The New York artist TJ Wilcox is a postmodernist romantic, crafting washed-out super-8 film portraits of Marie Antoinette, Chopin, Marlene Dietrich, the Roman Emperor Hadrian and Casanova, among others who remain unreal to the end, shrouded in myth. For his second solo exhibition at Galleria Raffaella Cortese, TJ Wilcox keeps his fascinating, romantic tales at a seductive pitch.
Especially conceived for this Milanese show, his ingenious L’ eau de Vie is a new video featuring three different chapters are tied together by a persistent theme -- the element of water. The main characters include the eccentric early-20th-century art patron Marchesa Casati, the lover of Gabriele d’Annuzio and resident (prior to Peggy Guggenheim) of the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on Venice’s Grand Canal, and the legendary American railroad man and gourmand ("a stomach six times larger than average") Diamond Jim Brady. In the video Wilcox also introduces us to the diamondback terrapin, a rare and endangered species of turtle, as well as Ukai, the traditional Japanese fishing method that uses leashed cormorants to dive for freshwater fish.
Glamorous and sophisticated but also poetic and analytical, L' eau de Vie shows that Wilcox has a command of the exquisite alchemy of transforming the collision of historical moments and pop culture inferences into powerful, dreamlike representations. Compelling juxtapositions of original and found footage and collaged animation, his detailed cinematic scenes are pieced together frame by frame. Like his other video works, the evocative L' eau de Vie imparts a powerful sense of magic and nostalgia, and perfectly succeeds in delivering an intense, unexpected emotional experience.
Two more artists from the U.S. can be found in separate spaces at Giò Marconi. Wade Guyton, one of the new generation of structuralist abstractionists, presents a group of large-scale, printed paintings that look particularly captivating in Marconi’s large, clean white space. Guyton’s bold marks -- stripes and Xs -- produced by printing and re-printing the same digital file, drawn by the artist in Photoshop, on pieces of folded, oversize, primed linen. Bearing marks of its somewhat "forced" manufacture, each work becomes a visual record of the action of the 44-inch-wide Epson 9600 Ultrachrome inkjet printer used by the artist.
Ingenious and elegant, Guyton’s "paintings" are emblematic manifestations of the concept of mechanical reproduction within the art-making process. The works are not only finished artifacts but physical traces of a conceptual operation, as well as records of the process of their production: the central, vertical line, or seam, shows exactly where the linen was carefully folded to pass through the printer. Just as New York School painters relied upon the physical act of painting and the chance effects of dripping and spilling paint onto the canvas, so does Guyton turn to a mechanical device to transfer his images from a computer onto primed linen, letting the process decide.
Another section of the Giò Marconi gallery presents Los Angeles artist Catherine Sullivan’s Triangle of Need, the multi-channel video installation jointly commissioned in 2007 by the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Boca Raton, A Foundation in Liverpool and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. One of the leaders in the new "maximalist" film esthetic (followed also by her younger colleague, Ryan Trecartin), Sullivan has packed a quantity of highly choreographed scenarios into Triangle of Need, in an emotionally charged if not altogether coherent essay on contemporary civilization.
Social class, capitalism, accumulation, deprivation, injustice, wealth, poverty and Western cultural hegemony are some of the many ideas that Sullivan gathers in this intricate, outstanding work. For the installation in Milan, three synchronized channels shot on a Chicago set and four synchronized channels made on site at the Vizcaya Gardens are projected contiguously. As is Sullivan’s peculiar practice, her various actors, all wearing period costumes from different eras, take on a variety of roles and tell an assortment of tales: perpetrating an email scam, engaging in figure skating, acting as Neanderthals speaking an incomprehensible language. Vivid and enigmatic language into the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, Triangle of Need celebrates a symbolic approach to the human narrative.
TJ Wilcox, Jan. 29-Apr. 4, 2009, at Galleria Raffaella Cortese, via A. Stradella 7, 20129 Milano
Wade Guyton, paintings, and Catherine Sullivan, "Triangle of Need," Jan. 29-Mar. 19, 2009, at Giò Marconi, via Tadino 15, 1-20124 Milano
ALICE SAVORELLI writes about art from Northern Italy.