Magazine article Artforum International

Sergio Vega: Galleria Umberto Di Marino

Magazine article Artforum International

Sergio Vega: Galleria Umberto Di Marino

Article excerpt

NAPLES

Sergio Vega

GALLERIA UMBERTO DI MARINO

For his third solo exhibition at Galleria Umberto Di Marino, Sergio Vega created a complex network of incongruous elements that was already suggested by the show's title: "Shamanic Modernism: Parrots, Bossanova and Architecture." The gallery was transformed into a unique environmental installation comprised of images, sounds, architecture, and elements of nature. In recent years, Vega--working with ruthless irony--has retraced a particular paradisiacal mythology that emerged during South America's colonization. Many early European explorers interpreted the book of Genesis to suggest that the region was a manifestation of the Garden of Eden, a thesis corroborated by the extraordinarily lush nature of these balmy zones.

This theory also served as the inspiration for El Paraiso en el Nuevo Mundo (The Paradise of the New World), 1656, written by Antonio de Leon Pinelo, a Spanish explorer and historian of the West Indies. In 1999, Vega organized a trip to retrace the journey into the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso described in the book. Vega, in turn, kept his own detailed travel diary, in which he recorded his observations on the region's history. Using these musings as a point of departure, the artist wove his reflections on art together with thoughts about urban planning and architecture in a South American reality that perennially hovers on the thresholds of present and past, sublime and modern, form and function, reality and artifice.

In doing so, Vega pushed beyond the reassuring appearance of a colorful and captivating surface and focused on the lacerations and contradictions that afflict an entire continent, a clashing web of tribal legacies and technological accelerations, favelas and poorly planned megalopolises. Throughout the show, Vega completely sidestepped an aesthetic approach to planning. In his text "Modernismo Tropical," written in 2000, the artist described this strategy as producing a neo-Baroque and folkloric version of Western rationalism through which architecture, always searching for new trends, can embrace shamanic strategies: "In the near future we may come to see a bizarre array of organic buildings that acquire the status of natural specimens. Parrot color-chart architecture, banana-shaped institutional buildings, pineapple churches, crocodilian houses, snake promenades, toucan theaters, orchid subway stations, etc. …

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