A collection of drawings by Lorenzo D’Anteo accompanied by texts by his friends
Conceived in collaboration between In fact and in fiction and Francesca Cattoi, the exhibition Racconti Domestici by Lorenzo D’Anteo at Spazio Contemporanea is accompanied by a publication, made by two small leporellos, where each image is paired with a text commissioned to different authors, that wants to perceive the artworks as a visual string, emboding the univocal progress of the iconographical and technical references employed by the artist. We are very glad to host a digital version of it with some extra content.
Both versions witness the artistic community within which D’Anteo lives and works. During the opening of the exhibition on May 21st, Spazio Contemporanea hosted the performance Anfitrione by Jacopo Benassi and a live concert by Khan of Finland.
Even today, disproved by all evidence, we entrust the image with a truth it does not possess. Yet we always expect confirmation, while the image continues to have, unperturbed, a life of its own. Lorenzo knows this secret life of images that is independent of the beholder: his confident sign insinuates doubt to the point of denial because he feels the fragility of the so-called objectivity to the core. And so, the handset of a telephone from a bygone era chooses its unpredictable path and marries a trophy with which it shares the abandonment, what had been, the desuetude, the archaic final triumph, that in the end is always a bare defeat. Yes, let us be fooled once again.
Where did the handset go?
It is in the hand of a little boy sitting at the foot of the coffee table, who is telling someone about seeing some gorgeous hairstyle. He was so mesmerized by those ringlets that he did not notice the birds in the dishes; the soldier in the picture; the semi-dry plants; the leftover cocktail; the sculpture with deep cavities on which the sumptuous wig is resting.
Hurray for Rabelais!
“Ciro” – that’s what my friend Graziella used to call him as a child in the mid-1970s – is a garden statue often found on the green lawns of suburban homes. I photographed one in 2018 on a street in the neighborhood where I live, and D’Anteo used it as a model for this drawing, first exhibited at the “Argenti” exhibition in La Spezia in 2019.
Statua da Giardino, 2019, is a large charcoal drawing, obtained by attaching two sheets of white paper and set up with a frame that anchors to the floor and wall, so that it forms a theatrical backdrop in the effort to reproduce that one house, to which the small character is leaning, with his bottle in his hand. You could imagine an abandoned, forgotten garden, which is counterbalanced by the silly expression of the inebriated little man, who does not care about his surroundings.
With its compositional qualities, this work by D’Anteo harkens back to the historical and artistic tradition, particularly that of seventeenth-century genre painting, in which details are skillfully and technically rendered, and are sought for narrative completeness and aesthetic whim, even in its banality. The artist creates in the series Interiors, 2016-2019 – of which this work is considered by D’Anteo to be the concluding moment – his own iconography of the everyday, always hovering between commiseration and smile, condescension and mockery, in which low and high culture intertwine and a new world, which we might call “Dantean”, is born and thrives only on paper.
What remains of a drawing? What remains, in the silence of the image, of a mark that becomes shapeless and regains its strengths soon after, in the fluidity of charcoal? Perhaps it is precisely the image, mute, that survives. To deceive the swan, quick as a cupid. It is the image, alone, that endures. Alone because it is abandoned, torn, shattered, peeling, but proud in silence, powerful in solitude. And whether Lucifer is a motorcycle brand, the dark evocation of a hidden chasm, or the lost horizon of a fallen angel, what does that matter? The image contains it all, in the slow, patient, fluid work of the mark traced on paper, in the shading that reverberates on the outlines, in the stroke that, distractedly, delimits, just a step away from fading.
Look how tender,
So fleshy and baleful.
But how are you?
Let’s get in touch later. Your love has ruined me.
The necklace, I found it where you sleep
I move it back over there
But then you have to expose it to the light each time.
Meanwhile where are you, then?
What’s the matter with you, be quiet
You be quiet. I do what I always do.
—Live life with the joys and sorrows of each day
That’s what God wants from you
Living life and immersing yourself in love is your destiny
It’s what God wants from you—
The only thing you do wrong is not to come here and lick your wounds,
You never will
And it’s drizzling too.
It’s very evident that we are two wounded animals.
I hope you can wake up tomorrow with blue eyes, look,
Then you’ll complain about something else.
I love you so much I wish I could erase the pain you have inside.
—Live so that unity may return to the world
You will then discover the sky within you
You will leave a trail of light –
When I asked Lorenzo to tell me something about this artwork, he pointed to my attention the tangle of derogative graffiti visible on head/sculpture. To tell you the truth, I had not noticed them, maybe because I was used to much more explicit representations.
