Italy according to Francesco Vezzoli

The Italian artist, in a constant claim to our heritage and cultural identity, retraces the mix of entertainment and politics that has characterized the Bel Paese from the 70s to today.
by Caroline Corbetta

LE DÉLUGE COL CUORE (AFTER BARBARA D'URSO) 2019 (UNPUBLISHED) “But how beautiful it is here, but how great it is here / We like it too much ... ... it's not RAI! / The sky is always blue, it almost never rains / The sea is calm but ... it is not RAI! "From the initials of" Non è la RAI "by Gianni Boncompagni in 1991). The embroidery was created by Francesco Vezzoli for this special art project of L'Officiel Italia

Text Caroline Corbetta
Artworks and captions Francesco Vezzoli

When I was little and my parents went to the newsstands to buy Il Manifesto and other leftist newspapers, they asked me “What do you want? I replied: "Tv Smiles and Songs". On the other hand, my parents took me to the cineforums to watch Pasolini's films but then I spent hours at the grandmothers' house watching Carrà and Mina on TV » . Politics and entertainment are the very special bifocal lenses with which, since then, Francesco Vezzoli, who in the meantime has become a star of the world famous art, reads the world and Italy, interprets history and news. It was just entitled "Party Politics. The entertainment of politics, the politics of entertainment ”, his exhibition for the Giuliani Foundationof Rome last spring. A series of photos recovered by the artist sifting through the archives of the social and political chronicle of the 80s Capital that appear as uncanny, and at times hilarious, anticipations of today. Images witly titled by the political journalist Filippo Ceccarelli , in which President Pertini and Sandra Milo, Sophia Loren and Pajetta , one of the historic leaders of the PCI, Moana Pozzi and Giuliano Ferrara and other strange couples who portray that irresistible are portrayed together and standardizing combination of exhibitionism and power, already denounced in the 60s and 70s by Pier Paolo Pasolini(the poet-director to whom Vezzoli dedicated an important body of works) has become the cipher of contemporaneity.

Of (s) similar dinners our artist has witnessed firsthand since the late 1990s, having frequented precisely those salons where politicians and show people meet, and show people who will do politics, and observed them « from behind a window, like Tonio Kröger » , he says, animated by a burning curiosity towards the dynamics of relationship between people who, according to him, are always the same over the centuries. «I like to think of myself as a Petronius , as a satirical author. The point lies in how much you get closer to the subject and how far you move away from it, " says Vezzoli today who continues with the memory of a dinner fifteen years ago " in which there wereGianfranco Fini, Alberto Arbasino and Susanna Agnelli and I watched all this world interacting without making too many problems about who was on which side. Being an ambitious artist by nature, he rather wonders who will last longer. And I knew I wanted to be Arbasino , because politics is passing but art remains » . Observe and narrate, through the apparently antithetical languages ​​of embroidery and video. The very first embroideries, with the faces of the movie stars streaked with lurex tears, were like frames of the most complex film narrations that the artist was imagining. Like the debut short series of the " Embroidered Trilogy (1997-99) " including " The dream of Venus", Signed by Lina Wertmüller ( " who finally receives the Oscar today after being the first female director candidate in 1976 " ), with Franca Valeri dressed Capucci dancing to the rhythm of a Kraftwerk song . The writer remembers as if yesterday was the debut of the video trilogy in a Milanese gallery at the end of the 90s, where an English worker, branding the work as "too Italian", had inadvertently hit the point of Vezzolian poetry. "Coming from a nation that had invented almost everything, it might have been worth getting involved with the giants who carried me on their shoulders . " Among these, Lucio Fontana to which Vezzoli dedicated one of his very first embroideries (1996).

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At the time, the boy from the enlightened bourgeoisie of Brescia, who had been in London to study art at Central Saint Martins , still frequented characters such as Malcom McLaren , Vivienne Westwood, the Pet Shop Boys ... «There I understood that if I had put myself I would have laughed at Leigh Bowery or punk. I understood that the good ones really are imbued with their heritage and declare it. I understood that an identity fact is the basis of any significant creative act ». So Fontana's work ,reproduced at a small point in that period, it represented a very strong gesture: self-sufficient in the artisan-home technique and culturally demanding in the subject. In it there is the violence of the gesture, of the cut, but also the desire to mend, through embroidery, the dichotomies that have characterized his existential path and the history of the Bel Paese . «Having had a Giano Bifronte- style family , with PdUP sympathetic parents and grandmothers a little pop, I would not have known to whom and what to rebel, so I chose the compromise. The compromise was the figure that defined my childhood as much as it defines our nation and that, perhaps, in the times of violent polarization that we are experiencing we could export ». Vezzoli, who in 2013 portrayed himself as Raphael , affirming his roots, claims the need to break the Italian cultural subordination to the Anglo-Saxon world. "I understand that we have not only lost the war but also the face, and this has meant that Italy has long been ashamed of its identity and that the Italian intellectual has self-censored, moving as far as possible from prejudice and various futurisms, while the Marshall cultural plan, with a view to dominating the market, has also provided us with sonorous crap ... But now that's enough! We are able to produce our own intellectual identity and, moreover, we have an incredible heritage: this is not sovereignty but cultural justice. Now the big moment must come, not of revenge, but of equalization, of inclusion in a cultural debate that puts Fontana and Pollock on the same level ». 

A feeling of identity that led him to undertake a work of recovery of the classic statuary, starting from a solo show at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in late 2009 in which he portrayed Eva Mendes , "at the time sex symbol of a Hollywood" high "who then married Ryan Gosling, another archetype" , like a short story Paolina Borghese del Canova. «When the neoclassical sculptor carves the Ebe» recalls Francesco, «he puts it on a rotating platform and with a golden amphorin in his hand and the critics of the time say“ No, no, you can't! Too kitsch! ". And instead the Pauline who turns, would have been beautiful, as in a showcase of the Rinascente ».Vezzoli traces the centuries back and forth, condensing them, always returning to the present where, between citation and invention, it undermines aesthetic conventions and moral (historical) convictions. As with the intervention at the 2011 New Orleans Biennial in the center of the postmodern and involuntarily surreal Piazza d'Italia, designed by American architects in the 1980s. In what he defines, with his taste for puns, "the slightly wrong post-modern of para-Memphis" . Vezzoli has placed a polychrome statue in the " Muse of De Chirico" style with the features of Sophia Loren : «I wanted to play with the identity discourse and having always thought that De Chiricoon the problem of cultural identity were completely resolved, being one who constantly cited the classical past, he was perfect. Then, having to find a figure to embody the Muse, I chose the most famous Italian woman of the twentieth century in the world ». 

An «archetypal choice» , as Vezzoli defines it, from which embroideries also sprang, because he never stopped embroidering. Each of his exhibitions, which is the result of the collaboration of different specialists, is always accompanied by the solipsistic practice of embroidery. Like the one opening at the end of November where, through the lens of decadentism, an aesthetic-intellectual dimension that ours handles with great voluptuousness and as much lucidity, it re-reads part of the collection of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Or even “TV 70: Francesco Vezzoli watches Raiˮ another exhibition / total work of art curated in 2017 for the Prada Foundation in Milan. In the latter, through works of art of the period and materials from the historical archivesRai , Vezzoli attempted a conciliatory story " of the most violent and divided decade in Italian history". Among the works derived from this exhibition are the embroideries made on reproductions of feminist posters of the time with original slogans that seem to belong more to the seductive logic of the show than to the political struggle. And which take on even more paradoxical meanings in the combination, which we wanted to highlight in these pages, with the embroidered covers of the 45 rounds of pop music taken from "The 7" Series "(2010) such as" Tripoli 1969 / Let me love whoever I want " by Patty Pravo or "Maledetta Primavera" by Loretta Goggi.Titles sung by feminine icons which, combined with feminist claims, create a typically Vezzolian semantic short circuit that tells us much more than an essay on sociology of that time. The artist, reconstructing a TV that, despite political censorship, also knew how to give space to the talent of Ronconi, Fellini or Bertolucci, claimed a fundamental role of Italian culture but also addressed the issue of the political commitment of the artists. «In the decade taken into consideration in the exhibition at the Prada Foundation, the artist is voluntarily dissociated from power but politically committed. Ricordiamocelo! Even an artist like Schifanohe made paintings to save the accounts of the Manifesto. The artists in those years were political, the only way you can be. While today some artists are so rich that they could finance parties but they do not, on the contrary, they keep themselves at a safe distance from politics, apart from some empty proclamations, because they don't want to alienate the ladies dressed with Hermès' Kelly who go to Art Basel Miami and Pernambuco » . It is useless to try to untangle politics and pop, chronicle and paradox, personal experience and social history in Vezzoli's work who, as an individual, even before being an artist, is intimately interested in observing the world without snobbery and finding reading keys through links lightning and illuminating.«I find it interesting that today the politician, in order to hook his people, has to go through the living room of Carmelita D'Urso who, looking for television success, has become a fundamental pawn on the political chessboard. Maybe she wanted to present the Sanremo Festival and instead it ended that a passage from her is worth a hundred thousand votes. For politicians and television broadcasters, on the other hand, a vote is a vote, a spectator is a spectator - and on these there is no quality jury as in Sanremo ».

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On the passage from the extremely sophisticated television imagery of forty years ago to the national-popular one of today, flattened on the search for consensus, Vezzoli makes a visual comment. This is the embroidery, created specifically to conclude the hyperbolic subjective journey through the history of Italy in these pages, on the image of a young Barbara (Carmelita) D'Urso in topless taken from a 1981 Playboy issue . words the artist has much more to add«Gore Vidal in Caligola said:" Every moment in history is dark ". I, on the other hand, would say: "Every moment in history is a different moment". Each moment reflects a passage. So after the 70s the 80s arrived where the key reversal with the show took place, which took on more political power and the emergence of characters such as Berlusconi, Grillo and Schwarzenegger in the world of entertainment that would then be passed to the policy. I think it was a change to analyze more in psychoanalytic than political terms. After the more or less cold War, Vietnam and terrorism people said: " Enough blood" . There's a great scene in " Good Morning, Night" by Bellocchioin which the terrorists who are guarding Moro watch the variety "Ma che sera!" on TV with the acronym with Carrà singing "How beautiful it is to make love from Trieste down". Here, after a depressing news, with people at home full of fear and hatred, she came, so erotic. There something has turned. For better or for worse we are all ambitious, artists more than others, and even if we will never confess it, we all want to be recognized and remembered. And since if you stop people on the street and ask who the Interior Minister was in 1978, nobody knows, while if you say "How beautiful it is to make love ..." everyone replies "Carrà!", Here, I would say that from a certain historical moment onwards all, the Italians preferred to beRaffaella Carrà rather than Mariano Rumor »

Published by L'Officiel Italia 2019

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