Image: Gabriele de Santis: The Dance Step of a Watermelon While Meeting A Parrot For The First Time, installation view, Depart Foundation Project Space, Los Angeles. (Jeff McLane / Photo by Jeff McLane)
Q&A: Rome’s Depart Foundation opens L.A.-area space with Gabriele De Santis
By Deborah Vankin, latimes.com
The Italian nonprofit arts organization Depart Foundation, which exhibits contemporary emerging and mid-career artists from around the world in Rome, is expanding its footprint, debuting a West Hollywood space Wednesday night with a show by Italian artist Gabriele De Santis.
Since launching in 2008 with the dual mission of adding to the Italian contemporary art scene as well as sparking an international art dialogue, Depart has premiered work by artists Sterling Ruby, Oscar Murillo, Nate Lowman, Frances Stark, Sam Falls, Amanda Ross-Ho and Lucien Smith, among others. It will open a new center in Rome in fall 2015 and is considering a Shanghai outpost.
Over the next few months at its 3,200-square-foot L.A. space, a former spa on the Sunset Strip, Depart will also put up exhibits by British painter Kour Pour, New York artist Grear Patterson and L.A.-based digital conceptual artist Petra Cortright.
The inaugural Southern California show, “The Dance Step of a Watermelon While Meeting a Parrot for the First Time,” was curated by Britain-based Adam Carr. It features new paintings, sculptures, video, photography and installations by De Santis, who spoke to Culture Monster about its themes of skate culture, pop culture and digital culture.
Your show features hashtags in the work itself and all over the press materials. What are you trying to say about language, symbols and new ways of communicating?
Hashtags seem to be really of the moment — and I have always appreciated art that’s reflective of the moment. The instantaneous connotations of the hashtag — where everything is instantly portrayed by an image or comment and then loaded online — coupled with marble, which takes thousands of years to form, creates a strange tension and juxtaposition within the show. Symbols themselves are a link or key to something else. I consider this an aspect of any show. Any show is a symbol of an artist’s research at a given point. Research and symbols themselves are often ambiguous.
The work says something about movement, too — physical movement and shifts in art history. Some of your canvases even feature wheels on the back. Can you talk about this?
I really like the idea that artworks have the ability to move. Art history, itself, is in constant movement. I think the artworks, which are constantly defining art history, should be allowed to move too. There’s the curious notion sometimes in an exhibition that you must stand still — standing still looking at whatever may be on the wall or on a classic exhibition plinth. I find this really dull. It’s rare you would find so much stillness in an artist’s mind or studio.
How does Michael Jordan factor into the work?
Artist and athletes do the same thing! They both flow and perform for an audience. I find his achievements fascinating. He embodies a need for height and power. I link him to the Roman Empire within the show. They are both marks and symbols of achievement. They cross eras — a bit like the marble works with hashtags.
Dualities and illusions — things that appear to be what they’re not — is another theme in the show. How does the work reflect this?
I like things to need a second look. There is an element of fakeness in the show — fake marble, fake self portraits. They’re works which require more than just a quick glance, more than that immediate impulse we have to hashtag something. Things in the show are also exactly what they are. For example, the plaster columns placed on roller skates: They are exactly that!
Why is air and space — how the works are positioned on the wall — so important to you?
It is something every artist deals with when forming an exhibition. For me, they are measurable volumes but also symbols in themselves. Michael Jordan has been symbolized by both these things.
Does the city of Rome, where you’re from, play into the work at all?
Yes. Within the space you will see elements referring to Rome: the wallpaper with Roman monuments and the classic plinth. My studio is in Rome and I think the location of a studio always has an impact on what you create. Rome is a very special place, which in the past has achieved many things. I like this as a backdrop to work and to form ideas. I always find the phrases which have developed about Rome to be fascinating: “all roads lead to Rome,” “the grandeur that was Rome,” “when in Rome do as the Romans do,” “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” “Rome, the eternal city.” People often describe Rome as one large open-air museum. I think, living with this for so long, it becomes inherent in my work!
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