He did not mention the Upupa placed on the head, even if it seemed an important compositive and symbolic point of view to me. So, I tried to put pressure on him on this matter, and, as I consider the Upupa’s image indissolubly connected to Montale’s portrait shot by Ugo Mulas, I spontaneously asked him if he intended to evoke the hilarious bird of the Ligurian poet. As if I had challenged him with this comparison, Lorenzo quickly replied: “…no, no Montale no! If anything, Foscolo’s ill omen bird, that is linked to the idea of death, to putrescence (as its nest stinks) … and it has always made me laugh the common idea that believes that it brings misfortune”.
Lorenzo and I were born and raised divided by few hundreds of meters one from the other. Two neighboring areas crossed by a trickle of fetid water, that only childish perception could transform in a torrent that made its way through dense vegetation populated by many exotic “creatures” like toads, newts, earthworms, green lizards, and many sewer rats. In the magical work of childhood, we could have seen each other overlooking on the bridge in his own neighborhood, so close and yet distant enough to never meet. I believe that many of the finds that compose the imagery of Lorenzo’s works are strongly connected to that environment and to those discoveries. It must for that deep and devoted affection to those places and those times, that still todays Lorenzo sends me views of the ditch in which he writes: “gush of white muddy waters that cross the forest”; “crooked sunflowers that seems a Kiefer’ quotes”; “couple of mallards”; “today a peacock!”. Only the Upupa has not been yet on sight.
There’s a scent hanging around in the air, it smells like jasmine… it slips through the door and fills everything. Anomalous… around here there are only grasses… it’s good, but it almost dazes me. I don’t feel like going out… I’m fine inside… there is shade, no one bothers me and I have an old blanket that, though tattered, has taken my shape and is the best bed to rest on. I used to have many other things here, but I don’t know where they are anymore, most of them I have scattered during my explorations. Some of them are outside in some corner of the garden, but I no longer have an interest in them. When I was young, I had a mania for hoarding them, so I could chew them, when I still felt that annoying itch in my gums… how satisfying to tear them apart! But I’m not interested anymore. I keep only the essentials: a shoe I’m fond of, a mouse that whistles when you squeeze it, and the bowls… which are now almost empty… how strange that no one has yet come to fill them… Actually, it’s been a while since also the clothes haven’t been dripping in the back, releasing into the air that strong chemical smell that now and then sharply marks this corner, making it almost human… have they forgotten about me?
Topi in vetrina
There is a display cabinet. On its shelves books, a statuette of St. Michael the Archangel, an old telephone, a molotov made from a wine flask, some rat poison and a mouse. Behind the cabinet a fragment of a fascist propaganda poster. The drawing, the first of the set of three, is titled Propaganda I.
And there is a thread, swirling, of which we see the beginning but not the end.
Something seems to have happened, hard to say what. It is like seeing a small part of a post-human world where everything is suspended and covered in a thick, dark dust, rendered perfectly by the use of charcoal.
An archive of objects that become narrators and narration of their own presence and of the human absence, while waiting for the imagination to bring them back to memory.
D’Anteo’s world is made of remnants and stories that seem to comment on the fate of those who created them.
I write while in bed, like Proust, where I have been bullied for five days without a break by a headache. Yesterday, I found out that I got bronchitis and only today, thanks to OKI, I have been able to write something. I do not know about you, but to me persistent physical or psychological pain made me think several times about God, to those moments when we plead for grace against the Devil. I have always been obsessed by war, just image now with all the mess of the Ukrainian war. Ages passes by, but the only consistent point is war. When one ends, here comes another. When the mourning for the beloved sons of the nation ends, we start organizing to arm the nephews. When I am at the dentist and I fear the drill, I think about the thousands of torture chambers around the world in that same moment. I have to be happy! – I say to myself – the doctor, unlike those bastards, doesn’t want to do me any harm. But here we reach the point that is philosophically more poignant: those bastards are people like us, like m, like you. Those bastards are not born monsters. We say Devil, because we want to simplify. Devil lives in us, silent, just like a virus, always ready to activate itself. It is not a captivating awareness, I must say.
Just before committing suicide three years ago, the 35-year-ol painter Matthew Wong wrote to his mother:
You know, Mom, my mind, I’m fighting with the Devil every single day, every waking moment of my life.
