La Svernissage *
Roxy or and the dual significance of her exhibit inauguration.
The first significance
What is actually taking place at this vernissage? The response is a “de-varnishing”.
a) Those present include those ever present personalities who always attend any social event, parachutists, the artist, the artist’s friend, acquaintances, other artists, critics and even a curator. Then, others present include those who would like to meet her, a few who envy her and others who desire her (who scrutinize, we scrutinize, they scrutinize us, like curious visitors);
b) at this exhibit, it would seem that an effect is being made to stay still, to pose for the artist (without even being aware of doing so: No, we are not aware!);
c) there was no time for make-up, or to show our better side (our worst side);
d) their features do not seem blurred. They mix, we mix (and together create ambiance).
e) white light dominates the scene (they exhibit themselves as someone else and together as anybody); suddenly, it’s dark – but where are we? in a gallery or a discotheque? The champagne glasses are no longer clinking and wine is no longer being poured. Hide the crackers, the sandwiches and the brioches.
Some say that a vernissage is not a meeting place, but rather a state of grace; the undisputed setter of tendencies, styles and trends. Thus, that particular encounter, that very day, during that specific inauguration is the measure of what is dynamic, surprising and innovative.
The second significance
For many artists, cities, neighbourhoods and streets are merely a question of happenchance in their lives, a place where they can say: I was born there:
One can be an American artist having been born in New York, a German artist having been born in Berlin, a Chilean artist having been born in Santiago, but one cannot be an Italian artist having been born in Naples: one is simply, exclusively Neapolitan!
a) Roxy in the Box was born in Naples and is truly Neapolitan.
b) One can learn about Naples without visiting it, all you need to do is to know Roxy (it’s almost as if, through her, once can catch a glimpse and get the feel of that immense, bustling, complex civilization).
The subjects (and secrets) of her works
She allows us to find a humanist touch in her when she captures them(us), when she fishes them (us) when she traps them (us) which acquires substance in the form of formal distortions hidden in the pleasantly mannerist attitudes thus unintentionally providing a key to the psychological introspection of the ancestral humanism of the leading players.
The evocative aspects presented in the pop figuration are made substantial by the robust expressive contents in which Roxy expresses her plastic fusion and bold compositional schemes. Without particularly decorative backgrounds, the narration is not secondary but rather conforms, constitutes and amalgamates an autonomous re-interpretation.
Rather than on the actual day of the exhibit, the presence of visitors began earlier when they were captured, and now that the exhibit is open, they watch themselves, they watch us (we watch them), and remain speechless, listening unknowingly to the noise from some other party, a party where Roxy has attempted to better analyse the evolution and, above all, the topicality of expressivity.
- SVERNISSAGE * (vernissage derives from the French vernis – or varnish – and is intended as a private showing held before the opening of an art exhibition. Svernissage is a play on words in Italian indicating the act of de-varnishing)
Alone in space
Icons of contemporary language permeate and sustain monotints while confronting and synchronizing the surface dynamics where the lights run in unpredictable patterns.
The figures of Roxy in the Box are among these new mythologies. Immerged in a revelation of inner challenges, the characters immerge from the fragile paper support freeing an intense interior dimension trapped within its own references.
Unable to believe in past ideological structures, the bodies appear suspended, stretched forward towards an idea of the future.
The selection of colours introduces a sense of escape from something unidentified which does not produce tormented grandeur. Their gestures, looks, and the fragments of hypothetical actions flow along precise, highly balanced lines, removed from plays of light and tension.
The artist draws linguistic coordinates from a visual patrimony verging on dada, pop-art and new figuration. The semantic icons are transformed in representation and divulge an ability to interpret and appropriate certain ideological power mechanisms from which the artist distances herself using a barrier of sound.
Her figures are passages of externalization from everyday life, icons of homo partecipans at an information supermarket. Roxy in the Box’s man is the now bloated recipient of information, reproduction, Campbell fashion, post-production, post-art etc.
Finding no pleasure in voyeurism, he embarks upon a quest to express eroticism and hedonism in a continuous process of respondency between political and cultural ideology and form. The artist’s initial formulation is transformed in expressive tension, in a critical version of the formalization of what may be kitsch taste. The realistic roots of the new figuration, devoid of romanticism and sentimentalism, are aimed at the possibility of escape, of rebellion … of different solutions.
The exhibit title, Svernissage*, is reminiscent of the dada matinée organized in Paris at the Palais des Fetes on Rue Saint-Martin on 23 January, 1920. During this event, one of Picabia’s Tableau à effacer was presented. The painting was covered with inscriptions which were washed away by André Breton before an astonished public. In fact, subsequently, Man Ray’s 1923 Objet à détruire was stolen.
