The Silver Screen

18 - 25 March 2020

Mythologies

Cardi Gallery is pleased to present The Silver Screen, an online exhibition featuring 10 major works that attest to the massive impact advertising, the news media and especially the world of cinema have had on the production of two major Italian artists – one of the founders of Pop Art Mimmo Rotella (b. 1918, Catanzaro – 2006, Milan) and Francesco Vezzoli (1971, Brescia).

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Mimmo RotellaMagoo, 1966Artypo on canvas79.5 x 122 cm31 1/4 x 48 1/8 in

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Description

Mimmo Rotella’s interest in in the movie industry as subject originated from his discovery of the décollages in 1953, when the artist sourced film and advertisement posters from the streets of Rome. The vibrant compositions featured revealing fragments, glimpses of torn and layered pieces of posters, hinting at the films presently advertised. The fascination for cinema grew in 1961, when Rotella created a series including “La Dolce Vita” (1962) and “The hot Marilyn” (1962), exclusively dedicated to the medium of the film poster. Germano Celant describes Rotella’s décollages from this period as a significant approach to cinema. He underlines the artist’s ability to let the sourced imagery guide the gestural creativity of the artist, who replaces the pictorial representation with the set of values and commercialisation of the film poster utilised. According to Celant, the work therefore neutralises artistic heroism and introduces the world of cinema and fame through the uninterrupted and virtually inexpressive flow, a composition of a stream of images.

With the later development of the Artypo technique, motivated by the artist’s growing interest in typography (the term combines “art” and “typography”), Rotella continued his exploration of cinema as a subject. The works are made by isolating fragments of “sfogliacci”, the printing proofs used for colour proofs, the compositions of coloured layers became endless. The Artypo demonstrates the artist’s own creative use of typographical processes: selecting posters amongst those printing proofs typographers would normally discard, he either mounted them on canvas or laminated them. Proofs – whose function was merely that of warming up printing presses, controlling registers and quality of both colours and images – presented a collection of randomly placed images with areas of overprinting, a superimposition entirely dictated by the element of chance.

The Artypo “Magoo” (1966) is a composition of two advertisements by “Delpire Publicite”, a Parisian advertising agency founded by Robert Delpire. Focus of the work is the foreground which shows a part of the film poster for “Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?“, the 1966 film directed by William Klein. In the background, an advert for the “Azam 6” by Citroen, is introduced horizontally into the frame. While the original black and white of the film poster is preserved through the production process of the Artypo technique, the vibrant colours of Rotella’s appropriation are introduced through different printing proofs for the Citroen advert, glimpsing through the white spaces of the film poster. A similar Artypo, “Polly” (1966) is made of the same composition with a different frame of the film poster. “Magoo” (1966) is a great example for Mimmo Rotella’s interest in cinematography and the design and typography of advertisements.

Mimmo RotellaBaskerville, 1961Dècollage, torn poster on canvas82.5 x 131 cm32 1/2 x 51 5/8 in

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Description

Mimmo Rotella’s interest in the movie industry as a subject originated from his discovery of the décollages in 1953, when the artist sourced film and advertisement posters from the streets of Rome. The vibrant compositions featured revealing fragments, glimpses of torn and layered pieces of posters, hinting at the films presently advertised. The fascination for cinema grew in 1961, when Rotella created a series including “La Dolce Vita” (1962) and “The hot Marilyn” (1962), exclusively dedicated to the medium of the film poster. Germano Celant describes Rotella’s décollages from this period as a significant approach to cinema. He underlines the artist’s ability to let the sourced imagery guide the gestural creativity of the artist, who replaces the pictorial representation with the set of values and commercialisation of the film poster utilised. According to Celant, the work, therefore, neutralises artistic heroism and introduces the world of cinema and fame through the uninterrupted and virtually inexpressive flow in the composition of a stream of images.

