Gabriele De Santis’ solo show at Limoncello takes its exhibition title from House of Pain’s 1992 release ‘Jump Around.’ Taking literal inspiration from the song, ‘IF YOU HAVE GOT THE FEELING JUMP ACROSS THE CEILING’ encourages viewers to jump around on the gallery floor which has been transformed into a huge trampoline. This creates a shifting viewing platform for the remaining artworks which adorn the surrounding gallery walls; each piece seen at ‘optimum’ eye level as the viewer reaches maximum height.
The accompanying exhibition text references the severe winter storm, referred to as the ‘polar vortex’, which hit the US and Canada in January 2014. As the temperature fell, videos emerged on youtube of people throwing boiling water into the air which, as it hit the freezing cold, instantly changed from liquid to solid. This, although seemingly obtuse, is an interesting starting point from which to approach Gabriel De Santis’ exhibition, as he attempts to similarly crystallise fragments of motion and flux within these works.
There are five marble dolphins on the gallery walls. Leaping towards protruding resin hula hoops, De Santis chooses to depict the graceful trajectory of these animals with a heavy, static material. Characteristic of De Santis’ sense of humour, this frustration of movement is further highlighted by the blue trampoline which underlies the exhibition and gives the illusion of a swimming pool - the dolphins’ playground. This is a playground which we, as viewers, are invited to revel in, while the dolphins remain stationary upon their walls - seemingly light and mobile, yet weighed down by their own make-up.
De Santis has a clear interest in personifying his artworks. While two Harlequin patterned paintings are named ‘Grace’ and ‘Barnie’ after Limencello gallery staff, the marble dolphins are named after characters in the TV show ‘Scrubs’. Grouped together, ‘Carla and Cox’ face ‘JD and Elliot’, while ‘Turk’ and ‘Bob’ are solo leapers. This is a necessarily arbitrary decision, but it connects these shapes, and ultimately these animals, with something familiar and ridiculous. De Santis’ works are an amalgamation of cultural references, with no reservations about bringing everyday humour into the gallery space.
For ‘Barnie’ and ‘Grace’ De Santis uses marble as a background to facilitate his mark-making. On top of this surface, he paints a Harlequin print - the rich marble and white, chalky paint alternating to create the infamous diamond pattern. By using, and in some ways de-facing, an expensive historic material, pre-made by nature, De Santis explores the hierarchy of background and foreground within painting. This is not necessarily a critical analysis of the historical precedence of painting, rather, De Santis’ works are imbued with a sense of play.
As the Harlequin is a theatrical character known for his physical agility and comedic, performative nature, it’s difficult not to equate De Santis with the Harlequin, proffering his hand for you to cartwheel with him. Through his careful selection of materials and playful collapsing of cultural hierarchies, De Santis creates works which are reckless and acerbically contemporary.