Thursday, January 27, 2005 to Saturday, February 26, 2005

    • Friday, January 28, 2005
    La Nuda Umanità 2 - History Stripped Bare 2, by Italian artist Gabriele Di Matteo, is a timely exhibition and publication launch, critical and humorous, as well as poignant. Di Matteo's first exhibition in Canada questions notions of heroism and progress and explores the power of icons, images and mass media in the portrayal of history. Di Matteo conceived the idea for this painting series while flipping through an illustrated history book for young Italian students. The pictures reminded the artist of a “carnario” - a charnel house of humanity, a meat-market of history. Moreover, his passion for Marcel Duchamp, as a great manipulator of art and painting, is reflected in the exhibition title, taken from Duchamp's Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even. This exhibition comprises of 160 paintings (oil on canvas), each measuring 30 x 40 centimetres. They present selected moments in the history of the Western World, from the prehistoric days of the Neanderthal Man, to the Assassination of Julius Caesar, to Christopher Columbus Discovers America and The Marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. These uniformly-sized paintings are exhibited salon style and arranged chronologically. Four new paintings depicting scenes from Canadian history have been commissioned for Di Matteo's Canadian debut, and include: 1918 suffragettes Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Louise McKinney; John Lennon and Yoko Ono with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, December 22, 1969; the signing of the Constitution Act of 1982, with Queen Elizabeth II signing the official proclamation outside the parliament buildings with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau beside her; and a protest scene during the Quebec Referendum of 1995. Consistent with the artist's ongoing exploration of ideas of appropriation, originality and ownership, Di Matteo did not actually paint these works himself. Instead, he hired a professional copyist from his hometown of Naples to dutifully reproduce the images from history texts and media sources. In addition to the paintings, a documentary-style video of the commercial painter accompanies the exhibition. In the video, the copyist paints naked and sings traditional Neapolitan songs, wondering aloud about the meaning of the series History Stripped Bare. Giorgio Verzotti, in his essay Gabriele Di Matteo and the destiny of painting, refers to the series as "the most radical test, the most advanced moment in the course of conceptually deconstructing the pictorial image." He adds that "(t)he execution of the work is rather a consequence of the strongly analysed structuring on which Di Matteo builds his activity. The realisation of the paintings has been entrusted to a professional painter, expert in the replication of grand masterpieces from the past, and used by the private market. Therefore, with the true copyist the artist ends up being literally split in two; and it's by way of this that he can bring his intention of analysing pictorial languages, by confronting them with artisan practices, popular style, and all that constitutes the "low" verses the "high", to its extreme consequences." Gabriele Di Matteo, Œuvres, 1986 - 2002, p135. In addition to exploring the trustworthiness of images, their reproduction and interpretation, La Nuda Umanità 2 - History Stripped Bare 2 utilizes the physical vulnerability of the characters, evoked through their nakedness, to confront the grandeur of historic events and raises complexities about the place of historical truth and collective memory. Gallery 101 is proud to present the work of Gabriele Di Matteo for the first time in Canada and acknowledges the support and programming of Jen Budney, former Artistic Director at Gallery 101, for her initial preparation and ground work in 2002 to make this exhibition and publication launch possible. Jessie Lacayo, Director