych, The Atrium (1998), creates an image that seems to extend the end of a room. We see a female and a male figure from the back while they face a dark door at the end of their illusionary space. This projection is sited in a room called "The Hall of Bacchus and Ariadne," originally built by architect Filippo Juvarra to join the separate apartments of the king and queen. Slowly, the two figures throw a ball and some spheres back and forth. The female figure's movements subtly differ from the geometries drawn by the movements of the male figure and, by doing so, they contribute to design two completely different spaces.

More about Toderi's exhibitions and the Castello di Rivoli are supplied by a recently renovated website which is simple to visit and yet full of information.
     
 
Luca Pancrazzi
Luca Pancrazzi
exterior view of
"Endogenous Landscape"
at Antonio Colombo
Arte Contemporanea
 
Luca Pancrazzi
Luca Pancrazzi
installation view with
Out of Focus
1998
 
Luca Pancrazzi at Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea, Milan

After taking part in the last Venice Biennale and having a solo exhibition at D'Amelio Terras in New York, Luca Pancrazzi had a solo show in Milan, his hometown. It proved to be very popular. Born in Tuscany in 1961, Pancrazzi is an eclectic painter and a sculptor who also makes video installations. At Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea in Milano, Pancrazzi built what could be called a landscape in movement.

The show begins outside the gallery. A large projected image of some kind of landscape covers the six panels of the windows and door. To enter the exhibition the spectator is forced to penetrate the image, to plunge into the landscape that it portrays. The landscape is in fact a fragment of a techno-junk sculpture. The projected image comes from a live, closed-circuit shot with a micro-camera, which since it uses a wide angle also captures the images of audience members when they come close to the sculpture. Outside, it gives a Gulliver effect, as these big faces loom over a landscape of Berkel computer chips perked up by Japanese and Singapore-built electric terminals, diodes and microchips.

Pancrazzi says he loves to be "dragged by events into visual adventures of all kinds," and indeed this exhibition puts you in the middle of one. Pancrazzi's escape from the Tuscan-landscape cliché is a flight into fiction, a technological site that is in fact a landscape of the media.


GIANNI ROMANO is ArtNet Magazine's Milan correspondent.