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Angelo Bellobono
Brooklyn NY, NY
Neighborhood: Williamsburg



ARTIST STATEMENT: From the very beginning of his career, Angelo Bellobono has always placed humanity and the territory at the centre of his artistic research, stressing the difficult relations of belonging and identity, understood not simply in the socio-cultural sense but also in a biological sense. The mechanisms by which biochemistry translates into behaviours and emotions is the thread running through all his paintings, videos and performances, taking the emphasis away from the presumed spirituality animating human existence. His portraits thus convey a sense of dramatic irony, lost in a blinding whiteness or in a dark sea of crude oil, at once liquid and solid, conceptually unstable and temporary, dependent on their chemical sense of biological precariousness. They reveal the constant efforts made to seek out an identity and a place in which to belong, a constant freezing and unfreezing of hidden or denied existences and of an ideal well-being. Bellobono gives form and consistency to a sampler of emotions experienced by all human beings; in his most recent works, which also probe the drive to immigrate, this investigation once again combines painting with performance and video art.
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low life wellbeing center

Angelo Bellobono’s new project, in a sort of anthropological and social catalogue, continues the artist’s analysis of behaviours linked to belonging and to established and codified identity, decontextualizing them and reproposing them in a subtly ironic way which makes no allowances. Faced with a range of serious and concrete inadequacies linked to real hardships and problems are an equal number of ostentatiously displayed surface attitudes, created in opposition to institutionalized systems but which eventually end up becoming equivalent and parallel systems which are equally rigid, codified and hierarchical. People’s tendency to organize themselves into ghettos and separate groups lies behind all forms of intolerance and behavioural arrogance. Politics, in this period of strong regression and (deliberate) destabilization of the status quo, once again plays the card of national identity, creating the conditions for uncontrollable damage. The economy has always exploited individual weaknesses, creating reference models around which people group themselves with their own distinctive products. Writers such as Richard Yates, Pirandello, Tondelli, Kurt Vonnegut, Orwell, Geoff Dyer, Michel Houellebecq have cynically and accurately described the outlines of this indoctrination. By means of painting, drawing and video animation this project investigates, strips bare and reassembles individual and global psychological attitudes and fears, group games and ironies, trends and displacements of commonplaces. With a painting style that is at once forceful and rarefied, each canvas is packed with emotions that are intimately perceived but which belong to all, frozen, hung out to melt and which dry up again, still dirt-laden. The drawings, rapid and non-complacent in style, uncover private vices, public virtues and dress codes. To conclude, an ironic and solemn video animation shows us the protagonists of this hypothetical well-being centre coming to grips with yoga and pilates, activities which are perhaps difficult to reconcile with punk or pseudo-punk culture; even the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” becomes a new age mantra with its chorus of “no future for you”.

