Critic’s Guide: Milan

Ahead of this week’s miart art fair, a guide to the best shows around town

BY Barbara Casavecchia in Critic's Guides | 28 MAR 17

Mirosław Bałka, 7 x 7 x 1010, 2000 (detail), installation view, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2017. Courtesy: the artist and HangarBicocca, Milan; photograph: © Attilio Maranzano

Miroslaw Balka, ‘Crossover/s
16 March – 30 July

‘O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, / Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse / Without all hope of day!’ These famous lines by John Milton come to mind when visiting Miroslaw Balka’s first institutional retrospective in Italy, ‘Crossover/s’. Curated by Vicente Todolì – director of Tate Modern in 2009, when the Polish artist took over the Turbine Hall with his monumental environment How It Is – the cavernous spaces of HangarBicocca lets Balka’s investigation into obscurity, as emblem of the dark legacy of human history, prevail. Inviting visitors to explore and physically experience his 18 installations, Balka’s first work to be encountered, the black velvet curtain Unnamed (2017), has to be touched to feel its warmth, which is akin to that of a body. The water cascading noisily from the giant fountain Wege zur Behandlung von Schmerzen (Ways to Treat Pain, 2011) is similarly pitch black. Finally, like a faint ray of sunlight, is Yellow Nerve (2012–15): a thin yellow thread running the 22-metres from ceiling to floor, which vibrates almost imperceptibly.

Pino Pascali, Cinque bachi da setola e un bozzolo, 1968, installation view, Fondazione Carriero, Milan, 2017. Courtesy: Fondazione Carriero, Milan; photograph: Agostino Osio

‘Pascali Sciamano’ (Pascali the Shaman)
Fondazione Carriero
24 March – 24 June

This, as well the next exhibition, are shows haunted by Africa. At Fondazione Carriero, located in a Gothic residence in the city centre, curator Francesco Stocchi uses his anthropological studies training to interpret as ‘shamanic’ Pino Pascali’s turning of industrial materials into ‘animalistic’ sculptures – such as his famous Bachi da setola in acrylic bristles (1968). Pascali, who died in Rome in 1968 aged 33, embodied the artist’s need to ‘create a civilization.’ Also on show in a separate display are rare 19th- and 20th-century artefacts from Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Togo.

Kader Attia, An Introduction to the Repair, 2012, video still. Courtesy: Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana

Il Cacciatore Bianco (The White Hunter)
FM Center for Contemporary Art
30 March – 3 June

At FM Center, the group show ‘Il Cacciatore Bianco’ (The White Hunter, a title inspired by the 2013 Yervant Gianikian and Angiola Ricci Lucchi film Pays Barbare, on Fascist colonialism), retraces the collecting of African art in Italy. Beginning with the ‘Negro Art room’ at the 1922 Venice Biennale up to the present – where representations of contemporary ‘blackness’ is dealt with by artists such as Kader Attia, Sammy Baloji, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Pascale Marthine Tayou and Wangechi Mutu – ‘rather than an exhibition about Africa,’ says curator Marco Scotini, ‘The White Hunter is about a construction that the West made of it.’

Adrian Paci, Interregnum, 2017, video still. Courtesy: Kaufmann Repetto, Milan

Adrian Paci
Chiostri di Sant’Eustorgio / Museo Diocesano
28 March – 25 June

Kaufmann Repetto
29 March – 29 April

Albanian-born, Milan-based Adrian Paci has two concurrent shows in town. At Kaufmann Repetto, under the title ‘The People Are Missing’, the artist engages with populism and the pervasive ‘we, the people’ rhetoric by means of installations and videos, such as the new Interregnum (2017), which edits funeral footage of Communist dictators to reflect upon the orchestration of collective emotions.

At Chiostri di Sant’Eustorgio and Museo Diocesano, Paci’s retrospective ‘The Guardians’, brings together films, photos, mosaics and sculptures, often focused on the theme of migration and memory. The show ends with the video, Rasha (2017), in which Paci records the silent body language of a Palestinian woman, recently arrived in Italy from Syria, while a voiceover narrates her story in Arabic.

Relatedly, not to be missed are the permanent installations in two other Milanese churches: Paci’s version of the Via Crucis at San Bartolomeo (Via della Moscova n.6) and the beautiful 14 Stations of the Cross by Emily Jacir at San Raffaele (Via S. Raffaele n.3, just off the Duomo), titled half in Arabic and half in Italian.

Franco Mazzucchelli,  Riappropriazion, 2017, installation view, Converso, Milan. Photograph: © Henrik Blomqvist

Franco Mazzucchelli
Until 1 April

Converso, a new exhibition space curated by Michele D’Aurizio and Alexander May, is housed in the former 16th century church of San Paolo Converso, near the Duomo. It has a peculiar double structure with the altar dividing it into two symmetrical portions: one ‘public’, open on the street, the other ‘invisible’, once used by nuns of a nearby convent, and now occupied by CLS architecture studio. The first artist invited to take over the space is the Milanese Franco Mazzucchelli, famed for dispersed inflatable PVC sculptures in public spaces across the city, for people to play with, in the 1970s. The result, titled Riappropriazione (Re-appropriation, 2017) is simple and impressive: visitors can step inside a giant polyethylene ‘bubble’, sit down and look up at the Baroque frescoes on the barrel vaulted ceiling, blurred by the plastic film.

