IL NUDO È MORTO | L’abito è il monaco

itItaliano (Italian)

Artist: AFRAN
Title: IL NUDO È MORTO | L’abito è il monaco
Curator: Susanna Gualazzini e Carlo Scagnelli
Venue: Galleria Biffi Arte | Salone d’Onore e Sala delle Colonne | piazza Sant’Antonino – via Chiapponi 39 | 29121 Piacenza
Dates: 5 September – 7 November 2020
Opening: Saturday 5 September, 5 pm
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10.30 – 12.30 | 16.00-19.30 Sunday 15.00 – 19.00
Info: tel. 0523 324902 | galleria@biffarte.it, www.biffiarte.it

The exhibition was organized in collaboration with the MA-EC Gallery (Milan Art & Events Center) in Milan

On display at the Biffi Arte Gallery from 5 September to 7 November, the recent results of the inspiration of Afran, an artist originally from Cameroon but with many cultural roots. Father of Equatorial Guinea, an Italian wife, a piece of life in Spain and for years in Italy, Afran had a “Western” education, but he has never lost sight of the DNA of his culture of origin. Which is the Fang that Picasso and Modigliani fell in love with in the early 1900s.
For a long time the artistic practice with multiform materials and, a few years ago, the almost exclusive choice of an unorthodox material: denim. A global and metamorphic fabric, jeans incorporate many latitudes and a long-standing history: already in the 16th century a blue obtained from the ford (a dyeing plant of African origin) was used in Genoa to dye the canvas destined for the sails of ships and used to cover goods during their transport, as well as for sailors’ clothes. Ideal fabric for making work trousers (favorite, in the mid-nineteenth century, by gold diggers, cowboys and miners), starting from the sixties of the twentieth century, jeans became an icon of anti-bourgeois protest to be reborn, towards the end of the Eighties, as a glamorous outfit, with a new identity and luxurious contaminations.
With this complex anthropological pedigree, in Afran’s hands denim becomes plastic material, an ideal humus of expression: the artist prefers that jeans on which the memory of the body that inhabited it has been imprisoned in some way and with this deformed outfit, faded, frayed, torn, cuts, stitches, inlays and digs into the flesh of the fabric. With a prodigious assembly practice, he trims by tracing new textures, favoring the most rugged surfaces, those most disturbed by seams, loops, pockets, buckles. And it is in this way that jeans (and its pantheon of accessories) fatally changes its sign, loses its democratic ease and becomes sculptural. Strong icons are born, often, as the artist himself defines them as “screaming”, possibly frightening, the daughters of ingenious systems of knotting and interlocking, in an aesthetic of assembly, use and reuse that looks to the artistic avant-garde of the early twentieth century, renewing some results.
This is the technique, but it is above all the path that leads Afran to reflect on the theme of identity, which has always been dear to him, starting precisely from the dress intended as a metaphor and as a place for possible semantic transmigrations. If, as in a game of Chinese boxes, the body inhabits a garment which is in turn a shell that inhabits the world, then the garment can be the palimpsest on which to trace the syntax of identity.
But when this envelope becomes substance, soul and living flesh of man, then a loss is taking place that can only be frightening. Because declaring the death of nudity, paraphrasing the Nietzschean announcement “God is dead”, means dismissing the most intimate part of ourselves.
With this renewed material, Afran, for the first time and precisely on the occasion of this exhibition, explores a new thematic field and draws on the classicism that had so much part in his formation: jeans meets the face of a David who comes from afar, it is that of Michelangelo, or it innervates in the softness of the Venus de Milo or in the hardness of the face of Heracles. Or, and here once again Afransperimenta and combines languages, it appears behind the grid of chromatic castings, in the wall works (Venus of sobriety).
The exhibition itinerary is completed by two families of installations: the two Sartropods in which the artist once again experiments with the processes of the ready-made, and the enormous Skeleton of nothing: the poetic assembly of coat hangers unfolds in the space of the Salone d ‘ Honor of the Gallery, like a sort of gigantic fossil: the empty crutches once again tell the story of an absence. The dress is gone, leaving behind the nostalgic trace of its transitory and ephemeral existence.

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