The five artists I have selected are ideally suited to this competition, offering as it does a period of residence abroad and the chance to travel. This is the traditional (and beneficial) “sentence” meted out to Italian artists obliged to move elsewhere, or at least to get away from where they grew up. There are exceptions to the rule. Exceptions that offer hope for the future. If in the 1950s the traditional emigration of young artists, and others, was from the south to the north of Italy. Emigration still involves uprooting and alienation but, in contrast to the past, now covers the whole planet so the artist is spoilt for choice. It is more a luxury than a desperate necessity and usually takes shape as a period of residence abroad or to obtain a masters.
Now, as opposed to then, there is no move away ...”and then see what happens”, or at least this is not now universally the case. You can now move away as one of the chosen, selected on the basis of a portfolio. By presenting your own, early but nevertheless sharp, vision of the world.
The artists here who have made the longest leap are the two woman in the group. Maria Domenica Rapicavoli (1976) journeyed from Catania to London , from the slopes of the volcano to the contemporary urban volcanic landscape, while Rossella Biscotti (1978) travelled from Molfetta to Rotterdam, moving from the utopian society of Puglian anarchists and Salvemini’s antifascism to the utopian plasticity of De Stijl’s architecture. Alessandro Piangiamore (1976), went from Enna, first to Turin and then, more recently, to Rome: from the centre of an island to the centre of the world.
Identity (personal and collective), relationships (with another and with another, often unpredictable, point of view), a common place (in the sense of a media cliché but also of a shared urban space) and apparent irony, are the prevailing themes in the work of MDR. I say “apparent irony” because often in the context of contemporary art irony is used to indicate a detachment But in MDR’s work there is none because it’s all there: to live, to experience and to explore. To discover, perhaps, that the place we last spent the day— thinking perhaps of those four virginal friends of the bride, (“Four Virgins and a Bed”, 2007) who, according to Sicilian custom, prepare the wedding bed—is not really our own house (“My Ideal House”, 2007), as we had thought ... but a furnishing store.
For Rossella Biscotti inquiry overshadows almost everything else. She inquires with the determination of a bloodhound,or of a spy but also with the eye of a seasoned traveller and of an enthusiastic observer, especially of the cinema. Her work probes individual and collective memory to compare the idea of truth and of historical reconstruction, also at a personal level. In her wanderings as a truth seeker photographs crop up of interiors and exteriors of Fascist buildings (Cities of continuous lines”, 2006), or ones taken by PietroPensa in the twentieth century and used as part of her continuous research on landscape and its transformation. She lends her ear in the meantime to recordings of “sound” within rocks before coming to the conclusion that “cinema is the most powerful weapon” (2007). A renewed inquiry and a realignment of personal and collective memory treated as a store of cinematographic material yet to be mounted. A sort of Post-production of the memory out of which new narrative threads and stories can be composed and recomposed, rekindling our interest in existing stories.
Alessandro Piangiamore works on the misunderstanding generated by the gap between the appearance of things (their aesthetic value) and their (inexpressed, as he says) potential. But Alessandro’s most important contribution is one of choice, his choice of subject. Made after a careful sifting of reality and the removal (as the sculptor does with marble), and as Giulio Paolini maintains, that is essential to reaching any work of art We confront issues we have not chosen but which have been carefully selected for us by Alessandro. We believe all the while that we have chosen them ourselves (such is the skill of the selection ). In his itinerant world we come across upturned puddles (full volumes and not concave spaces), myths of Atlantis but also the “Socle du monde” (Base of the World). We also find ourselves – and what a journey- following the trail of a dog to the foot of a lamp post …in the shape of the whole planet “L’osso è sacro”, 2005.
Hope for the future, as I mentioned above, is found in the particular quality shared by those remaining in their place of birth, who have no intention of moving away, but who must inevitably, with the world as it is today, absent themselves for shorter or longer periods. Davide Rivalta (1974) has it : a quality shared with the painting (and sculpture) which has never left Bologna: with the Carracci and Guido Reni, and later, via Grizzana, with Morandi. And so does Enrico Vezzi (1979), with disegno (interpreted both as drawing and as design for the whole world) which has always been present in Tuscany, from the late medieval Master of San Miniato (his native city) to the breaking of the barriers created by everyday spaces (and by imagined) extraterrestrial invasions.
This historical barycentre, the soil from which these five artists sprang (and therefore the substance from which are all derived) should not deceive you. The works of these artists , despite the enormous differences that set them apart, develop and feed on the relationship with the other in a completely new dynamic.
These young Italian artists still engage with identity, enquiry, form, material and disegno but only achieve brilliance through encountering the reality of the other, the altro-da-se. Of architecture, of the city and of the landscape, too. An encounter now and with the world.
In the sculptures by Davide Rivalta, usually of animals on a scale of 1 to 1, his use of the medium is very impressive. At first sight his work might appear to be the fruit of some physical encounter between the artist and animal. However over the years he has compiled an “archive of materials” from life studies of animals. He reproduces this material through a complicated system of casts, afterwards used to coat the surface of his sculptures (and his pictures). And so we are shown exposed whalebones as well as the shaggy back of the gorilla. The surface of his paintings is treated in the same way, so that his coloured oils, treated like any malleable modelling material (such as clay or chalk), fills moulds to recreate the bison’s backbone or birds’ beaks and even ready-to-be-picked asparagus or courgette flowers. In this process or copying and pasting surfaces Rivalta’s use of mnemonic (and real) samples can be related to my previous comments on Rossella Biscotti’s plumbing of memory even though the outcome is quite different.
Enrico Vezzi, expresses himself through the eyes of a painter combined with a desire to make an experiment of the practice of art. He is open to occasional encounters with the unexpected but also to sharing authoriality. And so in his involvement as a Naturalist (“Chromosphere”, or “Magic Drawings”) the outcome of his experience of landscape, even for him, was uncertain to the end. This total engagement is at he heart of Vezzi’s work, coming as he does to art not through the conventional route but through a degree in Psychology. This perhaps explains why he continually shifts the barycentre of his work without worrying about causing controversy. In his “At the Centre of the Earth”, at a distance of twenty-five years he appears to be engaging in a dialogue with Michelangelo Pistoletto’s statue at Porta Romana in Florence of a female figure (Tuscany?) weighed down by another, balanced on her head (her own History?). In this video the artist dances arm in arm with a Tuscan lady (his own Tuscany) on the top of the tower in his native city. Giving onto a grandiose landscape. The result is a magnificent (and liberatory) dance lasting 25 minutes, following the sun as it sit sets and, therefore, light as it makes things visible. And later in darkness raising questions again... As it should be.