Furthermore, the concept of hyper-communication introduced in the title traces back to Lyotard’s considerations regarding the post-modern condition. In his opinion, the intertwining of languages, the intensification of knowledge, the logic of paradox and excessive communications lead to a need for oblivion.
For the artist, the relentless need for narration becomes silence which must be imposed in the situation of the exhibit.
“The exposition, according to Roxy in the Box, is held in a dark room with rays of discotheque lights pulsating to the rhythm of music. An audio installation, including music in addition to the background sound of talking and murmuring you would typically hear at a modern-day vernissage, is provided … creating an effect which is perhaps a bit irritating.
The idea is, above all, to communicate the desire for silence in regards to art… thus anyone coming to visit my svernissage, will only be able to watch what is happening in the gallery in silence because I have already provided for all the typical, irritating noise.
The protagonist of my svernissage is a tin of synthetic solvent…….”
The “local” references of most of the titles, almost a form of confidentiality with one’s own vision of the world, configures a linguistic apparatus which renders the compositional perception ambiguous and, in turn, constructs mechanisms branching out into historical-artistic journeys and crossings. The suspended processes tend to lead to questions, thought processes, sensations or self- referential considerations. The artist does not provide visible responses but rather, with a sense of detachment, exhibits the declination of spaces and central relations from which no information filters through.
Roxy in the Box plans the words, the images and the sound around a centrality that cannot be identified as memory and thus narration-reconstruction. Her figuration is always solitary, with looks and approaches which appear to indicate availability and openness.
The figurative universe reproduces objective reality and signs of cancellation the extent of which is unknown.
In this sense, the exhibit, as a re-writing of awareness, appears to be an elusive, perhaps ironic, form of the nickname used by the artist in proposing her works.
The desire to “mentally” depart from the concept of space delimited by the box or other performing sites produces images of almost real-life characters suspended in the empty space and silence of the surfaces.
Removed from context or from an impossible world, the characters, who are solitary even when presented as a couple of friends, wander in the indefinite dimension of the body without shadows revealing a social function which has been lost.
* (vernissage derives from the French vernis – or varnish – and is intended as a private showing held before the opening of an art exhibition. Svernissage is a play on words in Italian indicating the act of de-varnishing)
La Svernissage – audio/painting installation
The desecrating force of her works are concealed beneath the pop painting and a illusively superficial approach… both to life and her art. A good dose of irony and all the trappings of the art of disguise are needed to unveil the “contrite reality” under the guise of colours…
Resistenza critica (Critical Resistance) seems to be Roxy in the Box’s catch word: critical because in her works the artist continuously expresses a tendency to unmask certain attitudes or fictitious social statuses. Declaredly pop in origin, but revised in Neapolitan “sauce” – with all the irony and disenchantment that characterises the Campania spirit – she attacks standardization and the social-cultural subjugation of certain purely superficial aesthetic models.
Resistance because, the will to resist in such a society is implicit in her declared opposition to these acts and kinds of behaviour which are reflected in numerous spheres of life, not the least of which is art which is the focus of the Svernissage exhibit.
Roxy usually uses costumes to play with the various declinations of her own identity which then are instilled in a collective identity in the inevitable moment of recognition of certain figures. This is true of the works entitled Femminella and KitaKKat, in which the linguistic references to famous brands serve to re-enforce her colourful visual universe.
However, at the Studio Fontaine, the artist sets aside her usual ruses and produces a continuous vernissage. Enormous portraits of the typical sort of people one sees at openings hang on the walls and include: the fashion couple, the woman who never once strays from the refreshment table and the pseudo-unconventional character. And then there is Roxy, the artist. Her only concession to a change in appearance is the colour of her hair, black like the cloth she uses to clean, sverniciare (to remove old paint).
Scarcely noticed by the guests, she almost always appears in a secondary position, intent upon cleaning the ill concealed dirt which blackens the rag she holds in her hand. Seemingly an unassuming working woman, in stark contrast with the usually amusing poses of her production from which an irrepressible, genial femininity transpire.
The stroboscopic lights transform the gallery into a sort of discotheque, a party animated by the rhythm of trash music –reminiscent of the music from the film Wonder Woman– in a continuous, extremely annoying buzz. A portrait of the grotesque masqueraded by a veil of worldliness.
*(vernissage derives from the French vernis – or varnish – and is intended as a private showing held before the opening of an art exhibition. Svernissage is a play on words in Italian indicating the act of de-varnishing)
Federica La Paglia
exhibit visited 10 December, 2005
La Svernissage – Roxy in the Box. curated by Antonio Arévalo
Catalogue text by Antonio Arévalo and Vittoria Biasi
Studio Fontaine, Via Cardinal La Fontaine 98/a, Viterbo