HE’S THE SHIT
by Ben Davis
In the textbooks, Piero Manzoni usually comes off as some kind of a novelty act, an oddball cross between Marcel Duchamp and Roberto Benigni. The recent retrospective of the Italian artist at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, which brought together works from throughout his brief, fertile career (he died at 30, in 1963), was above all an opportunity for New York audiences to see for themselves that Manzoni was more passionate, more conflicted and more contemporary than he’s usually given credit for. Some have said that the show looked dated. Yet even this flows from the fact that Manzoni was passionately engaged with relating to his own particular moment -- which in turn makes him seem all the more relevant today.