Private view: Saturday 1 October, 12-5pm
curated by Mark Godfrey
In 1971, Alighiero Boetti began to use the phrase ‘Mettere al mondo il mondo’. One translation is ‘giving birth to the world’, but another more prosaic translation is ‘putting the world back into the world’ which implies a way of making art that Boetti followed. Instead of inventing images, constructing forms, or having things fabricated, Boetti took the stuff of the world, rearranged it, and put it back into the world as art. He used stamps, maps, the names and lengths of rivers, the colours of biro pens.
Boetti’s idea of putting the world back into the world is one approach among the many that artists take when transforming used objects, and this exhibition explores the different reasons they do this. In the early 1970s, Cecilia Vicuña left her home in Chile to flee the military dictatorship. She started to make tiny constructions from things she found, calling them ‘Precarios’. For her, such sculptures expressed the fragility of political exile. She makes ‘Precarios’ still, but increasingly they reflect the precariousness of the natural world. Also in the early 1970s, Betye Saar began to collect objects from flea markets and build small shrines, drawing from many different cultures’ ideas of spirituality. For others in her wake, like Arthur Simms and Terry Adkins, the used object is not just a physical thing. It is charged, and magical, and carries a sense of the lost presence of its former owner. A sculpture made from used objects can therefore evoke and commemorate histories. Abraham Cruzvillegas and Ser Serpas gather materials discarded on city streets, and construct sculptures to pursue more formal concerns without thinking about the materials’ former users. Their works provoke thoughts about the overproduction and wastage endemic in industrial societies. Jean-Luc Moulène and Michael E. Smith take a more targeted approach to sourcing their materials, buying up objects that have been collected by other people, rather than assembling whatever is easily to hand. Like Cruzvillegas and Serpas, they combine things in unexpected and poetic ways, and give new life to previously unremarkable objects deemed fit only for landfill.
Walking through the streets of Naples, one sees small shrines embedded in walls, while the mundane objects of everyday life crowd the historical centre of the city. The setting provides a dramatic backdrop for this show, and several of the works reflect this context. Serpas and Cruzvillegas have travelled to the city to gather the materials for new works. Abbas Akhavan will make a new piece for the show coming out of a residency at the gallery which will allow him to explore local materials and meet Neapolitan craftspeople, an approach he has taken for previous projects. Tacita Dean reworks her collection of found postcards of Vesuvius. Jimmie Durham, who lived in Naples for many years, is represented by some of his last works, such as chandeliers made from metal and glass fragments, and a nativity scene sculpture tooled from local materials and includes figures based on local residents, and that returns at Christmas time to the neighbourhood where it was made.
Mettere al mondo il mondo includes new commissions made in residency at Thomas Dane Gallery Naples by Abbas Akhavan, Abraham Cruzvillegas and Ser Serpas.
Terry Adkins (Washington D.C., 1953 –New York, USA, 2014)
Abbas Akhavan (Tehran, Iran, 1977)
Alighiero Boetti (Turin, Italy, 1940 – Rome, Italy, 1994)
Abraham Cruzvillegas (Mexico City, Mexico, 1968)
Tacita Dean (Canterbury, UK, 1965)
Jimmie Durham (Houston, TX, USA, 1940 – Berlin, Germany, 2021)
Jean-Luc Moulène (France, 1955)
Betye Saar (Los Angeles, CA, USA, 1926)
Ser Serpas (Los Angeles, CA, USA, 1995)
Arthur Simms (Saint Andrew, Jamaica, 1961)
Michael E. Smith (Detroit, Michigan, USA, 1977)
Cecilia Vicuña (Santiago, Chile, 1948)
Mark Godfrey is an independent curator and art historian based in London. Recent projects include exhibitions by Laura Owens and Jacqueline Humphries, and recent publications include essays on Faith Ringgold, Kevin Beasley, Petrit Halilaj, and Firelei Baez. From 2007 to 2021 he was Senior Curator at Tate Modern where he curated and co-curated several exhibitions including Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1941-2011, and Franz West. He has published two books with Yale University Press: Abstraction and the Holocaust (2007) and Alighiero E Boetti (2013).
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)