Antigrazioso / Nouvelles Vagues,   Palais De Tokyo,   Paris,   Photo: Aurélien Mole

Antigrazioso / Nouvelles Vagues, Palais De Tokyo, Paris, Photo: Aurélien Mole

ANTIGRAZIOSO – THE STORY OF AN EXHIBITION

curated by Luca Lo Pinto

Palais De Tokyo, Pairs

Artists:  Darren Bader, Anne Collier, Paolo Gioli,  Thomas Glendenning Hamilton,   Enrico Imoda, Cameron Jamie, Medardo Rosso, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing,  Tupac Shakur Hologram

Antigrazioso is an exhibition conceived as an assemblage of elements from different discursive fields. Artworks, non-art objects and contemporary cultural artefacts are juxtaposed with the conscious objective of creating a coherent narrative out of dissonance. The exhibition forms a single image, whose parts should be grasped in their singularity, but also as modules to be constantly reconfigured in relation to each other. The ideal setting for the installation is a single vast space to be looked at frontally and from a distance, so that the objects loose their three-dimensionality.

The contrast between the elements on display suggests that the exhibition is founded upon an extremely subjective narrative – however, this is no more valid than all the different interpretations that the audience may eventually bring to the exhibition. The spectators are invited to script their own ‘story’, mentally reshuffling the materials on view to create new semantic links and new narratives out of the available visual suggestions.

At the centre of this discursive network, we find the photographs of Medardo Rosso. The whole project of Antigrazioso develops out of this group of images and ends up as one expanded image, which is none other than the exhibition itself.

Today Medardo Rosso’s influence on the development of modern sculpture is well known. On the contrary, his exploration of photography since the end of the nineteenth century has received little attention. Yet, this side of his practice is of seminal importance not only for the history of the relation between sculpture and photography, but also for the history of the photographic medium itself. Rosso sculpted photography like clay. He would cut, blur, smudge, enlarge, assemble and re-photograph his prints, as well as reprinting the same negatives on different supports. In light of this technique, it is only fitting that the exclusive subject of his photographs were his sculptures. Ultimately, Rosso’s photographs are tautological documents, whereby meta-reflections on the practice of representation – from sculpture to photography – are embedded within the image. In this self-reflexive nexus, the process of art making becomes indiscernible from the final work.

The first time I had a chance to see these images first-hand, I was awestruck. Aside from their ‘conceptual’ complexity, what hit me was their surface. The evanescence, impalpable air of the subjects and the materiality of the light instinctively brought to mind early twentieth century spiritualist photography. From a technical point of view, most so-called ‘spiritualist’ photographs are constructs, in that they were staged or double exposed.

Rosso was interested in generating associations between his works and other objects, negating a singular interpretation in favour of multiple narratives. Ardengo Soffici used to say that for Rosso the best way to test the naturalness, the vitality and the genuine beauty of a work of art, plastic or pictorial, was to put next to it a glass with inside a bunch of flowers. Following Rosso’s original intuition, I have decided to place next to his photographs three pedestals with vases of violets. The fleeting beauty of the images is reflected in the transience of the flowers.

Since the nineteenth-sixties, Paolo Gioli has been experimenting at the forefront of avant-garde photography and cinema. Concerned with questioning the making of the image, he has tested an extremely wide range of photographic instruments and processes – from off camera techniques to pin hole photography, from classic negative-to-positive to silver gelatine printing and direct positive printing with different Polaroid formats, from Cibachrome to FotoFinish. Gioli’s practice concentrates on the photographic process, approaching the course of the image’s becoming into an experimental arena for aesthetic and epistemological enquiry. If the camera provided Medardo Rosso with a means to probe an object and its infinite representational possibilities, with Gioli the photographic medium itself is under investigation. What brings these two artists together is their treatment of the image as something material.

A little known aspect of Rosso’s practice resides in his interest for classical and Renaissance sculptures, which throughout the years he kept replicating and freely reinterpreting. This side of his oeuvre inspired my decision to display three works from Paolo Gioli’s series Luminescente (2007), a project that he developed inside the Musei Capitolini and the Vatican Museums in Rome. Gioli recorded a number of Roman sculptures with an old folding camera and a series of photographic plates hand-made with fluorescent material commonly used for street signs. Eventually he developed these ‘negatives’ in the darkroom by transferring them on polaroid paper. The evanescent look of the faces captured with this method is an effect that the artist can only partly control. These images are made by reflection. If Medardo Rosso’s casts were made of brass, wax and plaster, Gioli’s photographs act like light casts.

In the digital era, the hologram may be seen as the contemporary equivalent of the traditional sculptural cast. The holographic technique was deployed most spectacularly during a music festival that took place in 2012 and has already entered history. At the Californian festival Coachella, the hologram of Tupac Shakur – the legendary rapper who died more than fifteen years ago – performed on stage in front of a crowd of 100.000 ecstatic listeners. This proves that sometimes fiction can be more real than reality. The embodiment of Tupac appearing on the video documentation of the ‘live’ concert is in fact a cast of light, not unlike Gioli’s classical visages and Rosso’s transient objects. His apparition is just as ghostly as the ectoplasms that animate spiritualist photography.

The blurriness of Tupac’s hologram leads me to Anne Collier’s polaroids.  Between 2002 and 2004 Collier took a series of portraits of artist friends with a modified Polaroid camera of the kind sold by New Age stores, which supposedly records the manifestation of spiritual energy across different chromatic registers. Collier reflects (not without irony) on New Age spiritualism and newly emerging faiths, whilst probing the revelatory power of the image-as-icon. All her Untitled Aura Photographs are the outcome of chance, in that their chromatic nuances depend on metal sensors to which the sitters were connected when the photographs were taken.

Cameron Jamie’s sculptures too are the product of chance, or better, they are auto-generated by the material of their making. They can be seen as an extension of his drawings – biomorphic forms born out of unconscious automatism. They testify to a physical struggle, whereby the works determine their own form through a contingent material process. The creatures born of these experiments are terrifyingly graceful and disquietingly beautiful. I was interested in circling back to Rosso’s medium of choice through the lens of an artist such as Cameron Jamie, who achieves analogous formal results to Rosso, though via a completely different linguistic imaginary.

Once I planned what the exhibition would include, I decided to invite another artist to intervene upon my plan with a work that would simultaneously frame the whole installation and throw off its internal narrative. While I ignore the shape of this artwork, I do know the identity of its author: Darren Bader.

The element of ambiguity brought in by Bader, not least in my own curatorial proposition, suits the logic of the exhibition. All the objects on display – flowers, artwork and scientific imagery – share an air of indecipherability. Their meaning is not manifestly predetermined. This plays into the development of a dynamic mental narrative, whereby the spectator may project his or her dreams, stories and unconscious onto the display.

Luca Lo Pinto

Antigrazioso / Nouvelles Vagues,   Palais De Tokyo,   Paris

Antigrazioso / Nouvelles Vagues, Palais De Tokyo, Paris

Antigrazioso / Nouvelles Vagues,   Palais De Tokyo,   Paris,   Photo: Aurélien Mole

Antigrazioso / Nouvelles Vagues, Palais De Tokyo, Paris, Photo: Aurélien Mole