The idea of transformation always supports a vision. It metaphorically deals with conceptual abstractions but also with aesthetic and functional assessments able to define a spatial situation. The transformation of an artistic environment is a form of art in itself. The process of intentionally arranging elements in a specific way, scripts a place that appeals to the emotional sphere and also responds to the impulse to stretch creativity and the boundaries of thinking.
Taking this paradigm as a starting point, Giò Marconi has moved into a new exhibition space, the product of collaboration with Berlin-based firm Kuehn Malvezzi. Pursuing a natural simplicity through concepts of geometrical clarity and minimal tension, the new space is both bold and severe in style. It takes account of its previous tradition but simultaneously reflects a strong sense of urgency to envision and create the future of new expectations.
To celebrate the new site and its twenty fifth year of business, Giò Marconi has designed a group exhibition showcasing works by twenty-seven of its own artists.
Located within a typical Milanese courtyard, the entrance of the gallery frames a small room enhanced with three squiggly lamps by George Pardo. Built of plexiglass and aluminium, they break the boundaries between sculpture, installation and décor.
A flight of steps leads to the main space, which is filled with carefully selected artworks. The show presents a dynamic exhibition experience, alternating sculptures, prints and paintings. The gallery space’s perimeter disappears into the narrative fervour taking shape along its walls, but also contributes to the harmony of the pauses between the works, in a way that offers a stimulating experience of spectatorship.
By including a stair inside the space, Giò Marconi consciously orients the viewer’s attention to a new direction and physically takes them to a different level of participation.
The viewer is promptly greeted with ‘S is for Silence’, a large sculptural installation in the form of a frog by Kerstin Brätsch and Debo Eilers. This is immediately followed by a series of works by Nathalie Djurberg, Dasha Shishkin, Franz Ackermann, Oliver Osborne, Matthew Brannon and many others. Will Benedict attests his presence with a painting in gouache on canvas mounted with a panel of foamcore where aluminium, glass and tape are integrated as part of the final composition. A painting by André Butzer reveals itself through hectic brush strokes, and a thought bubble staged on a wooden panel by Tobias Rehberger talks about a ‘Simple Truth’, while the atmospheric sound effects by the musician and composer Hans Berg, also artistic partner of Nathalie Djurberg, resound within the space.
Each of the artworks, presented as a synchronised part of the same whole, preserves its own singularity, drawing the show as both individual and collective. Setting up a confrontation between the youngest artists and the most established ones, the exhibit is conceived without hierarchies and thematic imperatives.
We might interpret this collection of artworks almost like a show within a show that not only deals with the value of every piece, but also with the process of interaction that the works create within the space itself. In doing this, it brings back memories of words by Christian Norberg-Schulz, who talks about a place where a man can orient himself, where he can identify with an environment.
Transformation implies an autobiographical responsibility - the act of transforming (turning) also implies a tacit challenge (resulting from the autobiographical nature of transformation). In this case the challenge consists of the effort to preserve the previous activity of the gallery whilst simultaneously elevating it to a higher level of performance. The intention behind the form here is clearly echoed by the spatial dimension of the featured works and also by the unequivocal claim of the title of the show, in which each element seems to announce: ‘YES WE’RE OPEN’.