Piero Golia & Diego Perrone, ‘The Classroom’, 2017, installation view, Via Cesare Correnti n. 14, Milan 

Piero Golia & Diego Perrone, ‘The Classroom
Via Cesare Correnti n. 14
24 March – 10 April

‘The Classroom’ is a nomadic project conceived by writer and curator Paola Nicolin. It sees contemporary artists teaching free seminars for students and collaborating with them on temporary exhibitions. Previous iterations have involved artists such as Adelita Husni-Bey, Hilario Isola and filmmaker-duo Masbedo. This time Milan-based Diego Perrone and LA-based Piero Golia join forces to explore the legacy of a shared hero: Chris Burden. Inspired by Burden’s video and performance about the assemblage of his self-designed, one-passenger B-Car (for a show at De Appel in Amsterdam in 1975), the lessons explore the relationship between art and technology with the help of a Risograph printing machine – used by the two artists and their 23 pupils to generate self-assembled artist books. The result is presented in an empty space just across the Teatro Arsenale.

Monica Bonvicini, Structural Psychodrama #3, 2017, installation view at Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan. Courtesy: the artist and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan; photograph: Lorenzo Palmieri 

Monica Bonvicini
Galleria Raffaella Cortese
23 March – 26 April

For her first exhibition with Cortese, Bonvicini presents new works across the gallery’s three spaces along Via Stradella. The collective title, ‘Our House’, comes from a series of large black and white drawings installed in the main space at no.7, based on found images of buildings wrecked by ‘natural’ disasters linked to climate change. At no. 4, the fragility of all equilibrium is embodied by Structural Psychodrama #3 (2017), a large architectural installation which sees a massive, tilted plasterboard wall held in balance by a metal chain hanging from the ceiling. At no.1, Bonvicini pays homage to queer theorist Paul B. Preciado’s book Testo Junkie (2008) with a series of four prints on canvas: seen from afar, their bold baby-pink lettering forms the sentence ‘I like to stand with one leg on each side of the wall’ (a quote from Heiner Müller), while from up close, the background reveals kaleidoscopic digital collages of minuscule non-descript naked body parts, culled from tabloids.

ATZ IV, installation view as part of ‘Outer Space’, FuturDome, Milan, 2017

Outer Space, ‘Futurdome’
Via Giovanni Paisiello 6
27 March 27 – 15 April

For visitors to Milan, making it around the artist-run and independent spaces can be difficult given their often-peripheral locations. With ‘Outer Space’, curator Ginevra Bria helps propose a solution by bringing together ten small Italian project spaces – Current, Le Dictateur, Mega, T-space, Tile Project Space and ‘agency’ Agreements To Zinedine/ATZ (all from Milan); Almanac, Treti Galaxie (Turin); Gelateria Sogni di Ghiaccio (Bologna); Site Specific (Scicli); Ultrastudio (Pescara) – who were each invited to contribute a show, performance, publication or live event, installed around the central courtyard of FuturDome (a building once used by local Futurists). The resulting list is long; the energy/entropy levels high.

If still hungry for novelty, don’t miss Milan’s other well-established off spaces, like Armada (Eugenio Barbieri presented by Dario Guccio and Davide Stucchi), and Fanta (with a solo by Alessandro Agudio).

Peter Kubelka, Schwechater, 1958, 35mm film still. Courtesy: © sixpackfilm

‘The New American Cinema Torino 1967’
Fondazione Prada
1 – 30 April 2017

For the month of April, Fondazione Prada opens the doors of its cinema for a series of rare screenings (entrance is free and the full schedule is on their website). Curated by Germano Celant, the programme re-enacts the epic festival ‘New American Cinema Group Exposition’, held in May 1967 in Turin, where Jonas Mekas (whose 1964 film The Brig will open the show) gathered together friends and colleagues of the NACG (New American Cinema Group).

Other recommended exhibitions:

Rosa Aiello
Galeria Federico Vavassori

Flavio Favelli
Albergo Diurno

Alicia Frankovich
Le Case d’Arte

Liliana Moro
Francesco Pantaleone

Anna-Bella Papp
Fondazione Pomodoro

Andrea Sala
Federica Schiavo

Santiago Sierra
Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea

For more current shows in Milan visit On View

Main image: Franco Mazzucchelli,  Riappropriazion, 2017, installation view, Converso, Milan. Photograph: © Henrik Blomqvist

Barbara Casavecchia is a contributing editor of frieze and a freelance writer and curator based in Milan, Italy.