This week Giacomo Guidi Arte Contemporanea inaugurates a new gallery space in Rome with a trifecta of ambitious single artist presentations. The new location, nestled in Rome’s historical center, boasts nearly 1,000 square feet of space. Giacomo Guidi intends to put every inch to good use. He envisages a flexible, hybrid exhibition venue that will host a range of cultural events and happenings.
The gallery opens its doors on September 16th with a retrospective for German artist Gerold Miller, a solo exhibition of recent works by Californian Melissa Kretschmer, and a display of 1950s drawings and enamel sculptures by Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass. Although each show is strikingly different, this grouping brings to the fore three artists grappling with the limits of painting and the possibilities of light and texture to redefine the picture space.
Gerold Miller’s “Set” and “Monoform” series comprise two rich, deeply considered strains of his artistic practice since 1994. His “Set” paintings are large-scale, black-lacquered, steel surfaces sometimes overlaid with minimal blocks of color. Variations in tone and in luster, ranging from matte to glossy, toy with preconceived ideas of foreground and background. Miller’s “Monoforms” incorporate wall space into the perceived picture space, bringing full circle the artist’s investigations into how a frame shapes, delineates, or even defines a work of art.
Frames and edges are equally central to Melissa Kretschmer, whose works delve into the very stuff of paintings: their physical structure. Kretschmer isolates different materials—gesso, beeswax, wood, vellum—and then reconfigures them into geometric planes. At Giacomo Guidi she has cast her carefully-meditating eye on the inherent qualities of plywood. Applied color in gesso and gouache sweeps over and seeps into the wood’s pores to accentuate the materials’ natural properties. Inconsistencies in texture and luminosity highlight the unstable relationship between matter and light, surface and support, exterior and interior.
For Ettore Sottsass, who passed away in 2007, the 1950s proved a fertile period of experimentation. The enameled copper tondos and vases on wooden bases on view in “Smalti 1958” lend rare insight into the creative process of the future founder of the Memphis Group and inventor of the iconic red plastic Olivetti Valentine typewriter (1969). Enamel’s vivid, jewellike colors and its irregular surfaces fascinated Sottsass, who strove to make design more than simply a matter of function. During his lifetime, he aspired to create universal, symbolic systems capable of uniting all of humanity. If these three exhibitions are any indication of the lofty aims Giacomo Guidi Arte Contemporanea has in mind for its new space, Rome can expect plenty of exciting, thoughtful, and imaginative programming to come.
“Ettore Sottsas: Smalti 1958” is on view at Giacomo Guidi Arte Contemporanea from September 16 – November 8, 2014.