MACRO. 30 Jan-30 April 2004. Three contemporary Italian artists on show.
Nicola De Maria, Elisabetta Benassi, Pascale Marthine Tayou and Nanni Balestrini. 30 Jan-9 May 2004. With disarming frankness, Nicola De Maria wholeheartedly embraces the world of colour. Toy-like, kitschy dots, wheels, arrows and dripping lashes of paint traverse his breathing abstractions. Unabashed happiness, not like that of children, but mimicking it, makes up landscapes, skies or gardens.
One of the Transavanguardia boys, De Maria does his business. He is not afraid of a bit of awkwardness or emptiness, things too playful for a grown man. When his painting-fields are too big they are hard to take. He painted four mural-size works especially for this show. But the smaller ones are all brimming with sheer paint and refreshingly simple gesture to the edges. The small works are all full of careless painterliness, terribly pleasing in our era so heavily seeded with cruelly cold technological art. The critic Bonito Oliva hits the mark with a flash: "De Maria is a new Peter Pan," he declares in the catalogue.
Most of the beautifully restored old Peroni factory, now MACRO, a sleek glass and steel building, is taken over by the De Maria retrospective. But the entrance court is full of the tall metal columns and cubes of Nanni Balestrini, a poet who came to the fore in the late 1960s as an exponent of "Visual Poetry". This movement, which owed much to Marinetti and other Futurists, flowered in Rome and Bologna in the politically turbulent 1970s.
Here fragments of poems, sentences and declarations in bold clean letters are scattered and fragmented over aluminium surfaces. Its handsome but obscure and busy. The letters are decorative but hard to read and recompose.
On a large screen, Elisabetta Benassi shows her video "Tutti morimmo a stento", slow moving takes of a Roman demolition site. Corpses of cars lie around like old beetles, with artificial manikins, like anti-heroes, lying half-squashed between them, neither dead nor alive. The disastrous graveyards of inorganic hard-to-break vehicles have long been used in countless commercial films to deal with one of the bleakest phenomena of our civilisation. Here the filthy metal refuse could work as an elegiac reflection or as a somber pattern as a parable of our endless cannibalism of nature.
Pascale Marthine Tayou from Cameroon exhibits an elaborate photo and video installation based on his own letters to his mother in Africa, in which he invites her to Rome to see the pope. He calls it "Omnes viae Romam ducunt" (all roads lead to Rome), of course. Later there will be an installation to record what happens on the accomplished visit to Rome.