This fall, Italian-born, Los Angeles–based artist Alessandro Pessoli will debut his latest body of work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in his first solo museum exhibition on the West Coast. On view September 28, 2012, through February 18, 2013, New Work: Alessandro Pessoli highlights the artist’s diverse range of art making since relocating from Milan to the United States in 2009, bringing together 40 recent graphite drawings and a selection of works on paper and ceramic sculptures. Together, these pieces reveal an imaginative, organic meditation on Modernism, mythology, childhood, and the artistic persona.
The exhibition is organized by Jenny Gheith, assistant curator of painting and sculpture at SFMOMA, and marks the latest installment of the museum’s ongoing New Work series, which continues to feature the most innovative expressions of contemporary art.
Alessandro Pessoli’s (b. 1963) drawings, paintings, and sculptures place expressive, often melancholy figures in indeterminate spaces and dreamlike narratives. By turns cynical, sincere, or absurd, his fictional constructions engage a recurring cast of characters and symbols such as musicians, a candle with a flame, a guitar, a phallus, and a cross. These stock figures and forms function as the artist’s personal commedia dell’arte, which he continually reimagines and recreates.
“Pessoli fuses classically based tradition with a contemporary creative impulse, formulating a hallucinatory world in which the past is continually reinterpreted and corrupted,” says Gheith. “This exhibition reveals discernible changes in his work and is informed by an imagination in transition.”
Fluidly moving across media and shifting between two- and three-dimensional forms, Pessoli typically works in series and presents related pieces together. His figures in all media are realized without sketches or models and are formed through a process of layering and erasure, revealing marks suggestive of previous states. Drawing is central to Pessoli’s creative process, and his art is charged with visible remains of his touch. For his ceramics, he uses majolica, a sculptural technique made popular in Northern Italy during the Renaissance. This medium provides a rich surface on which he can continue to develop the handcrafted characters that inform his drawings and paintings.
Pessoli renders his seemingly restless and exaggerated characters in a manner that is rich in historical references to visual culture including fine art, cinema, and theater. Figures reminiscent of Pablo Picasso’s character studies or the biting 19th century caricatures of Honoré Daumier frequently appear, as do scenes that echo films by Federico Fellini. Science fiction and cartoons are other sources that, when layered and mixed with personal references, add to Pessoli’s complex visual lexicon.
The artist’s SFMOMA presentation will feature two series of pencil drawings and a related ceramic sculpture created in 2010 during his first year in California; before now, these works have only been shown in Europe. At times humorous, dark, and perverse, these compositions have a sketchlike immediacy and a strong connection to cinematic sequencing. Using these earlier pieces as a starting point, Pessoli has created a new series of vibrantly painted mixed-media works on paper and majolica sculptures from 2012 that will be on view for the first time with this presentation. These works introduce a brighter palette and new imagery drawn from children’s stories, Etruscan funerary practices, and astronomy.
About Alessandro Pessoli
Born in Cervia, Italy, Pessoli studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He has had solo exhibitions at Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia (2011); MACRO Museo d’Arte Contemporane di Roma (2009); The Chisenhale, London (2005); and The Drawing Center, New York (1997). His work has also been included in exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States, such as Making Worlds, the Italian Pavilion at the 53rd Biennale di Venezia (2009); Jean-Luc Blanc, Opera Rock, CAPC, Bordeaux (2009); Italics: Italian Art between Tradition & Revolution 1968–2008, Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2008); RAW-Among the Ruins, Marres, Centre for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht (2007); After Cezanne, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2005); and International Paper, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2003). His work has been shown at galleries internationally including greengrassi, London; Marc Foxx, Los Angeles; Xavier Hufkens, Brussels; Studio Guenzani, Milan; and Anton Kern, New York, where a solo show of his work will be on view September 14 through October 20, 2012.
About SFMOMA’s New Work Series
From its inception in 1987, SFMOMA’s New Work series was conceived as an important vehicle for the advancement of new art forms. Artists such as Matthew Barney, Marilyn Minter, and Christopher Wool were given their first solo museum exhibitions through the program. Over the ensuing decade, New Work featured artists such as Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Tatsuo Miyajima, Doris Salcedo, Luc Tuymans, Kara Walker, and Andrea Zittel, among many others. After a four-year hiatus, SFMOMA reintroduced the New Work series in 2004 and has since showcased work by Richard Aldrich, Phil Collins, Vincent Fecteau, Rachel Harrison, Lucy McKenzie, Wengechi Mutu, Anna Parkina, Mai-Thu Perret, R. H. Quaytman, Mika Rottenberg, Felix Schramm, Ranjani Shettar, Paul Sietsema, and Katharina Wulff.
The New Works series is organized by SFMOMA and is generously supported by Collectors Forum, the founding patron of the series. Major support is provided by Robin Wright and Ian Reeves.