In the present work “Baskerville” (1961) Mimmo Rotella layered at least three fragments of film advertisements that were torn and ripped. Titled “Baskerville”, the work references the 1959 film “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Terence Fisher. Its Italian film poster is centred in the middle with the translated title “La furia di Baskerville”, clearly visible giving title to Rotella’s composition. Although the other poster fragments are not as recognisable, it can be assumed that the poster layered beneath is of the film “The Man Upstairs (Ita: Tre minuti di tempo)”. This consideration is based on the screenwriters credit for Alun Falconer on the left edge of the artwork. Another visible trace for a film poster is the yellow font layered right beneath the “La furia di Baskerville” poster title. The detectible words from the third title seem to suggest that it could possibly be a poster of the film  “38 parallelo missione compiuta”, the Italian release of the American film “Pork Chop Hill”.

Mimmo RotellaLa diva, 1963Photo emulsion on canvas120 x 90 cm47 1/4 x 35 3/8 in

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The photo emulsion “La Diva” (1963) combines both Rotella’s interest in cinema and iconography. As image source, the artist photographed and reproduced a part of a film poster showing the actress Anita Ekberg, famous for her role as Sylvia in the Federico Fellini film “La Dolce Vita“. The poster advertises another Fellini directed production “70 Boccaccio“, in which she plays herself appearing on a provocative billboard and haunting an enraged roman citizen who becomes terrorised by her as she appears as a hallucination everywhere he goes.

Mimmo Rotella’s interest in in the movie industry as subject originated from his discovery of the Décollages in 1953, when the artist sourced film and advertisement posters from the streets of Rome. The vibrant compositions featured revealing fragments, glimpses of torn and layered pieces of posters, hinting at the films presently advertised. The fascination for cinema grew in 1961, when Rotella created a series including “La Dolce Vita” (1962) and “The hot Marilyn” (1962), exclusively dedicated to the medium of the film poster. Germano Celant describes Rotella’s décollages from this period as a significant approach to cinema. He underlines the artist’s ability to let the sourced imagery guide the gestural creativity of the artist, who replaces the pictorial representation with the set of values and commercialisation of the film poster utilised. According to Celant, the work therefore neutralises artistic heroism and introduces the world of cinema and fame through the uninterrupted and virtually inexpressive flow in composition of a stream of images.

Experimenting with ways to transition from the Décollages, Rotella discovered a technique which later has been defined as significant to the emergence of the “Mec-Art” movement. The creation of the photo emulsion technique was a result of Rotella’s interest in photography and the rediscovery of the photojournalism of the 1920s and 1930s by both Andy Warhol and himself. The photomechanical technique is described by Celant as: “An almost mechanical process, which integrated the experiences of life without being concerned whether the outcome was art or non-art, with the aim of overturning the ‘sacred’ and ‘ritual’ condition of cultural art.” Allowing Rotella to convey current affairs in greater clarity, the technique of the photo emulsion is often characterised as one that manifests a moment in time, conveying important chronological events in society.

Mimmo Rotella8 1⁄2, 1963Photo emulsion on canvas98 x 80 cm38 5/8 x 31 1/2 in

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Description

Mimmo Rotella (1918, Catanzaro – 2006, Milano) was a multifaceted artist and poet famous for his invention of the “décollage”, the act of tearing or removing layers of advertising posters to create new meaning through unexpected visual juxtaposition. Rotella used found imagery in the form of advertising posters, which he appropriated from streets and urban environments, especially in Rome. Back in the studio, he would mount these posters on to canvas, and rip and tear away at each layer, resulting in a final product of high culture that transcended the ephemeral nature of its parts.

“8 ½”, 1963 is a very early example of the use of photographic reproduction on canvas within Rotella’s practice, a technique which he begun working with in 1963 and can be considered a natural progression – or rather, reversal, of his creative, layering processes of “décollage”. The process, which he addresses as “reportage”, involves choosing images, photographing them, projecting the blown-up negatives onto a canvas chemically treated with photographic emulsion to fix the image and when required, colouring. The “reportage” process doesn’t just refer to the technique – namely, the multi-stage transferral of images from one medium to another – it comments on the content of the works, bringing to the fore the artist’s interest in exploring the communication and the media. These canvases are indeed recordings of contemporary events and their media dissemination, at once communicating and commemorating the images they capture. They play between temporal dimensions; speaking of something contemporary to the making of the work, of the reality of a document appropriated by the artist and through whose gesture is already blurring into memory.

Rotella employed the photographic reproduction technique, in a quest for “mechanical painting” mainly for two main categories of works: the socio-political reportages and the portraits. The subject of the first are pages or clippings cut from magazines or newspapers, then photographed. He still uses posters and proofs in these works, and they become even more objective in forming the artist’s iconography of the present.

For the portraits – on which he started working in 1965 – the subject is instead photographed directly by the artist, while the other stages of the process remain unchanged. There is a third category, which could be interpreted as a subcategory of the socio-political reportages, that portraying the world of cinema – and especially Fellini’s films alongside Hollywood classics and their divas – subject of several of his “reportages”.

The use of photographic reproduction is particularly effective in “8 ½” (1963) as it relies on the blueish toning of the film to recollect and render the atmosphere, somewhat suspended between dream, memory and hallucination of 8 ½ one of Federico Fellini’s masterpieces, from 1963, and one of the most iconic films of all time. Rotella’s piece reinforces the demystification of the shiny superficiality of cinema that is apparent in Fellini’s movie. Fellini assigned the role of director Guido Anselmi, who wants to make an epic science fiction movie no longer seem capable of writing, to actor Marcello Mastroianni. The film successfully merges temporal and psychological dimensions, combining the slow loss of consistency of his character’s reality with the hallucinatory experience of the spectator, forced to face a realm of blurred borders, constantly overexposed and almost surrealistic; a world where nothing is true, yet anything is possible.

 

The image appropriated by Rotella is collaged from one of the film’s main scenes – known as the “harem scene” – when Guido is hosting a surreal dinner party bringing together all the women he has been somehow sexually involved with. It is a chauvinist delirium with whipping and stool, combating women in a dance. The frame chosen by Rotella portrays Guido in the act of whipping – yet cropping the arm and suspending the narrative – his gesture directed against Saraghina, the grotesque character embodying the quintessentially devilish whore.

Nostalgia is a pertinent word as, above all else, Rotella’s works are the physical manifestation of memory as a layering of realities, acting almost as time capsules to a different age and place. Playing with images, modulating them like in a visual orchestra, Rotella gave life to a series of intertwined icons of Italy.

Mimmo RotellaLo schermo, 1965-66Photo emulsion on canvas185 x 145 cm72 7/8 x 57 1/8 in

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Description

Mimmo Rotella’s interest in in the movie industry as subject originated from his discovery of the décollages in 1953, when the artist sourced film and advertisement posters from the streets of Rome. The vibrant compositions featured revealing fragments, glimpses of torn and layered pieces of posters, hinting at the films presently advertised. The fascination for cinema grew in 1961, when Rotella created a series including “La Dolce Vita” (1962) and “The hot Marilyn” (1962), exclusively dedicated to the medium of the film poster. Germano Celant describes Rotella’s décollages from this period as a significant approach to cinema. He underlines the artist’s ability to let the sourced imagery guide the gestural creativity of the artist, who replaces the pictorial representation with the set of values and commercialisation of the film poster utilised. According to Celant, the work therefore neutralises artistic heroism and introduces the world of cinema and fame through the uninterrupted and virtually inexpressive flow in composition of a stream of images.

Experimenting with ways to transition from the décollages, Rotella discovered a technique which later has been defined as significant to the emergence of the Mec-Art movement. The creation of the photo emulsion technique was a result of Rotella’s interest in photography and the rediscovery of the photojournalism of the 1920s and 1930s by both Andy Warhol and himself. The photomechanical technique is described by Celant as: “An almost mechanical process, which integrated the experiences of life without being concerned whether the outcome was art or non-art, with the aim of overturning the ‘sacred’ and ‘ritual’ condition of cultural art.” Allowing Rotella to convey current affairs in greater clarity, the technique of the photo emulsion is often characterised as one that manifests a moment in time, conveying important chronological events in society.

The work “Lo Schermo” (1965-1966) combines both Rotella’s interest in cinema and iconography with the interest in the “the landscape of global communication”, reproducing photography from newspapers reporting on currents events and affairs. The work is a photo emulsion with an image sourced from a “Variety” issue, published on April 29 in 1964. The magazine was promoting the “New York Film Festival” which was screening the Italian film “Il Mare“, directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi in 1963. The image sourced by Rotella for the production of “Lo Schermo” (1965-1966) is a still of the black and white production shot entirely on the island Capri during the winter. Focussing on the visual imagery of the desolate winter scenery, the film relies heavily on few dialogue and the visual language of the landscape. The protagonists are never introduced and thus their sentiments are often expressed through silence and natural scenery that mirrors the character’s mental state.

