Visual Arts

Italian Artist Spent 40 Hours Obsessively Marking Wall in Current Exhibit

Italian artist Andrea Bianconi has faced the wall, again, and has triumphed in his obsessive and imaginary site-specific illustration on the west wall of Barbara Davis Gallery, part of his current exhibit, “Fantastic Planet.”

Truly a labor of love, as the work can only survive for the duration of the exhibit, the artist began in one central spot on the blank canvas white wall and inked one tiny arrow-tipped mark after another, until 40 hours later the landscape had left his mind and literally covered the 12-foot by 36-foot space.

Bianconi, who has exhibited regularly at the Montrose area gallery since 2007’s “Pony Express,” has gone up against the wall before, including 2008’s “Mapping Maps,” with thick and colorful layers of frantic arrows emanating from a central explosion; the sparse, wall-mounted chains of 2010’s “A Charmed Life,” connecting disparate objects (ladybug, pig, chair, egg beater) in a representation of signs and symbols; and 2011’s “Trappole del pensiero,” an edited collective of silhouetted, floating creatures and masks. In 2013, in conjunction with the release of his recently published book, Romance, his creation for the “Love Story” exhibit included a wall drawing with black flowers, paint and transparent paper; and in 2014 the artist’s “Tunnel City” saw a return to his mark-making, by way of arrows, in an investigation of space, movement and the progression of time.

The artist has titled both the exhibit and the wall drawing with the same name, “Fantastic Planet,” and many of the framed works are similarly titled, adding a number or word to differentiate among the ten smaller works.

It is only after the “wow” has receded from viewing the wall drawing that one can truly appreciate the remaining pieces, which feature imaginary landscapes with exploding plants and other sky-borne fauna. Each consists of short and long armies of arrow-tipped marks, moving in unison towards the perceived light source or bending in the wind. At the edges of each canvas, the arrow tips always face out, as if the growth motion is captured in freeze frame.

Bianconi is not content to limit his work to the two-dimensional realm, and often accompanies his exhibitions with a performance piece. Opening night found the artist dressed in black and leaning against the wall, hands in pockets, with his head obscured by a heavily layered black tulle funeral veil. He turned to face the crowd and began uttering what sounded like the words “Fantastic Planet,” slowly at first, then building speed in an obsessive repetition until, exhausted, he shed the veil and calmly walked out of view. It was only at that point that the nervous audience members could be sure the performance was over and applauded what the artist has described as an “endless quest to find where Fantastic Planet exists.”

An anthology of his performances, spanning 10 years, will be published in March by Silvana Editore. In May of this year, he will perform Time is Timing in the Dolomites; when he performed the piece at Barbara Davis Gallery last year, the artist, surrounded by alarm clocks, began the piece with the first alarm clock ringing and didn’t stop until the last person had exited the space 55 minutes later.

“Fantastic Planet” continues through February 6, at Barbara Davis Gallery, 4411 Montrose, open Tuesdays to Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 713-520-9200, Free.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney