3 May - 10 June 2017
At 7pm on Wednesday 3 May 2017, the Guido Costa Projects Gallery in Via Mazzini 24, Torino will host the performance Scagliando si impara (poems 1976-1979 & costume punk percussion) by Maurizio Vetrugno. It marks the first collaboration with the gallery in twenty years. During the thirty-minute performance an actor will amalgamate the different creative souls of the Turin artist, retracing some of the different phases of his long artistic production before putting it to music to showcase the rich and varied character of one of the most protean artists on the current art scene.
Since his outset at the end of the 70s, the artist’s poetic output has been characterised by an original use of sources and ideas that have combined into an broad expression of cultural openness, capable of celebrating many diverse forms of cultural expression: music, the history of costume, philosophy together with some of the more sophisticated variations of the visual arts. In this way Vetrugno’s modus operandi anticipated by at least ten years the cross over culture and artistic contamination that would later come into being. But the importance of Vetrugno as an artist, revealed in a series of important exhibitions in those years did not limit itself to the pleasures (and consequent pains) that inevitably accompany the destiny of anyone willing to sing from a different song sheet. What Vetrugno offered in those years was first and foremost an unprecedented experiment in poetry and life.
These were his intimate reasons for subtracting himself from the excessive power of the West and moving to Bali so as to test non-conventional forms of artistic expression (embroidery, weaving, photographs printed on different surfaces and outdoor installations), considered at the time largely marginal. It was a highly risky and totally original creative curve; very few, indeed, had ventured into such unexplored lands: Ashley Bickerton, another visitor to Bali, perhaps, or the early Richard Prince during his collaboration with Colin De Land of the American Fine Arts. So, Maurizio Vetrugno is embedded in the real underground, where he has been a lonely pioneering star.
His artistic production from 1980 to the end of the last century was prolific; many pieces from that period have become famous, like the extraordinary collection of embroidered LP covers, or his many textile pieces and tapestries. But instead of gaining the recognition they deserve these works have never reached a wide audience. Although he was able to combine artistic expression from three continents into a system and at the same time create a unique distribution network, where East and West found themselves in a reciprocating relationship that passed through the antipodes, Maurizio Vetrugno’s destiny, like that of few other artists, would become exemplary.
The final port of call for the artist from the suburbs of Turin would not be a grand metropolis of art like London or New York: he brought the centrality of the West into question. His journey wasn’t to London via Torino, but to Los Angeles via Indonesia or New Delhi. Maurizio Vetrugno was one of the first Western artists to exhibit only in Indian or Indonesian galleries. Indeed, he has sold more work in Bangkok than in Milan. But only keen observers noticed these globalised artworks beginning to emerge in the 80s.
This is I think when the artist’s interest in everything hybrid and transversal came into being, concretizing in this bizarre, ironic, blurred output, with an ultimate focus on credibility in a time when the artist who sought success followed the path of material coherence.
True to his heretic and iconoclastic heart, in the 80s Maurizio Vetrugno began experimenting with the ancient creative techniques of embroidery, batik and weaving to produce work inspired by pop, beat and punk. Doing so he hybridised low culture and let the voice and language of voiceless minorities come out, at times filtering everything with his fascination for exclusive and classical references. Such avant-garde anachronisms made him unique in his time and the pioneer of an intellectual panorama that has nowadays become perfectly accepted, perhaps even inevitable. So, here we have a solid, encyclopaedic knowledge of music, experimental poetry, literature, philosophy, and some highbrow reflections on alteration, deviation and dissent tossed in.
The performance to be held in the gallery on Wednesday 3 May is the product of such rich cultural humus that it forms a bridge between his early intellectual years, where he was more closely involved in poetry than visual arts, and his surgeon’s hand disenchanted for most of what is contemporary. This explains why he settled on a dramatised reading of an unpublished corpus of his early poems (le poesie dei suoi vent’anni, 1976-1979), and a musical performance played on the Jeff Koons sculpture Flowers (1986), the zenith of fetishism in contemporary visual culture. Once again we find ourselves faced with an unorthodox use of primary sources and a radical dramatic showcasing of ideas, blended with his customary and caustic irony to make the ponderousness of the real sort of sneer at itself.
The exhibition-performance Scagliando si impara continues the gallery’s season dedicated to immaterial. The gallery will remain open until 10 June and include a selection of work produced by the artist since the 80s.
The poems by Maurizio Vetrugno will be read by Sax Nicosia. The sound sculpture Flowers is by Jeff Koons (private collection, Turin).
Maurizio Vetrugno and Guido Costa Projects would like to express their deepest thanks to Rosa Mogliasso of the Teatro Baretti (Turin), Sandro Carnino, Maria Bruni, Jeff Koons, Sarah Cosulich and the many anonymous friends and supporters who have made this performance possible.
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Maurizio Vetrugno (Turin, 1957) is one of the most interesting Italian artists of his generation. Eclectic by vocation, he made his debut into the art scene in Bologna at the end of the 70s as part of the enfatisti group, promoted by Francesca Alinovi. In those years he first exhibited at the Neon gallery, of which he is one of the founders. His interest in music and philosophy led him to experiment with sophisticated hybrid art forms: interactive sound installations, experimental photography as well as making incursions into fashion and the applied arts. He started working in Bali, in Indonesia, in the mid-80s, and has exhibited regularly since then in private galleries, museums and public spaces in Europe, Asia and the United States. His interest in the culture and history of the Far East extends into collecting. He has a fine collection of high period Chinese decorative art and is considered an expert in this field. His work is held in important private collections in Italy and abroad. His collaboration with Guido Costa Projects began in the early 90s. The performance on 3 May is one of his rare public performances and marks a return to the Turin art scene after many years absence.