The large, square space of Massimo de Carlo's Gallery is often difficult to deal with - artists are hindered by its over-beautiful and elegant architecture. Mario Airo and Christian Philip Müller's show of both similarities and contrasts must be one of the exhibitions that has coped best with this problem.
Abandoning the immateriality which has previously characterised his work, Airo used bricks and mortar to build a monk's cell, based with rigorous research on the friar's rooms at Chiaravalle Abbey. From the roof tiles to the fireplace, from the chimney flue to the table, every aspect had been diligently re-made, taking the viewer to a place far from the rowdy art world with an almost poetic nostalgia. From inside the gallery, nothing was visible except the plain exterior walls. The only way of looking inside the little room was through a window in the courtyard outside.
Airo's excavation of Milan's religious history was paralleled by Christian Philip Müller's examination of its social present through a series of photographs of one of Italy's great exports - fashion. His other work in the show involved closing two empty rooms adjacent to the central area of the gallery and rebuilding their interior volume on the corner of the square diagonally facing Airo's work. As a result of both artists' work, the original architecture was changed to the extent where it was almost unrecognisable.
Both artists took classic aspects of Milan as source material: one creating a small house from another era - a presence; the other a seemingly modernist white block - an absence. Formally poles apart, the two installations shared a fundamental quality: aphasia, silence, the impossibility of communication - expressed visually through the impenetrability of the buildings without doors or windows. In ancient monasteries, as in the modern city, walls were built to divide and isolate. But as pure physical entities these structures complimented one another like two soloists. They spoke to each other of the impossibility of dialogue, of a universal solitude and of a much desired, inevitable and compelling meta-history.