press release

francesca kaufmann’s next project is a note in the margin on the subject of portraiture, opening on the occasion of Start 2006, three days of contemporary art in Milan. Rather than concentrating on works retaining the essence of the traditional and naturalistic way of portraying people, this exhibition concentrates on works which mediate the acknowledgement of the model through aspects alien to their physical appearance. The artists have based their representation on taste and individuality of choice of the model. In this way, they wilfully decline making a number of decisions and leave them to the arbitrariness of the subject. In other cases, they avoid a direct relationship with the subject matter by portraying cultural characters from the past which the author has not directly met. Or, again, they engage in a metaphysical, alchemic or magical transformation of the same model.

Pae White, Dave Muller and Allan Kaprow all fall into the first category, which is concerned with taste and choice. Pae White gives the portrayed the opportunity to choose the specific hue of the chandelier. The chandeliers are purposely designed so that their decorations are extremely vague in shape. The choice of the colour triggers a number of unforeseen lyrical ideas like unconscious potential emerging from the shape of the piece. Dave Muller leaves his model the task of compiling a top ten of favourite L.P.s. and includes the spines of the record sleeves in the painting. By doing so and by respecting some norms such as the height of the person represented, Dave Muller is conditioned in his execution, so that his own personal vision of the person is restrained and his work knowingly influenced. The records simultaneously suggest a sense of memento and memorabilia and another place in time. On the contrary, Allan Kaprow is very specific in what he calls Scores. The regime of actions that he sets out for the person to perform is minimal and precise to such an extent that the person is almost invariably reduced to a machine. Within these mechanics lies a paradox as the performer is forced to make the movements his own. The portrait thus shifts from a mere representation of a body to the body’s own way of accomplishing movement.

Lorna MacIntyre and Tom Burr both accommodate the second instance and they deliberately choose to rely on a deceased intellectual character for their portraits. Both Burr’s multiple edition and Macintyre’s installation open up to a series of influences which are not directly related with the subject matter. Rather than being a commemorative portrait they become a sort of manifesto and a systematic programming of the artists’ poetics. These portraits are based on details which are, from the start, different from those of a traditional portrait and simultaneously only partial in relation to the person considered as a whole, as a series of possible intellectual associations.

In conclusion, Roberta Silva, Peter Coffin, Francesco Gennari and Gianni Caravaggio tackle portraiture in a more abstract of ways. They all share a will to transmute the body of the model into another, super-human substance. For the two Italian artists there is a very specific choice regarding the subject. For Silva it is her father and for Gennari himself. For Roberta Silva, the father figure connects to the father of all alchemic transformation, mercury, which together with manual labour, is the basis of alchemic theories. For Gennari, the construction of a relationship between the body and the soul, between the outer and inner world, is central. This is enhanced by the fact that the interior of the sculpture remains invisible. Finally, Peter Coffin plays with the concept of aura and with a simple gesture paints the outline of the model with coloured signs of almost infantile character. In this way, the form on the wall lingers, an immaterial essence rather than a presence, the sign of a passing. In the courtyard, the project of Gianni Caravaggio is not only a site-specific installation but also a portrait of the space in which it is collocated. Almost a tribute to the host space which thus reclaims its own individuality.

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shape without form, shade without colour, paralysed force, gesture without motion

mit Tom Burr, Lorna Macintyre, Peter Coffin, Dave Muller, Franceso Gennari, Roberta Silva, Allan Kaprow, Pae White, Gianni Caravaggio