Report from Northern Italy: art in the maelstrom - Italian art galleries

June 1993

By Meyer Raphael Rubinstein

  ... As Italy proceeds through this extremely difficult period of transformation, it will be interesting to see if Italian artists feel compelled to respond to the country's troubles. Recent Italian art, in marked contrast to that in the U.S., has seemed barely to notice the society around it. Particularly in the north, contemporaryart involves an often chilly blend of conceptualism and formalism that seems light years away from the chaos of the surrounding society. Is it the memory of the alliance between the Futurists and the Fascist Party that makes artists shy away from social commentary? Or is it simply that artists are understandably wary of entanglement in the Byzantine web of Italian politics, and regard socially disengaged work as a way to maintain their own "clean hands"?

Although much recent Italian art is notable for its silence about the state of the nation, two recent works by young Milan artists seem to acknowledge, if obliquely, the current crisis. At Galleria Paolo Vitolo,Luca Vitone presented Atopical Map both as a folded map and as a print measuring 32-1/2 by 48 inches. In this piece, Vitone has erased all the names from a scale map of a section of Italy--he is careful not to say which part--and carefully reworked the lines of the map so that the missing names initially go unnoticed. Another artist, Carlo Ferraris, recently presented an installation in which he blocked off the entranceway of Valeria Belvedere Gallery with two old armoires, cutting out the back of each so that you could step through their doors into a room that contained five coffin-like boxes filled with black confetti. Once you closed the doors of the shoddy armoire behind you, you found yourself in a room with no visible sign of how you had entered it--an unexpected and disturbing sensation. Claustrophobic and funeral, Ferraris's installation captures the way that Italy must feel to the old power elite currently on its way out, while Vitone's cryptic, nameless map suggests a country wanting nothing so much, rightnow, as to start over from scratch.

Entire Rubinstein article HERE