A corridor lined with wine colored velvet leads to a screening room with plush seats and a projection screen inserted into a large rectangular aperture cut from the curtain. The ambiance is one part sophisticated, one part tawdry, befitting the vaguely 1950s-style art cinema conceived by Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli (b. 1971) as the ideal setting for the first U.S. screening of his films. The installation serves as an homage to the historical roots of independent cinema, but also as a sly parody of the more sanctimonious tendencies of recent film and video art.
In the past five years, Vezzoli has created a series of short films based loosely on landmark works of modern cinema by Kubrick, Truffaut, Cocteau, Visconti, and other directors. In each of his films, Vezzoli restages an extended scene from the original classic, altering it so that his personal obsession with needlepoint is transformed into a cinematic motif that struggles to dominate whatever narrative exists. A conflict is exposed, feelings are vented, someone sings, and the credits roll. The finished work often resembles a fragment of a much longer movie, which has been taken out of sequence and shown as part of a tongue-in-cheek meditation on fame, romance and the fickleness of the creative muse.
Sometimes, as in his best-known work The Embroidered Trilogy, celebrated filmmakers such as Lina Wertmuller are invited to direct the segment, and Vezzoli often casts himself alongside major European film stars like Valentina Cortese and Isabella Rossellini. In its high-camp aesthetic, Vezzoli’s work is by turns glamorous, satirical, and deeply melancholic, and always rooted in the artist’s own post-adolescent fantasy life. It is also a multi-layered exploration of the ways in which the iconography of cinema functions for some artists as a kind of instant art-historical education, with its endless self-referentiality converted into a hard-won argument about the inherent subversiveness of pure beauty.
Francesco Vezzoli was born and lives in Milan. He has had solo exhibitions at the Gio Marconi Gallery, Milan and Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London. His work was featured at the 1999 Istanbul Biennale and the 2001 Venice Biennale, and is the subject of an exhibition opening in January 2002 at Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy.
Organized by Dan Cameron