Luca Bertolo and Alessandra Spranzi have several things in common. An attitude toward art that favours impulse, chance, and accident over any predeter- mined vision. A preference for everyday objects and materials, and a flair for finding unexpected meaning in them. And lastly, an approach to image-making which never hides its tools – the tricks of the trade – and which situates the work at a point midway between the image and its own surface.
Luca Bertolo is presenting a number of his new Bandiere (“Flags”). These are paintings of flags – more specifically, tricolours – whose faded hues cannot be found on any political map. Moreover, one band of each flag is a dirty paint rag glued to the canvas: cut from one of the recycled pieces of cloth that Ber- tolo uses to clean his brushes. The calculated linguistic paradox in the idea of making a painting, i.e. a piece of coloured cloth, that depicts a flag, i.e., a piece of coloured cloth, is the first thing that leaps to mind, and evokes famous precedents, starting with Jasper Johns. Other factors also encourage this kind of interpretation: the untouched edge of the painting, which reveals the white canvas beneath; the contrast between the areas painted to look like rumpled cloth (with illusionistic shading) and the indexicality of the paint-smeared rag. But there is something else in Bertolo’s flags. For instance, the idea (tongue-in- cheek, but not completely so) of “rallying around paint” that could already be seen in Signs, a previous series of paintings mounted on poles like placards for a demonstration; and above all, the attempt to deconstruct a symbolic object for which people have killed and been killed for centuries.
Alessandra Spranzi is showing several collages from her series Nello stesso momento (“At the Same Time”), begun in 2012. They are based on a very simple process, which she probably stumbled upon while playing around on her worktable with pages from interior design magazines of the Sixties and Seven- ties. After choosing a photo, Spranzi cuts out a more or less irregular portion of it to create an opening that shows another photo, from the same magazine or a different one, peeping through underneath. Two spaces, two perspectives, two worlds that suddenly find themselves inhabiting the same image. The dissonance between them generates an odd sense of unreality, a delicately metaphysical mood. The images almost never contain human figures: the only participants are lamps and tables, fabrics and teapots, chairs and vases, engaged in a wordless dialogue from which we are excluded. And like Bertolo’s flags, the image cannot be separated from the substance of which it is made. The halftone of the photograph, and even the grain of the paper, are always visible; the hole in the image is, first and foremost, a hole in a piece of paper.
In writing about Bertolo and Spranzi’s work, the name of Filippo de Pisis (1896-1956) suddenly came to mind: an artist who combined elegance with pre- cariousness, in both art and life. He painted in quick, sparse brushstrokes, which here and there revealed the surfaces to which they were applied. (And what surfaces: not just canvas, but salvaged cardboard, bits of wood, even plastic. Povera painting?) He portrayed simple objects – a piece of bread, a stool, half an onion – as if they contained some unfathomable mystery. Sometimes he amused himself by depicting domestic interiors filled with paintings and prints; images within the image, windows that opened up inside the window of the painting. I think that some gene of De Pisis must lie, somewhere, in the artistic DNA of both Bertolo and Spranzi.
– Simone Menegoi (translation by Johanna Bishop) 2014