Continuing his recent interest in the preservation, representation and context of the historical, Francesco Vezzoli is currently showing a new work Eternal Kiss at Almine Rech’s London exhibition space. Taking a pair of classical Roman busts originally acquired at auction, Vezzoli has worked for several years restoring the works, relying on the input and advice of archaeologists and historians to approximate their original surfaces.
The exhibition, which sees a continuation of Vezzoli’s work for his solo show at MoMA PS1 earlier this year, Teatro Romano, but here takes a new narrative bent, utilizing the same process of restoration in aid of Vezzoli’s ongoing interest in the archetypes of pop culture and their often intertwined relationship with the gestures of high art. Here, the works he has selected are placed in close embrace, locked into a moment just before the male and female sculptures kiss. As the artist notes, the works tie themselves back to classical expressions of desire, of objects imbued with the human emotions and gestures of their creators.
Taking the work further, there’s something cinematic about the works on view, a note that fits quite well into Vezzoli’s oeuvre. In fact, one has to wonder if his previous, more staid restorations on view at PS1 imply a new series or mode of working, utilizing classical antiquities to guide explorations of common desires. Ever the showman, the artist even bills his work’s express goal here as creating “the most ancient sculpture of a kiss in existence.” While the work, at face value, presents a recovery of degraded historical material, Vezzoli’s final product is anything but a clinical presentation. Rather, the spectacle of its presentation is inherent in the final presentation of the work, and is as much great PR copy as it is a historically resonant moment of archaeology. Much akin to his aborted plans to present a full-size Italian church in the U.S., the spectacle and the historical are inherently tied together, with the final product eluding easy classification or critique as a result. It’s telling, then, to note that the exhibition title takes the possessive when referring to the work. The piece is Francesco Vezzoli’s, and no one else’s.
Reflecting the subtle modes of commercial language that infiltrate the processes of preservation and presentation of the past, Vezzoli’s recent work is quietly potent in its exploration of Italian history and its relation to modernity. His new work is on view through October 3rd.
— D. Creahan
Francesco Vezzoli’s Eternal Kiss [Almine Rech]