St. George and St. Michael are generals, now they run on the eastern frontline, that they recoil on the western one. I have never been persuaded by throwing evil on reptiles with bat’s wings, or to count on mercenary winged troops for the Holy Battle.
But maybe these are only mirrors games, just like Prince Charming, that make human being more bearable to themselves.
Even if the window blinds are shut, I can feel spring bursting outside the windows. The eternal cycle – maybe eternal. Today I am here, tomorrow I am there, sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh. And now it seems to me that I hear a far away voice: St. Michael had a rooster, white red, and yellow…
I found this unexploded bomb and dragged it into my garden to bury it. Who rode it? My worst nightmares. Nightmares in which I was lost, and there was no one looking for me. No one
I’ll keep my eyes closed until that fucking bird is gone. Hmm, I’ll count to a hundred and hope it will be gone for good. It’s been a long time since those seven bastards left me in this house and I honestly never want to see them again. 37, 38, 39. The last time I caught the seagull in the kitchen, it really hurt me, he tore my headband to pieces. I can still feel the blood running down my neck. I am tremendously angry. 98, 99. Come on, we’re almost there. Ooh shit, I’m scared but I need to be brave. I just need to hit that silly bird and run. Hit it hard, run fast. But I can’t move, what the hell is going on?
Do you know the expression “The guest is sacred”? In the house where I grew up it was changed to “The animal is sacred”. At its peak, the fauna came to include: one adult male being, one adult female being, two children, three dogs, five cats, two dwarf rabbits, one giant rabbit, sixty parakeets, eight lovebirds, two cockatiels and a tortoise, naturally all enclosed in a 90-square-meter single-family house plus garden.
The love for the animals was a family tradition. One of the people most devoted to them was the uncle who was a veterinarian and, in order to never be separated from them, chose to be a taxidermist too, since love endures forever. As a child I used to enjoy reading his manuals on embalming; those pictures and all those details fascinated me, I still remember a bedside lamp made out of a lion’s paw. This drawing immediately evoked it for me, with the truncated dinosaur paw. As a child, I would have really longed for a dinosaur-lamp to combat the fear of the dark.
The end of the Ritz
If you’re blue And you don’t know where to go to Why don’t you go where fashion sits Puttin’ off the ritz Different types who wear a daycoat Pants with stripes and cutaway coat Perfect fits Puttin’ on the ritz Dressed up like a million dollar trooper Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper Super-duper Come, lets mix where Rockefellers Walk with sticks or umberellas In their mitts Puttin’ on the ritz
Sosia, name of Amphitryon’s slave whose appearance Benassi takes, generating sounds,
images and Dadaist punk mischief.
Dare I believe it? Who has won? Who claims to be the winner? Who has the power? Can you eat a tiger? How soft can a tiger be?
Not without hubris
A drawing of a painting
Reminds those not holding pencils
that the world belongs to those that sketch
Eagle, like the other drawings collected under Interiors, looks like a frame from a Michael Haneke film. A portion of Anne and Georges’ living room in Amour for example, or the room where Erika Kohut gives piano lessons in The Piano Teacher. Silent, and ominous places where danger is around the corner and where you would rather not set foot in. The critic Fredric Jameson, a passionate scholar of postmodernism writes: “The world temporarily loses its depth and threatens to become a glossy film, a stereoscopic illusion, a stream of filmic images without depth. But is this experience terrifying or exhilarating?”.
Once upon a time there was an abandoned museum, where the halls were full of dust, the velvet cords ripped out, the walls chipped; through the cobwebs at the end of a corridor, peeps a picture with a decorated frame. The subject is the creature Godzilla, taller than the eight stories of one of the EUR district’s iconic buildings in Rome, between 1948 and 2037, when the climate catastrophe caused it to crumble. Godzilla—a huge, destructive, prehistoric sea monster spawned in Japan from the nuclear radiation scattered by bombs on Hiroshima and Nagazaki—attacked it for publicity reasons on its 1955 Italian film tour, giving it its first cracks.
Lorenzo, you nailed it!
I’m in Venice for the Biennale and your drawing is always on my mind.
I hear them.
They wander around the Giardini or the Arsenale.
They come in one after the other to nibble on the works.
They take away some soil mixed with cinnamon.
They binge on wood.
They chew on the leaves of an installation.
They bite into projector cables.
They drink from a sculpture filled with water.
They piss on a Golden Lion.
They feed on art.
But they don’t consume it.
Thank God for that.
