Thursday, September 20, 2012

WE HAVE MOVED: Please follow the NEW Vanitography at

Ciao a tutti,

Good evening from Rome. This is our last post here because VANITOGRAPHY has moved!
Our new address is now:

We’ve made the decision to move to this new page on tumblr. We felt that we needed a fresh start, and a clean new layout. We hope you’ll follow us here too, as well as via Twitter where our name is @vanitography.
Thank you for reading this blog and we hope you enjoy its new version!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dangerous Curves – Vanni Saltarelli Vernissage at 6° Senso Art Gallery in Rome

The opening of the solo show for Vanni Saltarelli this past Friday at Rome’s 6° Senso Art Gallery was an extraordinary experience, akin to encountering an old friend. The charming, charismatic artist came down from his native region of Lombardy with a small group of friends to celebrate his first show in Italy’s capital. Saltarelli has had solo exhibits all over the world in the galleries of Paris, Vienna, Rotterdam, New York, Hamburg, Monte Carlo, Venice and Milan, displaying works in which he consistently celebrates the magnificence and strength of the female form.

“Perhaps not it is not a very original thing to say”, explains the artist, “but for me the female body is the shape of life. It’s the beginning of life. Something constantly beautiful. Animals fascinate me because they too are constant and unchanging, undergoing only minor mutations throughout the centuries. Nothing crucial in either physical aspect or habit. Putting these two subjects alongside one another is my quest for perfection”.

Despite maintaining his single distinct style throughout his body of work, Saltarelli’s pieces surprisingly accomplish to evoke moods of very different eras. The exhibit’s central work titled ‘Chicco D’Oro’ is modern, sexy, and suggestive. Whether intentionally or not, his crimson-lipped siren absolutely recalls the delicious pin-ups of the great Gil Elvgren. The work’s theatrical glam-grunge factor seems to almost mock the rest of the exhibition’s somber and dark tone; the schematic, dynamic nude exudes power, her steaming espresso suggesting energy and the cerise shoes her fleeting quality. In other words, if this were the world of fashion, these would be front row seats to an Alexander McQueen show: experimental, dark, and infinitely racy.

One the other hand looking at ‘Voglia di Volo’, depicting a crouching female nude from the back, overpowered by celestial force, introduces a different concept. Many of Saltarelli’s paintings, due to their inclusion of animals and nude female forms, unmistakably recall scenes from Greek mythology. ‘Voglia’ may be read as a sinister interpretation of the infamous encounter between Zeus and Danaë, during which the god turns into a shimmering cloud and visits the latter, fathering in this fantastic manner the hero Perseus.

A certain tension prevails between the graphics and the color in Saltarelli’s work: color is used scantily, yet when applied it often overwhelms the canvas, rendering an uneasy effect. The uncontrollable use of black, the artist explains, comes from the very same search for perfection – the painter begins with a rudimentary form and re-works it in the manner of a Penelopewerk, until all that is worthless disappears to reveal the principle and perfect faceless female figure.

‘Corpi di Vento in Scena’ by Vanni Saltarelli
November 11 – Novembre 30, 2011
° Senso Art Gallery – Via dei Maroniti 13/15 – Rome, Italy

6° Senso Art Gallery
11th November, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pests & Empires - Jan Fabre at MAGAZZINO Gallery in Rome

He is known from the Venice Biennale, renowned for his cerebral sculpture, his outspoken political views, his writing and his theatre production: all-round talent and infamous Beetle Boy Jan Fabre strikes again at MAGAZZINO Gallery in Rome’s Via dei Prefetti, with a one-man show presenting seven newest works. Titled “Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo” the politically engaged Fabre tackles the historical subject of Belgium’s involvement in the Congo during its colonial era, while simultaneously tying it to classical sadist iconography applied by Bosch in the late 15th Century. 

Particularly the Prado’s treasured “Garden of Early Delights” proved inspirational to Fabre, who borrows much of his imagery from the Dutchman. Bosch’s central “Garden” panel depicts a man carrying a large black mussel shell, inside which a couple succumbs to earthly pleasures while small loose pearls roll around inside the shell, touching one of the figure’s back and buttocks. Jan Fabre chooses to have the shell devoid of sexual reference and any aphrodisiac quality; instead, the dark shell acts as a prison cell for a black Congo slave. The shell violently spits large pearls into space, as the man’s hands, firmly tied with a thick rope, are fruitlessly attempting to rip apart its entrapping walls. Similarly, following what can be best described as Bosch’s anal fixation, Fabre presents an image of a black slave defecating diamonds. This not only, and more obviously, refers to the Belgian abuse of the Congo for the purpose of obtaining the valuable raw materials, but interestingly has a very literal significance as well. Often a slave who stole a diamond would be punished by being made to eat the raw gem; this gruesome sentence was followed by the slave’s internal bleeding and death.

Jan Fabre’s technical mastery is, of course, beyond doubt and the process by which these large works are created is fascinating. As these are made exclusively from dried wings of the jewel beetle, the artist mass-purchases these from local restaurants in Thailand; the beetles are a part of the Thai cuisine however their rough, hard, fingernail-shaped wings are not eaten and discarded by the Chefs before serving. Fabre employs a complicated, pain-staking technique that leaves his finished monumental pieces to look like intricate patterns on wicker furniture: hand-woven, thick, tactile, and seemingly in motion. The colors glint and shimmer with shades of forest green, turquoise, gold, and burnt sienna. The work is tremendously beautiful and, much like with Hirst’s “Cathedral Prints”, it is easy to forget the origin of the medium at hand.

