Article by Alison Hugill, in Berlin; Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The space at Berlin Kreuzberg’s Delloro Contemporary Art, run by Italian gallerist Rolando Anselmi, is a radiant setting for any exhibition: the fortress-like doors of this third-floor warehouse loft open onto an exquisite white space, with multiple windows dispensing light from either side. But the gallery seems particularly fitting for Davide Balliano’s show ‘Dogbite’.
Balliano’s exhibit is at the crossroads of architecture and design. The gallery floor is adorned with several wooden sculptures, created on site during a 4-week residency that the artist undertook at Delloro, while the walls display design works on canvas and a collection of earlier pieces described as ‘interventions on book pages’.
The latter interventions have as their ‘canvas’ portraits extracted from what might have been old, black and white art history textbooks. Balliano has painted geometric designs over the portraits, in gold and black paint, that are reminiscent of art deco graphics. The eyes of each subject are isolated, the line and grid patterns ominously directing their gaze. The technique of parceling and isolating the gaze has a stunning effect; the antiquated portrait sitters gain a new and surprising intimacy, utterly foreign to their original context.
The title of Balliano’s show – Dogbite – denotes an unexpected event, connected with the breaking of trust. It deals with the forgotten wild side of the animal commonly considered as ‘man’s best friend.’ According to the artist, “this body of work wants to be a metaphor of a similar surprise applied to our own soul, our own identity.” Using geometric tools, Balliano aims to map the ‘hidden order’ of the human mind, its contradictions and its fragility.
The wooden sculptures exhibited in the first room resemble oversized table legs or unfinished chess pieces, topped or sliced through with glass panels. One of them could function as a coffee table, with the legs running horizontally instead of vertically. But its use remains questionable, removing it from any firm standing in the realm of interior design. In the second room, a large wooden door leans against the far wall. It is designed to mimic an altarpiece from a church, yet the small door at the bottom is decidedly sealed. These installations, along with the geometric grids on canvas also exhibited, are masterfully designed and crafted by the artist.
Davide Balliano was born in 1983 in Turin, Italy and is currently based in New York. He has exhibited internationally, including at the Kitakyushu Biennial (Japan) and the Vienna Biennale (Austria). His work is featured in the permanent collection at the Museum of Contemporary Photography of Cinisello Balsamo (Milan). The exhibition at Delloro Contemporary Art is his first in Berlin.
Alison Hugill has a Masters degree in Art Theory from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Alison is the Arts & Culture Editor of Review 31 and is based in Berlin.