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Review: Ettore Spalletti’s ‘Every dawn, is first’ at Marian Goodman Gallery

As one alights from the nearest Tube station at Piccadilly Circus, slinking from the guiding curve of Regent Street to London’s smaller side-roads, it becomes possible to hear footsteps above the rest of the Capital’s sounds; the relative quietude of these lanes allows an enjoyment of personal space, despite shadows cast by neighbouring businesses.

Ettore Spalletti’s Ogni alba, è la prima (Every dawn, is first) exhibition, his first such showing at the Marian Goodman Gallery situated in Lower John Street in London, is a contradicted continuation of this experience: the textured artwork —some jumping and lifting off the walls in titillating and suggestive ways—strikes out, enveloping the viewer in a succession of soothing coloured blankets, redolent of childhood.

Ettore Spalletti Orizzonte dorato Marian Goodman
(L to R): ‘Paesaggio, 3’, ‘Orizzonte dorato’, ‘Inquietudine, grigio’ and ‘Così com’è, grigio’ . Image Credit: Thierry Bal

And despite this ‘out-to-get-you’ quality, Marian Goodman Gallery is spacious enough to let this exhibit breathe.

Boards for impasto works, such as Azzurro and Verso il blu di Prussia have erratic bevel-edges finished in gold; the boards themselves taper from top to bottom, suggestive of an azure sea rolling up on to golden sands. There is little difficulty here in drawing on Signor Spalletti’s environs surrounding his studio on the Italian Adriatic Coast in Abruzzo.

Ettore Spalletti Verso il blue Prussia Marian Goodman
(L to R): ‘Azzurro’, ‘Grigio caldo’, ‘Paessaggio 2’, ‘Verso il blue Prussia’. Image Credit: Thierry Bal

Despite this interpretation, carpets of colour— careful blends of layered blue created with an impasto technique—highlight flush chaotic brushstrokes moving every which way, which (having grown up on an island myself) is not typical of the swirling in-out movements of the sea.

It is instead evocative of  the sky; giving works which are a curious confusion of the movements of carefully caressing tides, encompassing the colours associated with a blue sky; only slightly hinting at the presents of clouds.

Unless one comes across Spalletti’s 2016 Untitled pastel on paper series, a series in which colours are blended imperceptibly and masterfully to form soft horizons, the inspiration deriving from Italian coastal landscape gives itself to another interpretation: that of youth and gender.

Baby blues and subtle pinks, the shades thereof used to create entire works in themselves, remind us of traditional images associated with male and female children respectively: is it possible that these works, along with those works such as Paesaggio, 2 composed of blues and greys—and Rosa, fiore di pesco in white—set out to challenge this gender perception?

This is unclear, although Bacile with its rounded black marble might be considered a children’s roundabout, or perhaps the white Sivec marble of L’una nell’altro represents playing blocks. Indeed, Dentro l’acqua with its two blue boards brought together at the base to form an apex might be thought of as another type of dawn—childbirth.

The soothing nature of this exhibition is down to colour, and the reason why this in itself is soothing is due to the simplicity of childhood.

Ettore Spalletti Dentro l'acqua. Napoli Marian Goodman
(L to R): ‘Paesaggio, 7’, ‘Bacile’, ‘Sfumato, rosso’ and’ Dentro l’acqua. Napoli’.
Image Credit: Thierry Bal

Further to this idea is the juxtaposition of five impasto works on paper (Blue, carta; Carta, grigio azzurrato etc.) whose shades—with jagged edges contrasting smooth edges of those painted on board—perhaps denote siblings within a family.  Interpretations in this vein would certainly be bolstered by Spalletti’s site-specific installation, Lago, consisting of an egg-shaped alabaster sculpture on a lake of blue.

Ettore Spalletti Presenza stanza Marian Goodman
(L to R): ‘Presenza stanza’, ‘Blu, carta’, ‘Carta, grigio azzurrato’, ‘Carta, eco’, and ‘Rosa, carta’. Image Credit: Thierry Bal

A consoling exhibition of colour, with a multi-faceted reading on the idea of dawn. For a conceptual art exhibition, this ranks four out of five stars.

Ettore Spalletti Lago Installation Marian Goodman
‘Lago’, site-specific installation; alabaster and coloured wood. Image Credit: Thierry Bal

All images are copyright Ettore Spalletti and courtesy of Ettore Spalletti and Marian Goodman Gallery.

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