14 July – 10 September 2017
Spazio Murat, Piazza del Ferrarese, Bari
Bari’s Centre for contemporary art and culture, a project wanted by the Municipality and directed by Massimo Torrigiani, comes to its second project with an exhibition dedicated to the most recent work of Diego Perrone (Asti, Italy, 1970), amongst the most significant and appreciated Italian artists of the international contemporary art scene.
Presented in the initial phase of the nascent relationship between the Centre, the territory and the art world, Perrone’s exhibition – the first one in a public institution of Southern Italy – pursues the aim of placing the project of the Municipality in the geography of both Italian and international cultural institutions. The artist’s work, in fact, interprets and amplifies themes of crucial relevance, not limited to the visual arts, such as the bonds with our own origins, the relationship with material and cultural heritages and their metamorphosis, by means of new ideas and techniques. And a generous dose of irony.
Sussi e Biribissi will be open to the public from 14 July to 10 September 2017 at Spazio Murat, the first of the three buildings which will be home to the Centre for contemporary art and culture of the city, up to the restoration, currently underway, of the Teatro Margherita and the former Mercato del Pesce.
Diego Perrone’s vision and poetics are rooted in the peculiar and mysterious allure of provincial life. The countryside, and the intimidating and foggy landscape in which little brutalist villas are disseminated, over the hills where the artist was born, are the epicentre of his obsessions. The artist challenges these psychotic existences, however seemingly impeccable, by walking on tiptoes, in and out a surreal state of dizziness, inhabited by farm tractors, fishes and unsettling shapes.
In this exhibition, the artist presents a new series of ballpoint pen drawings on paper, and above all sculptures in glass, which continue the artist’s restless research and experimentations, carried out over recent years, on the fusion of this material. With these works, Perrone challenges the bourgeois notion of banality, playing with feelings of familiar and unfamiliar, personal and impersonal, facing the feeling – at times calming, at times oppressive – of emptiness. In the same way, with the reproduction of All bands by Sol LeWitt placed on the floor of the exhibition space, the artist fosters an unusual dialogue between his works and the venue, paying homage to its identity and history.
The artworks merge mental landscapes, be them real or imaginary, of different nature: the tractor, archetype of the country life and of the ancestral relationship that humans entertain with the soil, fertile and vital; and the fish, immersed in a liquid and muffled existence, such as sound under water, sensitive to the vibrations and reverberations of light, but incapable of distinguishing clearly what is moving in front of itself.
The ear, a recurrent presence in the symbology of Perrone’s work since the beginning, is a cavity where fullness and emptiness alternate continuously, the threshold which allows us to sink, from the outer world, into rarefied and ever-changing times and spaces. The auditory canal brings us from the anatomic shape of the skull to the blurred boundaries of the mind, the place where human thinking is formed and preserved, unpredictable and fleeing.
Sussi e Biribissi, the title of the exhibition, refers to the eponymous 1902 children’s novel by Nipote Collodi – pseudonym for Paolo Lorenzini, nephew of the more famous Carlo Collodi. The book recounts the adventure of two little boys who, fascinated by Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864), decide to undertake the same glorious venture. However, in order to enter the subsoil, they decide to pass through the drainage system of a general Italian city: by descending upon the hole towards the centre, the two protagonists start a journey which will transform deeply their behaviours and looks. Equipped with dynamite sticks, frugal victuals and a talking cat, they move from the drainage through the basement of a convent and from there on to a nuthouse, meeting moles and rats, indignant friars, severe guards and grumpy crones. A light and fascinating excursion into the deepest meanderings of Italian popular culture, and of our being part of it.
They are fragments of thoughts the three exhibited drawings, produced specifically for the exhibition in Bari. Made with a simple red ballpoint pen, they are the result of an obsessive and meticulous gesture, tangled locks of hair in which we meet the same traces of the countryside of Asti and the submarine depths that compose the artist’s visionary universe. Midway between design objects and distorted visions of human anatomy, the imposing sculptures are made by means of an unusual and ancient technique, the fusion of glass. A material, by nature rigid and heavy, which is transformed in the process into viscous matter. Large amounts of liquefied glass are drained into a chalk cast, then placed into ovens at a high temperature, in which the material undergoes a slow process of cooling – up to six weeks –, which is necessary to avoid its chipping.
Albeit their monumentality, Perrone’s glass works resemble holograms rather than statues, screens rather than reliefs. They drill space, rather than filling it. They move away, in fact, from the distinctive traits of sculpture – the alternation of light and shadow, the tangible presence of the mass, the plastic physicality of the object and its figurative essence – to take the appearances of images, ambiguous visions, pictorial and immersive. While observing them, they transform and regenerate continuously, changing their meaning along. Each sculpture is a single block of material, and each shows itself at the peak of its physical and expressive nudity.
The colours contained in the sculptures, obtained through mixtures of minerals and oxides poured with melted pigments, are blurry clouds which filter through the translucent surface of the material in an uncontrolled and unpredictable way. The process of production of the work, its often collaborative nature – the experimentations presented are the evolution of a collaboration with the company Vetroricerca Glass & Modern of Bolzano – is among the most significant elements of Perrone’s production: variables, mistakes and accidents are an integral part of the artwork itself, and underline the importance the artist confers to the material. It is the latter, with its potentiality and limits, who dictates the rules of the game. A challenge for the artist, who is encouraged to search for new solutions to new problems, to apply rooted methods so to invent new ones, to research in the most recent technologies other possibilities and directions, in order to shape his vision. And to observe, through the fascination of discovery, as well as the frustration of compromise and failure, how the matter becomes art.
The exhibition is completed with the publication of an artist’s book – the first in a series which will be produced by the Centre – entirely conceived by Perrone, who designed it along with the graphic designer Tommaso Garner. Published in Italian and English, with a critical contribution by Barbara Casavecchia and a conversation between Perrone and the curator and art historian Florence Derieux, the volume explores the artist’s glass production in depth since its beginning in 2011, and it is the first comprehensive one dedicated to the work of one of the most significant Italian artists of the international scene.
DIEGO PERRONE was born in Asti (Italy) in 1970, and he works and lives in Milan. His solo exhibitions include: Herbivorous Carnivorous, Massimo De Carlo, Milan (2017); Self-portrait, Casey Kaplan, New York (2017); Void-Cinema-Congress-Death, Massimo De Carlo, London (2014); Scultura che non sia conchiglia non canta, Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York (2013); Il servo astuto, Museion, Bolzano (2013); Una mucca senza faccia rotola nel cuore, Fondazione Brodbeck, Catania (2010); La mamma di Boccioni in ambulanza e la fusione della campana, CAPC Musèe d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux (2007); Totò nudo e la fusione della campana, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2005). His work has been exhibited internationally in prominent institutions: Curated by (?), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2016); Ennesima. Una mostra di sette mostre sull'arte italiana, Triennale di Milano, Milan (2015); Nathalie Djurberg & Diego Perrone, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2008); After Nature, New Museum, New York (2008); The Shapes of Space, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2007); Perspectif Cinema 2003-2004, screenings, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2004); Animations, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2001). Diego Perrone participated in the 53rd Biennale di Venezia - The Encyclopedic Palace (2013), and in the 50th Biennale di Venezia - The Zone section (2003), both curated by Massimiliano Gioni.