Aiming to promote young italian talents, First Gallery presents a dual solo show with Ester Grossi and Giulio Zanet, winners of the fourth edition of Premio Italian Factory per la giovane pittura italiana 2010 (Italian Factory Award for Young Italian Painters). A year later, the two artists have been working closely on a project entitled “Written on the Hays”, an original interpretation of the censorship issues in melodrama genre from a personal perspective on painting and video expressive techniques.


In fact, The Production Code or The Hays Code is a code of ethics adopted from 1930 to 1967 by american cinema, consisting of a series of guidelines which stated what was or wasn’t “morally acceptable” in film productions. The Code was therefore a self-regulation model providing a list of arguments that could provoke local censors’ cuts or prohibitions from the bourgeois audience. Taking their cues from the analysis of the production of 1950s melodrama as a prototype of the modern film production and reference point for current television soap operas, the two artists have been reviving some legendary films such as Douglas Sirk’s Written In The Wind (1956).


The idea behind this artistic project is to “reinterpret” some of these cult movies’ scenes, by emphasizing the moments and the sequences of frames in which the directors describe, communicate and suggest to the audience all those values and lifestyles considered indecorous at that time and therefore under Code Hays’ threat. In a context of “falsification” comparable to that of 1950s mass media, the pictorial analysis of cinematic language inevitably leads to a comparison with contemporary representation in cinema, free from the dictates of a moral code and yet still affected by the debate on the limits of representation in art and audio visual media.


Written on the Hays, an exhibition curated by Chiara Canali, will be on view at First Gallery, in Rome, Italy, from Thursday, February 23rd until March 24th, 2012.



ESTER GROSSI (Born in 1981 in Avezzano, currently living and working in Bologna, Italy)


ESTER GROSSI, KYLE, Acrylic on canvas, 70X100, 2011


Ester Grossi‘s pictorial grammar embraces the popular culture of Hollywood technicolor films through the mise-en-scene of sequential tableaux marked by broad, smooth brushstrokes and characterized by the intense acrylic chromatism of complementary shades. Her coloristic ability has received wide praise not only due to her victory at the Italian Factory Award for Young Italian Painting 2010 but also thanks to her more recent foray in the illustration world, designing the poster for MIAMI 2011, the playbill for the 65th Experimental Opera Season of Spoleto’s Opera Theatre and record covers for the italian band A Classic Education.



GIULIO ZANET (Born in 1984 in Colleretto Castelnuovo, currently living and working in Milan, Italy)


GIULIO ZANET, LUCY MICH, mixed media on canvas, 60 x 60cm, 2011

GIULIO ZANET, QUANDO PER AMORE VALEVA DUELLARE, mixed media on canvas, 68 x 94cm, 2011

Giulio Zanet‘s expressionist canvases collide and collapse into a bright visual collage of hyper-realist images created by cutting out pictures of low-culture magazines and by gathering blurry images while flicking through the TV channels. Within liquid platforms and overlapping screens, Zanet provokes a short circuit of references and suggestions coming from the darkest and mysterious underworld of modern consumer society. Thanks to the scholarship assigned by the Italian Factory Award for Young Italian Painting 2010, the artist has recently spent two month at the cultural centre GlogauAIR (Artist in Residence Programme) in Berlin.


Written on the Hays from ester grossi on Vimeo.


Video : Nico Murri (Fabrica Fluxus Art Gallery)
Music : A Classic Education




Text by Pier Maria Bocchi & Luca Malavasi


Written on the Hays, the eyes of classic cinema. Eyes closed by Mr. Hays (his motto was:”Clean up the movies”), and by a Code of dos&donts that rendered cinema classic. Classicism, as we all know, is the realm of rule and constriction, of forms to respect, of freedom negotiated with good manners and current sensibility (it’s a matter of systems and regime).


In Hays’ list, excesses of any kind end up off screen: excesses in images (sex and much more), times (long kissing scenes), manners (highly detailed descriptions of crimes). Consequently, shades, ellipses and allusions become the crutches of the most mischievous ones (Lubitsch, Hitchcock). Home and family, above all, must remain inviolable. And passions, of any kind, slightly mentioned or cooled in the star-like act.


And then, suddenly, color appears. What the Code, drafted in 1930, couldn’t even imagine: a dense, expressionist and wild colour that, at the beginning of the early 1950s, invades the already big hollywood screen – from musical to comedy, from western to melodrama. At first, it seems a simple special effect; nonetheless, little by little, it manages to jeopardise the grace of hollywood classicism with a passionate vibrato that until then had been kept under restraint by the black and white (which, just in case, could sting the viewer, as in the struggles of light in the horror and noir genre).


Ester Grossi’s body of work starts from here: from this moment in cinema and hollywood form (that is the Visible of the entire Twentieth Century) finally marked by anarchical possibilities that until that time had been lightly touched upon. An anarchy of passion that Douglas Sirk, with his dramas, managed to distill, though keeping himself within the bounds of the System, by taking advantage of those opaque zones that the set of rules, in their authoritative blindness, forget between one order and another. Sirk reawakened that opacity through colour, he pushed it to the limit, pouring it into stories that always succeeded in forcing – but never crossing – the limits of decency.


This materic density of unexpected possibilities – this movement of bodies, lines and colours guided by rhythms which are not ordered by classical syntax anymore but rather guided by the spiral hand of passions – enliven every single story and frame in Sirk’s cinematography. An almost disquieting vibrato (inside the homes, among families) that Grossi finally lets breathe, if not even burst, cutting the Figure and the Action (the moment) off from the space of the studio/set and revealing all its chromatic alterity.


However, her reinterpretation doesn’t take place against the model. On the contrary, it takes place starting from it: with the eyes and, most of all, the Hays of the Contemporary. Ester Grossi’s storytelling is an oxymoronic archaeology of the future: it digs deeper, reinterprets, illuminates and discovers – inside, outside, in the profundity of the cinematic frame taken away from his papier mache and star-like universe – an entire code of implosions to decrypt. In this kind of painting/challenge, there’s an interest to investigate what has been removed, the off-screen; there’s the ability to claim, even after decades, the echoes of passions and sentiments slightly filtered in a cinema of compromise, just opened – but with so much power! – to the Color of future. In the process of recadrage of Grossi’s works, there’s not an overlapping but, on the contrary, an effect of transparency that reveals a partly censored and partly not even imagined palimpsest.


If it’s true that nowadays contemporary art, far from every avant-garde temptation, can’t help but revive the dialogue with the Models, the Classics and Tradition, Ester Grossi takes the most impracticable and fertile road. She rejects pure quotation to reawaken the remains of an imagination pulverized by the use. Thanks to Sirk, starting from Sirk, she digs out other stories, images and colours only foreseen, whispered, but hidden for so long, using fragments of the past to write a contemporary narrative and turning painting into a by-play of a feel that doesn’t belong to us anymore, and that did not yet belong – or couldn’t belong – to Sirk. The result is a painting of strenghts and secret passions, and a dialogue/challenge between the eyes and the codes (eyes&Hays) of yesterday and today. A painting of coloured ghosts, revived in colour.


Kyle e Mich (“Written on the Hays” project) from ester grossi on Vimeo.


Red (“Written on the Hays” project) from ester grossi on Vimeo.


Video: Nico Murri (Fabrica Fluxus Art Gallery) / Music: Husband







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