Rotella’s photo emulsion solely utilises the imagery of the advertisement, by cropping the accompanying advertisement text. The image seems to display a small projection of the film in the right corner, filled largely by a dark space. In the analysis of this work, Riccardo Venturi argues that the frame chosen may reflect the darkness of a cinema, or even the dark cell of a prison illuminated by only a small window. Mimmo Rotella wrote in his autobiographical work “Autorotella” about the conditions of his imprisonment in 1964, further detailing the light conditions in his cell. Venturi relates this personal confinement to the composition of this photo emulsion.

Mimmo RotellaVenere imperiale, 1966Artypo on canvas135 x 96 cm53 1/8 x 37 3/4 in

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Description

Mimmo Rotella’s interest in in the movie industry as subject originated from his discovery of the décollages in 1953, when the artist sourced film and advertisement posters from the streets of Rome. The vibrant compositions featured revealing fragments, glimpses of torn and layered pieces of posters, hinting at the films presently advertised. The fascination for cinema grew in 1961, when Rotella created a series including “La Dolce Vita” (1962) and “The hot Marilyn” (1962), exclusively dedicated to the medium of the film poster. Germano Celant describes Rotella’s décollages from this period as a significant approach to cinema. He underlines the artist’s ability to let the sourced imagery guide the gestural creativity of the artist, who replaces the pictorial representation with the set of values and commercialisation of the film poster utilised. According to Celant, the work therefore neutralises artistic heroism and introduces the world of cinema and fame through the uninterrupted and virtually inexpressive flow compositioned of a stream of images.

With the later development of the Artypo technique, motivated by the artist’s growing interest in typography (the term combines “art” and “typography”), Rotella continued his exploration of cinema as a subject. The works are made by isolating fragments of sfogliacci, the printing proofs used for colour proofs, the compositions of coloured layers became endless. The Artypo demonstrates the artist’s own creative use of typographical processes: selecting posters amongst those printing proofs typographers would normally discard, he either mounted them on canvas or laminated them. Proofs – whose function was merely that of warming up printing presses, controlling registers and quality of both colours and images – presented a collection of randomly placed images with areas of overprinting, a superimposition entirely dictated by the element of chance.

The work “Venere Imperiale” (1966) is one of the first Artypos created by Rotella in 1966 in the same year of the first public exhibition of the medium at “Teatro La Fenice” in Venice. Composed of two Italian film posters of the films “Repulsione” by Roman Polanski (1965) and “Venere Imperiale” by Jean Delannoy (1962), the work presents both posters in a vibrant pink colour, shifting the narrative.

Mimmo RotellaLa rivincita, 1967Photo emulsion on canvas82.7 x 85 cm32 1/2 x 33 1/2 in

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Description

Mimmo Rotella’s interest in in the movie industry as subject originated from his discovery of the décollages in 1953, when the artist sourced film and advertisement posters from the streets of Rome. The vibrant compositions featured revealing fragments, glimpses of torn and layered pieces of posters, hinting at the films presently advertised. The fascination for cinema grew in 1961, when Rotella created a series including “La Dolce Vita” (1962) and “The hot Marilyn” (1962), exclusively dedicated to the medium of the film poster. Germano Celant describes Rotella’s décollages from this period as a significant approach to cinema. He underlines the artist’s ability to let the sourced imagery guide the gestural creativity of the artist, who replaces the pictorial representation with the set of values and commercialisation of the film poster utilised. According to Celant, the work therefore neutralises artistic heroism and introduces the world of cinema and fame through the uninterrupted and virtually inexpressive flow in composition of a stream of images.

Experimenting with ways to transition from the décollages, Rotella discovered a technique which later has been defined as significant to the emergence of the “Mec-Art” movement. The creation of the photo emulsion technique was a result of Rotella’s interest in photography and the rediscovery of the photojournalism of the 1920s and 1930s by both Andy Warhol and himself. The photomechanical technique is described by Celant as: “An almost mechanical process, which integrated the experiences of life without being concerned whether the outcome was art or non-art, with the aim of overturning the ‘sacred’ and ‘ritual’ condition of cultural art.” Allowing Rotella to convey current affairs in greater clarity, the technique of the photo emulsion is often characterised as one that manifests a moment in time, conveying important chronological events in society.

