Capsule Shanghai is pleased to present "Sole negli Occhi", artist Alessandro Teoldi's first solo exhibition in China, featuring his recent inflight blanket collages and concrete reliefs. The exhibition is on view from November 6th until December 25th, 2021.
Despite its apparent simplicity and immediacy, the work of Alessandro Teoldi (born in 1987 in Milan; currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is hybrid and layered; his different cultural and conceptual references naturally unfold for the patient viewer, leading to the gradual discovery of a sensitive and cultured artist with a well-defined yet fluid way of bringing an artwork from conception to completion.
If technology, aesthetic exuberance, and the constant search for new languages lie at the core of many current artistic practices, Teoldi leads us into an experience rooted in the knowledge and feeling of craftsmanship and in the use of humble but highly evocative materials. He conjures a timelessness that allows him to fuse the micro and macro dimensions and address universal issues with an elemental but never meagre language. Devoid of useless tricks and visual trappings, Teoldi’s work is the sedimentation of different approaches, experiences, and references that coexist in an organic or even subconscious way, as if to remind us that the value of being an artist lies in bringing the invisible to the surface, then taking it a step further. Combining the internal and external dimensions, the artist acts on a motivation that arises from within the individual but constantly leads to places beyond.
The pieces featured in Sole negli Occhi, Alessandro Teoldi’s first solo show at Capsule Shanghai, belong to two distinct bodies of work, both specially created for the occasion. One series offers textile collages made of differently colored and textured blankets distributed in-flight by airlines. The other series is comprised of small works made of concrete, mainly monochrome or in shades of gray, with some exceptions involving gold leaf, graphite, and gouache. Created in the isolation of the global pandemic, the works are an extension of the artist's previous interests, enriched by stylistic additions that add new conceptual layers.
The textile works are made with blankets that the artist, friends, and acquaintances collected during their travels on flights with Air France, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Continental Airlines, among others, which form links to the farthest-flung places on earth. Teoldi skillfully manipulates these blankets as if they were paper. After a quick initial sketch, he uses chalk to define the shapes and their relationships on the canvas. The silhouettes evolve spontaneously, according to the nature of the fabrics used; the shapes are cut out of the chosen blankets, then glued together and sewn onto the canvas.
In the non-place of the airplane, blankets act as a talisman that passengers use to recreate a sense of intimacy, warmth, familiarity, and protection. By wrapping different stories and bodies, an object that is neutral and perhaps even standard—all passengers are given similar kinds of blankets, despite the slight differences related to the class they are flying in—is charged with and absorbs some of the passengers’ energy, while holding and releasing energy in turn. In Teoldi’s creative process, blankets act as both the signifier and signified. In literally passing from hand to hand, they become meta-objects and, after they are modified by the artist, they inspire a continuous chain of personal and collective musings.
In these textile installations, Teoldi has employed a larger format, introduced natural elements and objects of affection, and partially abandoned the close-ups and intertwined bodies that appeared in his past blanket collages in favor of one or more individual bodies that appear together in the compositions. These evolutions create new spatialities, multiple perspectives in which the airline blankets are sometimes combined with moving blankets, as well as more noble materials such as suede, cotton, and wool. Here, he focuses on the presence of light, shadow, and reflection, which converge in a skillful blend of figuration and abstraction, a continuous and ambiguous shift between the Self and the Other. The hands of one or more people, bodies that entangle in dances of love or struggle, arms that seek or repel one another, and groups of people who seem intent on conversing manage to coexist with individual figures sometimes portrayed from behind, sometimes asleep, with their heads in their hands, or lost in thought. He has also added arboreal elements that animate the compositions, seeming to support the weight of these bodies and stand as a metonymy for an outer dimension that indicates a sense of space, but also a sort of otherness whose existence and acceptance is a prerequisite for becoming fully individual.
Complementary to the blankets and balancing their transience and nomadism, the concrete pieces appear deeply rooted in the language of photography, one of Teoldi’s long-running fascinations and the focus of his formal studies. These “embossed snapshots” try to fix—in the sense of stopping but also of repairing—moments of a fragmented everyday life. The work of Giorgio Morandi or Luigi Ghirri comes immediately to mind, not only for the more explicit visual references such as a still life with flowers, a fish on a plate, a few apples, a bottle and glasses, or a seascape, but for the deeper poetry that these artists share, for the immersion in the everyday, for knowing how to scrutinize its essence and ennoble the contingent, the fleeting, and the insignificant. The hardness of the concrete is juxtaposed with scenes that portray feelings such as shame, or more physical and sensual situations, such as kisses, caresses, hugs, or even a goodbye in which the faces of two lovers merge to the extent that they disappear into each other. Even in the concrete pieces, every gesture is considered. Like visual poems in which every part resonates with all of the others, the compositions—planned in paper and plastic and cast in concrete—are perfect in their simplicity, the result of a select number of decisive strokes; their deliberately graphic style belies great emotional richness.
The exhibition’s title, Sole negli Occhi (Staring at the Sun), refers to the temporary blindness that results from staring directly at the sun. In that few seconds of darkness, sight abandons us, and, in our loneliness, we become aware of our existence even though we do not have all of the tools to understand it, apart from those stored in our minds. The bodies, faces, landscapes, and objects in Teoldi’s works are situated in this interstitial space, in this state of suspension and potentiality, lingering between memory and reality. They are mirages that exist in the artist’s mind and in his work, but, above all, they wait for someone to look at them, to recognize them, and to recognize themselves in them. In moments of crisis like the ones we are currently experiencing, we are called to redefine the value and meaning of our existence, both within ourselves and in relation to other people. In the universality of Alessandro Teoldi’s scenes, everyone can find a little of their own existence and a profound sense of humanity which, even if it does not represent absolute salvation, is at least a great consolation.
Text: Manuela Lietti