Rossi Martino, the commercial partnership of Fabio Rossi and Giovanni Martino established to promote European art in Asia, is pleased to announce an exhibition on the work of Italian ceramic artists Giampaolo Bertozzi and Stefano Casoni. Known as Bertozzi & Casoni, the two began their practice in 1980 in Imola, a region well known for its ceramic craftsmanship.
Bertozzi & Casoni reverse iconographic conventions and perceptive elements, freely mixing various references and contradicting presuppositions. Flamingo (2012) features a grotesquely decorated plate carrying the severed head of the work’s titular bird, whilst in Diana (2016), a lady’s handbag conceals rock star sunglasses, cigarette packets and pill bottles.
Straddling compositional surrealism and formal hyperrealism, Bertozzi & Casoni also study contemporary society’s rubbish, incorporating the remains of cultural icons into their assembled juxtapositions. In Cuccia Brillo (2003), for instance, a pop art–filtered Brillo box irreverently transforms into a makeshift doghouse made entirely of ceramic, a conceptual manifestation of time irremediably gone. Their sculptures – symbolic, mocking and pervaded by a sense of attraction for all that is short-lived, perishable and decaying – have thus become internationally recognised metaphors for the human condition. Yet the biting irony of their works is balanced by their unassailable perfection.
By reclaiming everyday objects to the aesthetic level, Bertozzi & Casoni adopt a straightforwardness that challenges prejudices. At the same time, they arouse suspicion through the visual deception of their exacting technique – a complex and enveloping mechanism that has no end or interruption. ‘Moving onto the level of aesthetics is the aim and charter of the artist’, they note. ‘It has not been typical of modern art due to taboos and preconceived ideas; but, we wondered, is there beauty related to our contemporary world?
Far from simply being a critique of society, the artists’ dazzling work can be understood as a purely aesthetic proposition. As fragile as it is strong, the ceramic material exalts Bertozzi & Casoni’s vile miscellany, offering a cynical metaphor of abundance and prosperity. Whether jovial or coarse, hedonistic or truculent, these works reveal a habitus – and not a habitat – that has spoilt every idyll, calling to mind the end of all things.
In Bucranio con varano (2012), an ox skull – symbolic of animal sacrifice in the ancient world – is surmounted by a Komodo dragon, a gigantic reptile indigenous to Indonesia. A dual symbol of death and rebirth, the lizard seeks the light and the sun, both representing rebirth and resurrection. Like a medieval man-eater, the Komodo dragon defends the cranium with splayed jaws, almost as if to breathe new life into it, initiating a metamorphosis.
As if from a room with a view over the endless expanses of a disturbing reality, Bertozzi & Casoni record all that is marvellous and mysterious in their most despised and repressed manifestations, or consequences, of life – with frequent recourse to the genres of memento mori, horror vacui and vanitas. In this way, the artists consolidate and expand their gaze over the path of history and demonstrate that in art nothing is new, nothing is destroyed and everything is contemporary.