The photo emulsion “La Rivincita” (1967) is a photographic reproduction of the 1966 poster of American Western film “Duel at Diablo“. The image source is reproduced multiple times onto the canvas in various positions, with a colour inducing emulsion, creating a colourful abstract composition. Starring Sidney Poitier, this film stood out amongst the Western productions of the 60s, as only second Western featuring a black actor in a leading role. Furthermore, Poitier’s character arc is explored beyond his race, an unusual progressive statement during a time in which the Civil Rights Movement fought for the equal rights of African-Americans within systematic racial discrimination, disenfranchisement and racial segregation in the United States. Rotella’s choice to appropriate this specific poster certainly seems to reflect this circumstance, as his usual focus on Western films is directed towards the sub-genre of Italian Spaghetti Westerns.

Francesco VezzoliCrying Divas from the screenplay of an embroiderer II, 199930 black and white laser prints on canvas with metallic embroidery, in artists chosen framesEach33 x 43.2 cm13 x 17 1/8 inOverall99.1 x 494.9 cm39 1/8 x 194 7/8 in

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“As a non-diva, I’m not necessarily against it. I’m just saying that the entire system of diva and mystery, it’s about change. We have to see if all this common and public knowledge we have of other people’s lives will change our sexual desires, our emotional desires, and our compulsion to follow and be curious about someone else’s life.” (Francesco Vezzoli)

Francesco Vezzoli (b.1971, Italy) is the youngest amongst the artists exhibiting at Cardi Gallery. His oeuvre, ranging from embroidered photographic compositions to short films, is primarily characterised by the artist’s fascination with celebrity culture and iconic portrayals. Similarly to Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Vezzoli employs imagery drawn from popular culture and mass media, not to celebrate popular icons nor to investigate their character, rather to somehow humorously manipulate the reaction that such well known, iconic figures, trigger in the viewer.

The present work showcases Francesco Vezzoli’s fascination with cinema and his love of embroidery, a solitary and obsessive technique. In “Crying Divas from the Screenplays of an Embroiderer II” (1999), Vezzoli makes reference to Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti, an influential figure in his oeuvre, displaying thirty teary-eyed portraits of female actors from the director’s notable films “Senso” (1954) and “Death in Venice” (1971). Through these portraits of divas cast in the limelight, the artist reveals his penchant for glamour, nostalgia and life’s intrinsic sorrow, present regardless of wealth or fame.

Francesco VezzoliStudy for "Four Fabulous Faces: Joan & Gloria", 2001Laserprint on canvas with metallic embroidery40 x 40 cm15 3/4 x 15 3/4 in

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Description

Francesco Vezzoli (b.1971, Italy) is the youngest amongst the artists exhibiting at Cardi Gallery. His oeuvre, ranging from embroidered photographic compositions to short films, is primarily characterised by the artist’s fascination with celebrity culture and iconic portrayals. Similarly to Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Vezzoli employs imagery drawn from popular culture and mass media, not to celebrate popular icons nor to investigate their character, rather to somehow humorously manipulate the reaction that such well known, iconic figures, trigger in the viewer.

The present work “Four Fabulous Faces: Joan & Gloria” (2001 ) was inspired by a vintage film star photo book from the 1970’s with the same title. It is a avid memorabilia of classic film stars of the 1920’s through the 1950’s period. It contains many fascinating and rare photography collections from the archives of Paramount Pictures, which was the home studio of Gloria Swanson & Joan Crawford who comprise half of the featured glamour stars in the book.

The study piece was made while the artist was creating a similar series of black and white prints, experimenting with his application of embroidered colourful tears. The final piece was called “1971, Four Fabulous Faces: Joan & Gloria” and consistsed of nine framed black and white laser prints on canvas with metallic embroidery. With his embroideries, the Milan-based artist Francesco Vezzoli takes one of the most unexpected of domestic activities and deals with stars and divas from the fields of film, advertising, fashion and television. Using needlework over appropriated photographs of starlets, Vezzoli addresses the glamour in which his models are shrouded, as well as the transitory nature of fame and its related solitude. The masterfully embroidered portraits combine two diametrically opposed worlds: a private, domestic craft and the ultra-glamorous aura of the stars. A technique associated with a bygone age brings together nostalgic memory and a distanced, removed stance of celebrity identity are brought together in a critical, reciprocal relationship.

