INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
For the first time since the appearance of the Transavanguardia, artwork by young Italians is being appreciated - even outside Italy - almost as much as that of young English, German, or American artists. A recent exhibition, which was conceived by Paolo Colombo for the Centre d'Art contemporain in Geneva and then traveled to London, was the most important manifestation thus far of this somewhat unexpected phenomenon. Despite the important role the Transavanguardia played in the aesthetic debates of the '80s, work by younger Italians rarely crosses the borders of Italy, regardless of quality, except in the case of certain higher-profile figures like Maurizio Cattelan or Vanessa Beecroft.
The show's original title, "Fatto in Italia," was an ironic translation of "made in Italy," a phrase that evokes fashion, shoes, cuisine, and perhaps even political corruption. Here, it was used to introduce to an international audience twelve artists who appeared on the scene after the mid '80s. Stefano Arienti and Liliana Moro were the sole representatives of the generation that began exhibiting in 1985; the others, although their contemporaries, all began to receive recognition later. Moro presented an ambiguous terra-cotta self-portrait that was an artifact from an earlier performance. Arienti's amusingly aggressive iconophobia was revealed in a large-scale photographic self-portrait with only a ghost of the blurry image remaining, thanks to scratches and cuts made on the negative by a few of his friends. The work of these two artists exemplifies some of the approaches that have been put forth in opposition to neo-Expressionist painting.
One strength of "Made in Italy" was that it attempted to highlight the variety of strategies deployed by young Italian artists. Cattelan's black humor was visible here in a piece wittily illustrating a familiar expression - an ostrich hiding its head in a hole in the floor. Cattelan also often creates works in situ: here, he intended to leave paper bags containing fake hand grenades lying around the floor of the ICA bar, but ended up abandoning the idea. There were some who also strongly suspected him of having graffitied incendiary slogans onto the exterior of the building after the show's opening (the graffiti was later removed by authorities). Beecroft exhibited small drawings and large canvases populated by nervous figures, and she also presented a performance, loaded with erotic significance, that featured girls dressed only in camisole tops. …