Pietro Roccalva’s highly anticipated first solo show after he has been awarded with the important Italian Furla prize for contemporary art, isn’t the easiest to access. The entrance of the north Milan based gallery is firmly closed and the queuing public is slowly lifted, one person a time, to the Galleria Zero’s balcony in an enormous red wicker basket, mounted on a hoist.

The forcedly solitary visit begins in an almost entirely empty space: there is only one painting on the walls, just before the exit, portraying the artist in the dimly lighted context of a previous installation project. On the way out, a gallery assistant – standing in an upside down, baseless red basin – distributes press releases of the show and invites hosts to proceed down to the gallery’s underground storeroom, an unadorned place normally closed to the public.

In this final setting, Roccasalva edified a horizontal wall on the floor in which a portrait of a woman is located near the missing circular portion of the previously encountered red basin. Alluding both to an enlarged version of the symbol that indicates a sold work in art fairs and to a setting sun that sanctions the end of this strictly regimented parabolic narrative.

Tangentially informed by the artist’s re-elaboration of a pre-Islamic heretic version of the Zoroastrian cult, rejuvenates the metaphor – a vital element of his work – of installation as an extension of the classic painters’ studios. We assist to the emergence of a constellation of themes that could possibly translate into a painted iconography or, alternatively, could be discarded as peripheral mechanisms of an ongoing set-up.

“This is, in a way, the exact opposite of tableaux vivants” comments Pietro “This environment is ideally fixed just a few moments before being captured in a painting”.
The viewer is invited to join in, but his co-operation is not required or, at least, not configured as an active one: “I’d like to avoid the participatory misunderstanding. There is no modality of participation but rapimento – Italian word with the double meaning of “kidnapping” and “rapture” – which is not a form of dialogue”.

A recurring keyword used by Pietro to refer both to the works and to the realisation process is natura morta – still life, but also resonating the literal Italian meaning of “dead nature” – echoed in the red basket, here containing human beings instead of fruits, and in the idea of distilling art from the accumulation of discarded prototypes: “I’d like to capture the musicality of the sense of ending. To transfigure this infinite precipitation. Even the painting at the end of the show is the residue of the accumulation of remains of failed representations ” .

Pietro Roccasalva will be in a collective show in London (July at Haunch of Venison) and, for a solo show, in Gent (October at Hoet- Bekaert).

Pietro Roccasalva
Date: May 1-31, 2005
Place: Galleria Zero
Address: Via Ventura,5 Milan

Text: Francesco Tenaglia
Photos: Courtesy of Galleria Zero

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