‘Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo’ by Jan Fabre
November 10 – January 8, 2011
MAGAZZINO Gallery   Via dei Prefetti 17 – Rome, Italy

November 10th, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Solutions" by NOOR at 10b Gallery in Rome

This past Friday, November 4th 2011 witnessed the opening of a new exhibition at 10b Photography Gallery in Rome, with a show called “Solutions”. Hosted by the photo agency NOOR (based in Amsterdam and New York) it comes as an optimistic sequel to its ominous predecessor “Consequences”. Nine superstars of NOOR – Nina Berman, Philip Blenkinsop, Pep Bonet, Alixandra Fazzina, Stanley Greene, Yuri Kozyrev, Kadir van Lohuizen, Jon Lowenstein and Francesco Zizola – come together from every corner of the planet to record the positive steps, however small, that are being made to improve the dire situation in which the majority of our world’s population finds themselves. While there is some range in subject matter, the underlying themes of the exhibition remain climate change and the goal of sustainable development. The photographers demonstrate, using the examples of Iceland, China, Russia, Cuba, Bangladesh, Brazil, the United States, and Kenya both the suffering that the local population is currently undergoing (or has had to bear in the past) and the current attempts made to improve living conditions and slow down the devastating effects of climate change. The exhibition is beautifully diverse, and leaves you with the ambiguous and contradicting feelings of both hope and despair.

Opening with the exquisitely sterile photographs from Iceland, Pep Bonet’s work advertises clean Nordic efficiency in the country’s ability to use its natural geothermal heat for tourism, agriculture, farming and fishing. On the other hand images from the once infamous Bronx slums demonstrate, poignantly, local inhabitants’ incredible will power and eventual success at working together in fighting crime, poverty and pollution to create little oases of green and tranquility. Yuri Kozyrev tears us away to paint a very different picture: one of denial and escapism, as hundreds of Russians (among them teachers, physicists, and other scientists) rebuke the corruption and consumerist of our modern world in favor of simple living in the wilderness of Karelia and Altai. These photos, hauntingly beautiful and sensitive, as all of Kozyrev’s work, are in a way a sorrowful contribution to the show, as they do not in fact offer a solution for change, but rather depict a nation’s preference to abscond, turning back the hands of time, rather than facing the music. Finally, the story told through the stunning and moody photographs of Stanley Greene takes us to Kibera, a grim slum in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. Home to almost 1 million slum dwellers it is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world. According to statistics available, at best only 20% of the area has access to electricity. The battles with crime, unemployment, drugs, alcoholism and rape are daily, and the absence of streetlights at night only increases their number. Greene tackles this problem and follows the lives of several locals who seem to have found a light at the end of their tunnel: solar energy. Not only increasing safety on the streets but also work productivity, the gradual introduction of solar energy to this community is helping, one step at a time, toreach a brighter future.

A powerful show, ‘Solutions’ gives us an insight into some of the most extreme examples of both human suffering and human resourcefulness. What should not be dismissed, however, is the importance of this message in the context of our own lives: only very recently the Italian government was forced to shut down the city center of Milan to vehicles for 10 hours, due to a health violation as the level of pollution had been exceeding the legal EU limit for 12 consecutive days.

‘Solutions’ by NOOR
November 3 – December 16, 2011
10b Photography – Via San Lorenzo da Brindisi 10b – Rome, Italy

November 4th, 2011
10b Photography  Gallery

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cohen’s Trash Day? More like 'The Day After'

"Memory Motel", 2011

Kick-starting Rome’s art scene season Fall/Winter 2011 was the opening of star painter Dan Colen’s  one-man show in the capital’s new Gagosian venue. Attracting star painters and curators from the New York office, as well as the elite of Rome’s art posse, Opening Night itself was as usual almost more spectacular than the show it was celebrating. 

Colen visits Rome with two groups of works – the first being a smaller collection of drawings dealing with the antics of “Blow-up God” and the second, and most prominent, something that has been baptized by the media and bloggers using the single term “Colen’s Trash”. The works feature found objects positioned on large canvases, splattered in paint with what can be best described as a retro, glam-grunge feel: a little bit of Pollock, a little bit of Rauschenberg. 
My personal favorite? “Hand of Fate”, a nauseating mess of refuse and blind color-combinations that leave me feeling lightheaded, lending the sensation of falling right into the pile of Dan’s bohemian paraphernalia.

Colen’s works are something that the director of the Gagosian in New York, Sam Orlofsky, describes as being  "a bargain", considering the works' power and energy; as with the art of all the greats, he adds, Colen’s work will remain largely misunderstood in current times. Hardly the case – the artist from New Jersey, just 32 years young, is selling pieces for … let’s not even go there. That is not to be taken as a criticism – after all, art is worth as much as anyone is willing to pay for it. But, at the end of the day, Colen’s – still relatively fresh work (the artist appeared on the New York scene in 2005) – is beginning to look … clean. Almost lazy. Would I describe “Memory Motel” as retro and suggestive? Yes. But, is it dirty, evocative, poignant or  energetic? No. Like all his works presented here, it appeared to be an artificially constructed afterthought.

September 19th, 2011
Gagosian Gallery, Rome