Friday, October 16, 2015

The Occidental Tourist

by Drew Martin
A good friend invited me last minute to an art opening today that his girlfriend organized for Giuseppe Blasotta, an Italian artist who lives in Heidelberg, Germany where he paints and also studies classical philosophy and Italian literature. I brought a friend from work and to our surprise the show was in a hotel room, where Giuseppe displayed a couple dozen paper fashion bags that he had painted in an abstract style.

I would not have thought much about them in passing, other than their being pleasant to look at but earlier today I read an interview with his fellow countryman Maurizio Cattelan, the infamous prankster artist, which prompted me to approach the work with a curious eye. 

I engaged with Giuseppe - a very animated, youthful, and dapper man in his early 40s. We had a good conversation about his work and my minor insights were met with an enthusiastic "Bravo!" every so often. Artists, who so often have to explain themselves, love to not only be understood but to be expanded upon.

So let's approach these painted paper fashion bags from a different angle. They actually pose a very interesting question: does a painting diminish itself by existing on an object meant for fashion shopping that is in fact disposable? Yes, and no.

A deeper thought I had in front of the pieces was more about abstraction. Opposite to the illusion of "realistic" painting is that there really is no such thing as an abstract painting because your brain is always actively trying to make connections and once it believes it sees a meadow, a tree, a body, etc. that image ruins the abstraction.

It's interesting that the traveling Giuseppe is carrying around these objects meant for carrying other objects. I think it says something about the history of bags and crossing borders. For some reason my thoughts jump to a list of food items I once saw that my father's relatives had to bring with them for their ocean crossing from Europe to America in the mid 1800s: sacks of potatoes...and how we first perceive these bags to have practical and functional real-world presence but they are actually more like concepts of bags when compared to burlap sacks.

What I like most about Giuseppe's use of the bags is how they are both flat paintings when fixed to the wall, and at the same time sculptural objects when opened. Additionally, I like how the string handles look so purposeful when taut and used to hang the bag, but then silly and pointless when flopped over and flaccid, which you can look with Eva Hesse's work in mind.

When Giuseppe told me the show is called Made in Occident, I thought he was trying to say Made by Accident. It is this kind of understanding by misunderstanding that serves as a sub-theme of the show. It's an idea that perhaps we should approach art not from what we know or want to know but what we come to understand about something, somewhere, someone. Bravo Giuseppe!