Crossing the Morbihan from east to west, the moors of Lanvaux offer a panoramic view of wilderness furrowed by trails and forests reminding of little islands. One of these, not far from the medieval town of Malestroit, has over the years become infamous for the suicide of young mercenary knights. The chevaliers place their helmets on smooth mossy stones and let their bodies drop by inhaling gas from cylinders that they themselves struggle to carry through rough and swampy terrain. Some of them take advantage of cylinders found on the spot. It is said that most of them, in abandonment, sing The Song of Roland in their heads. Mostly the beginning, as they are aware there is no reason to know too many stanzas.
that breast, madam sir I decline.
I feel like a carrot, where is my pencil?
A hundred roads and dejavu.
I’ve walked this floor before, last summer, for sure.
Coffee laced with booze, a moment spent at the bar,
it’s a workshop, a swan.
Why the mechanic’s scam, so straightforward.
Does your mother lie when she looks into your eyes?
A bare hip, an open palm.
Sleep is such a lovely thing, infinite breath.
Find me an alternative to water.
Let’s bring gifts to the sea.
My hands have been intertwined for days,
even during meals, perhaps this calms me.
A package arriving, unannounced.
What are you carrying along?
What are you taking to bed tonight?
A laurel bush, a matchstick,
a nail and an eraser.
Just a veil, asleep in the summer.
He had heard of a hotel where it was possible, during the night, to have conversations with officials. Once he arrived at the hotel, he accidentally entered another room. In the bed was a sleeping mouse. This, awakened by the noise, began to talk. Slowly and interspersed with long yawns, he confessed to the other mouse that the night was the best time to get the answers we are looking for, because at night it is difficult to lie and we are willing to help. He went on and told him that sometimes the answers come through chance encounters. But the mouse was too tired to listen to what the other one had to say and fell asleep. When he woke up it was too late for the appointment. He walked out of the room, sneaking into a narrow crevice in the wall. At the end of the short tunnel, he froze. In front of him stood a mirror in a gold frame. But no reflection. Above it was a man girding on a sword, showing a prominent forearm, but the man seemed to be blocked by a door hooked to the wall with a padlock. He decided to free the locked figure, despite its menacing appearance, and began to gnaw at the door. To his amazement he realized it was paper; the entire wall was paper. A majestic and perfect illusion. The mouse had been fooled again.
Flask of wine with broken neck.
Sottiletta is the bass-drum player of a band of house mice. The band is used to perform a repertoire for oboe, bassoon, piccolo, timpani and bass-drum for an audience solely composed by children in the province of Pescara. The young ones, feed the mice with scraps of skin, fingernails and human droppings collected in a small backyard of the cinema Esperia.
Regardless of the repeated reprimands, the gang has been disturbing the quiet of the neighborhood for months. Thus, following an elementary voting system, in the spring of 1984, with a result of 16 beans in favor, 7 against and 3 abstentions, the families of the neighborhood are going to vote for the death of the babies. The demise, as per regulations, is induced by suffocation with large pieces of food, candys and small objects.
Drawing that is a sign, drawing traces shapes.
I think of drawing as bones.
Drawing before all things, someone said.
Even before painting.
Even when you erase it, it’s still there.
Drawing is the most intimate form of creation.
Light and dark interacting in a harmonious concert of synthesis.
—How did we end up here?
—How should I know? I followed you
—Were you following me? Great! Weren’t you the one who knew where to go?
—Yes, but you’re the one who went ahead… I thought you….
—You thought wrong!
—Ah, so now it’s my fault?
—No, it’s me because I’m listening to you… Whatever, that sucks. I knew it…
—Are you done?
—No… or perhaps, yes. For that matter, anyway… Instead, let’s find a way to leave before he comes back
—Who comes back?
—The one who put us here! Are you going senile?
—No, just a little tired – can I be tired? My neck also hurts
—Hey, I hear you, tell me about it
—Exactly. Anyway, I don’t think we’re going to make it
—To do what?
—To go away. I can’t even move my mouth from yours
—Let me try…
—Go ahead and try, but…
—Eh, I’m afraid that…
—I guess we’re here to stay. Can you move?
—Give me a moment!
—Okay… no hurry… Did you do it?
—I see… Let me try again…
—Nothing… I can’t move anything… Holy cow… So that’s how…
—Yes, I think so
—I can’t believe it
—Why are you silent?
—I was thinking…
—I was thinking about the water
—That’s all, I miss it. I miss the water
crossed, perhaps a border, a broken dream, sunk, alone, a drift on a sea charged with confident hope, then insidious and murderous.