Ritorno al collage
Nick Devereux and Italian masters of the 20th century

Curated by Irina Zucca Alessandrelli

May 14—18, 2019


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Excerpt form press release

The collage was a very much loved medium throughout the last century, and one that makes its appearance on the arts scene with Cubism and the Italian Futurists, before being widely adopted also by Dada and the Surrealist movements. The name originates from the French verb coller, and refers to works largely made up of cuttings of paper, newspapers, and photographs laid over a background image with the use of glue. Exploiting the contrast effect, the collage is a useful device for altering a scenario on the basis of given visual contents, like a window looking onto another world. It allows us to compare images from different and distant contexts, offering a simile, a metaphor or a contradiction.

Ultimately, it is a particular methodological practice, precise but somewhat slow to produce, leading to the creation of new meaning through an element of surprise.

The collage may often be combined with drawing to give rise to an aesthetic effect, to make the glued part stand out from the background, or to highlight certain elements according to an often playful logic, with a certain disregard for the rules of artistic representation in the traditional sense.

In Italy in the 1950s, the collage was represented somewhat on the side lines of the art scene, but remained in use with a certain degree of continuity up until the 1980s.

This exhibition brings together a number of paper collages from the Milanese Ramo Collection (Italian drawings from the 20th century) featuring the recent works of the contemporary artist Nick Devereux, produced by Case Chiuse for this dialogue between past and present, situated on the top floor of the Bosco Verticale, affording an unequalled view of 360 degrees over the city.

© Henrik Blomqvist 
© Henrik Blomqvist 
© Henrik Blomqvist 
© Henrik Blomqvist 

The collage as a bridge between the past and the future, a moment of space-time passage, is the more profound sense behind this medium, demonstrated also by the work of Nick Devereux. Born in 1978 in Panama and currently resident in London, Devereux has always viewed collage in terms of new birth, representing the necessary input for a new search for meaning. For Devereux, collage means setting off along a new path, yet one mindful of that already travelled. Having used this medium a great deal in the past, the artist evolved his technique, transforming it into a way of thinking beyond the use of glue. These recent works, in fact, feature nothing glued, but they still exploit the same overlapping of images, albeit ones produced by the use of pastel drawing. The collage is therefore present only as a mental procedure which positions his drawings over movie stills featuring artists studios. These references investigate a bourgeois mentality in the 20th century which stereotyped the ‘Bohemian’ life of the artist. In specific terms, Devereux draws inspiration from the British satirical film The Rebel (Call me Genius in the American version), a 1961 comedy featuring the popular actor Tony Hancock. Devereux uses scenes from the studio of the painter playing the lead role in the film, situated right in the heart of the Montmartre neighbourhood and overlays his drawings onto this scene. Like a diorama, he depicts his own wooden sculptures within the set of the film, using the movie’s backdrop like a maquette, resulting in an image that is simultaneously integrated and disassembled.

The real contents of his studio are thus placed on the stereotyped set of the film, exasperating the contrast between artifice and artistic reality in a sort of matryoshka of meanings. For the exhibition, the artist builds a large- scale installation that choreographs his drawings, paintings and sculptures made of shards of glass within a theatrical arrangement of tulle panels, painted by him to offer a range of chromatic effects. The artist thus paves the way for a second overlaying process: those between the romantic and fabled crucible of artistic creation as found in the comedy film, and the surrounding elements recreated on the basis of his real everyday practices. This display, especially designed to screen and colour the light from the great windows on the 26th floor of the Bosco Verticale features the alternation of his own ideal collages and those of the Italian artists of the last century, providing a prolific stratification of gazes and references.

Portikus, Frankfurt
Bridget Donahue, New York
Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin
Converso, Milan
Perrotin, Tokyo
Galleria Massimo Ligreggi, Catania