In general, Vezzoli now prefers to work with dead divas as he explained in an interview: “I no longer have the patience to work with flesh-and-blood divas,” he told Numéro magazine back in May. “I spent so much time getting turned down and trying to convince them […] And I’m at a point in my career where I prefer to work with people who are available.”

Francesco VezzoliGioventù Bruciata, 2014Inkjet on canvas and metallic embroidery, in artist's chosen frame139.4 x 146 cm54 7/8 x 57 1/2 in

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“The work is about the ephemerality of fame and the tragedy of stardom” (Alma Ruiz, Senior Curator, MOCA Los Angeles)

Francesco Vezzoli (b.1971, Italy) is the youngest amongst the artists exhibiting at Cardi Gallery. His oeuvre, ranging from embroidered photographic compositions to short films, is primarily characterised by the artist’s fascination with celebrity culture and iconic portrayals. Similarly to Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Vezzoli employs imagery drawn from popular culture and mass media, not to celebrate popular icons nor to investigate their character, rather to somehow humorously manipulate the reaction that such well known, iconic figures, trigger in the viewer.

The present work “Gioventù Bruciata”  is based on the 1955 American movie ‘Rebel without a cause’, which portrays the lives of troubled middle-class teenagers. The film stars James Dean and Sal Mineo, who both suffered a violent death (Dean died in a car crash later that year, Mineo was stabbed to death in 1976). Gioventù Bruciata – the Italian title of the movie – portrays Mineo and represents his untimely death by means of two bloody handprints; he had in fact been stabbed to the heart and died immediately of internal bleeding, in an alleyway behind his house near the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Vezzoli created this piece specifically, for his exhibition “Cinema Vezzoli” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, MOCA Los Angeles, which was shown at the Grand Avenue location in 2014. It was part of a series of portraits of actors from the 1955 film “Rebel Without a Cause”, with embroidered tears and bloody handprints in star-shaped frames reminiscent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The show featured embroidered tapestries, sculpture, movie posters and films by Vezzoli.

Working in Milan, Francesco Vezzoli developed what would then become his signature style at the end of the 1990s, as a reaction to the mid-1990s London art scene that had provided the framework to his artistic education – by appropriating the traditional and distinctly outdated craft of petit-point embroidery and using it to sew metallic threads and jewellery onto laser-printed photographs, to form tears and blood. He also created his first series of films, “An Embroidered Trilogy”  (1997–99), in which the artist had cast himself as the inert embroiderer, indifferent to the melodramas performed around him by famous divas. Embroidery also brings to the fore control as well as the meditative qualities of repetition, not to mention sexual and voodoo-esque undertones of penetration in the act of stitching. In the artist’s words, “doing needlework was the most provocative gesture I could think of.

Through his embroidery and art practice over the following years, Vezzoli engaged with the cult of fame through figures like Marisa Berenson, the model Veruschka, and Bianca Jagger, incorporating references from popular culture to outright kitsch. All his portraits have been photographically reproduced on embroidery fabric and adorned with glittery red, white and blue threads, stitching signature tears that stream from the wretched celebrity’s eyes. Blood trickles from their noses, as if they’ve been battered. His work seeks to reflect the drama of the divided identity and the anguish of being caught in between a private life and a life in the spotlight.

Whilst Vezzoli has revealed himself as an anthropologist of stars and artistic intelligentsia through the manipulation of the images of popular icons, including Natalie Wood, Lady Gaga, Olga Khokhlova, Cindy Crawford, James Dean and many others, in the last decade, he has approached the use of film and broadcasting, appropriating the medium and creating humorous tv advertisements and talk shows. Ultimately his recent collaborations with Miuccia Prada, Roman Polanski, and several movie stars have allowed Vezzoli to enter that very iconic stage he references and often makes fun of in his practice.  His talents lie in his sleight of hand and ability to mock Hollywood’s smoke and mirrors through the participation of the community’s most prominent muses.

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