Though best known for his perfectly hand-folded paper sculptures, Stefano Arienti recently displayed the mature work of an artist who is impressively dexterous in seemingly any medium. Obsessiveness characterizes Arienti’s work. He subjects paper, vinyl, fabric, metal, plastic and glass to a relentless but always delicate examination in experiments that involve perforation, folding or other manipulation, with near-mechanical repetition and accuracy. Arienti’s modification of ready-made materials poses important questions about craft and what constitutes a conceptual or post-conceptual project.
Arienti, who has carried on a discreet and methodical practice spanning almost three decades, here designed an almost ascetic installation, for the most part eschewing color, but exhibiting a rich use of pattern and design. Propped on the wall along the right side of the long rectangular gallery was a series of 10 refrigerator doors, many of the white surfaces perforated with tiny holes, as if from BB shots, which outline ghostly shapes, such as flowers, a fan, a watering can, wallpaper and what look like tablecloth designs. The refrigerator doors are juxtaposed with two carpets that have been dyed black by the artist to obscure all original color, revealing only the texture and fissures in their inky weave. The resulting assemblage is a kind of musing on Minimalist forms reminiscent of John McCracken and Robert Ryman.
On the left and at the rear of the gallery were several car hoods of various makes that have been perforated in cheerful scenes recalling Warhol’s paint-by-number works. The contrast of delicate filigree to car hoods somehow subverted references to the more muscular works of John Chamberlain, Arman, Richard Prince and other artists who have anointed automobiles as sculptural lodestars.
A final installation, Dischi di Dei (Disks of Gods), 2007, consisted of album covers of various eras and genres lining the walls of a room and dozens of vinyl records dangling from the ceiling. These too had been perforated with patterns ranging from geometric symbols to typographic riffs on the period graphics of the albums. Arienti happily recycles materials and previous artistic gestures with an almost impish impudence.
The gallery exhibition was concurrent with an installation by Arienti in the suggestive environs of a former foundling hospital in Rome, the medieval Complesso Monumentale di Santo Spirito in Sassia. Here the artist modified an earlier work, Enciclopedia, into an installation featuring cloudlike piles of sheep’s wool shrouding a long line of vintage encyclopedias peppered with Arienti’s perforated designs. Reason and order were thus set against art, faith and nature in an installation that seemed to embody the cosmos.
[Arienti’s work is on view at Palazzo Ducale, Mantova, through Jan. 6, 2010.]
Photo: Stefano Arienti: Here comes the rain again, 2007, record cover with holes, 12 1/4 inches square; at galleria s.a.l.e.s.