temporary runner

Snow-white icebergs, holding thousands of years worth of ice, move through the water, floating aimlessly, driven by the winds and currents towards other latitudes, until they inevitably melt in unknown places, forever mixing their song with seas that have a foreign sound. Scientists tell that, rather than a song, the melody produced by the water pressing on the cracks and clefts of the ice sounds like a lament. As if the icebergs were singing of the pain of their slow and fatal dissolution, caused by the raising of the Earth’s temperature. This image lies at the heart of Angelo Bellobono’s most recent cycle of works, which includes, together with the installation and the paintings on display in this exhibition, the video Space Runner – in which a man runs over geographical maps which freeze, melt, decompose and reform in an ever changing way, only to liquefy and freeze again – and a series of six photographs taken in New York this spring: a sequence of “mental landscapes” in which the different features of the faces portrayed, evoking faraway worlds, blend until they merge with the made-in- the-USA environment in which they are immersed. The paintings Goccia-drop and Temporary place are also inner landscapes, but here the rigorous and essential painting technique and the use of black and white accentuate their purely mental and symbolic meaning. The faces floating aimlessly through the milky geometric void of the canvas are also genuine “landscapes of human features”. Icebergs as a metaphor for a world which, by its very nature, is subject to constant movement and transformation (the movements of bodies in space, but also in time); as a metaphor for man, his motives and deeds subject to an incommensurate “becoming”. A world where, despite all the constructs conceived and created by the human mind, all that is eternal is the metamorphic rhythm of “being” which dissolves death itself. This is why I also like to think of the iceberg as an allegory of Western civilization, constructed from the times of Ulysses and Socrates on the primacy of rational thought. Theorized, on a philosophical and political level, as the specific identity of mankind – from Descartes’ res cogitans to Kant’s I think to the Hegelian spirit – reason (understood as conscious and rational perception, but also as a lucid and specific relationship with things, as unexceptionable formal behaviour) has allowed mankind to study the Earth and the stars, to develop science, industry and technology, to understand the physiology of the human body in an attempt to give mankind a unitary empirical explanation for itself. Thanks to reason, mankind has been able to define, measure and control the reality perceptible to the senses, delegating to an unknowable metaphysical principle what could not be seen or understood. Similarly, the development of rights and obligations, traditions and institutions, political and economic hegemonies rests on reason, supported by a lucid attempt to assert oneself and survive, even at the expense of the many. An implacable logic capable of justifying any act in the name of necessary reasons of state, faith or inviolable principle: from terrorist attacks to war, from the violation of human rights to the recruitment of child soldiers or immigrants without citizenship. But, from the Christian Crusades to Islamic Jihad, “God loves soldiers” as a US army website states. Armies of marionettes and puppets trained for total war like the terrible Small Soldiers (1993) in the film directed by Joe Dante and like the unwavering armies of plasticene which face one another on the iceberg built by Bellobono, “hostages – he writes – to their own mania for borders and territories to defend. All around is the void. The stupid space which so many have defended melts beneath their feet and they themselves begin to melt. Belonging to nothing is the final truth, liquefying into unknown currents which will reform in a nameless elsewhere”. Elias Canetti sees in the deadly tendency of power towards survival (and therefore towards domination) a clear parallel with the paranoid use of knowledge which, aiming to abstract, universalize and classify, always aims at the one, the identical, denying or annihilating the heterogeneous and enigmatic variety of the real world, defying identification, resisting power. So much so that in the three chapters which make up his novel Auto da fe (1935) – Head without a World, World without a Head, The World in the Head- he uncovered the rational delirium of “heads” trapped within the confines of “geometric spaces”, within the obsessive repetition of the same stereotypes, the same words. Unable to conceive of a thought different from itself and terrified of what is strange (and which, as such, is monstrous, evil, perverse, sub-human) reason falls prey to the fate of Narcissus, who, precisely because he cannot see “the other” is unable to recognize himself. And Dionysus, unrecognized and unaccepted, takes his revenge, like Frankenstein, a modern Prometheus, who Mary Shelley presents to us at the beginning of her novel (1818) as he travels on a sleigh through a desolate polar landscape. Bellobono achieves something similar to what Canetti had portrayed in words, painting, within the Euclidean white of the canvas, “landscape-faces” contracted in an icy breath of liquid nitrogen (Temporary me); fixed in the immortality of success (Temporary player) o caught up in the impervious mirage of eternal loves (Temporary place); “heads” seduced by the New American Century and by the chimera of globalized free trade (Temporary time 1, Temporary time 2), incapable of rebelling against the given, the status quo, the preservation of ideologies because they are anchored to a Past which prevents them from creating an identity other than that of blood or of belonging to a culture, a nation, a faith (Temporary land). Through the subtle mechanisms of paradox, playing on both words and images, Bellobono highlights the common illusions of our era, shattering the unity of the conceptual concatenation of our certainties. Theorems which- he notes- “have turned out to be dreams abandoned like floating icebergs. Lives which are frozen and then evaporate in the fierce sun. Liquefied forms and transitions between states”. With these images of Temporary civilization, Bellobono continues his personal research, centred in his previous works around the difficult affirmation of personal identity at a time of the “communication of appearances” (Recruitment, 2004); around the creation of computer-programmed synthetic athletes, bred in vitro to ensure they will always deliver the required performance; the armed avantgardes of a future Proteus Generation (Body life program, 2003; Extrasistole e pacemaker, …). Through a careful study of the anatomy of the human body and its metabolism, and of the face in all the infinite variety of its expressions, Bellobono seems to wish to trace the biological point of origin where the physical and the moral merge, a “physical sensitivity” which is the matrix of all functions and organic processes, but also the beginning of the intellectual faculties and the emotions of the psyche. With his paintings, he forces us into a direct and investigative head to head with the ambiguity inherent in our very essence as “human beings”: a metamorphic mixture of vitality and death-seeking instinct, unconscious thought in images and rational, conscious perception. And, precisely because we are endowed with this “double view” of reality, capable of the divine power of imagination, but also of insane courage and the need to be different. Although it is true that we are all born equal, regardless of latitude, culture and gender, it is also true that we rapidly become very different, but not always free to create a valid human identity and an adequate social identity, despite the progress guaranteed by reason. We are all fraternally linked in the abstract freedom of the citizen (as long as we have citizenship), without sex, without desires, without requirements other than material needs or superhuman spiritual tensions; of the worker in the statistics, the compulsive consumer. Dazzled but also frightened by a market which rules all and enriches only the few. Thus the words Liberty Equality Fraternity echo through the air, reaching us from a foreign past. “Words as white as snow flakes, but they are cold” because they are as empty as “old brown leaves in springtime/ which do not know where they are going, in search of a (new) song”.


 








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