Naima Morelli

Syntax Parallax: Arthur Duff at Oredaria Arti Contemporanee Gallery

Words are for explaining, but at the same time words are also for hiding.
In the moment you want to tell something, you’re making a choice. Saying something means not saying something else. It’s the feature of the language, you can’t help it. But if you’re an artist you can play with it.

Arthur Duff is one who is not scared of juggling on the edge of language’s ambiguities, indeed he enjoys himself exploring the multiple layers of semantics.
He’s an American Italian-based artist living in Venice (fortunate guy), and recent winner of the MACRO 2% prize.
Actually, the artist is not distanced himself a lot from MACRO, the main contemporary art museum of Rome. As you can see the Oredaria Arti Contemporanee Gallery, hosting his exhibition, is just nearby.

Duff’s solo show is called “Syntax Parallax”. As you came into the subterranean gallery, you’re suddenly greeted by two light installations. The yellow neons, forming words, seem to melt on to the floor.

Going deeper and deeper in the white large corridor of the gallery, you have the pleasure to meet Duff’s other works. Amidst a canvas of military camouflage he hides words written in embroidery, all made too seem like the word is in part concealing and in part showing. Maybe these words are the unspoken, what you read between the lines. The key voiceless subject left in the air during an argument.

Furthermore, the camouflage choice deals with a typical army look. With a plunge on the actuality, we can read the critique on politics. The meanings and the layers of interpretation multiplies.

Another group of works relates to illusionism, remanding the viewer to the exhibition of “Arte Cinetica e Programmata” (Programmed and Kinetic Art) currently in the Galleria d’Arte Moderna.
If you stare at Duff’s work from a distance you can see only stars merging by subtraction in a frame. But if you come close you can see that the entire black picture is made by little holes that reveal an orange background.

The light installation “Syntax Parallax” gives the name to the show. It consists of a laser mounted on the floor. This laser projects white light onto a ceiling made by neon tubes. When the lights are turned off the words projected “Lamp”, “Out” and “Smoking” are visible. That’s like saying that we have to mistrust more than just the shadows, even the light can be treacherous .

But the real meaning of the exhibition’s title is revealed by the work “Black Stars _M55” made by technical strings and knots. Simplifying the language to just the ones and zeros, the line and the dot, information/no-information. Like morse code.
Indeed, this art’s concept starts from the study of the French astronomer Charles Messier, who catalogued 110 deep-sky objects, such as nebulae, galaxies and star clusters. The one that inspired the artist was the number 55.
To translate Messier’s research into a graphic language, he does a knot for every star composing the star cluster.
However, translating is the most interesting drawback of the language and someway the artist’s job as well.




April 2012
Arthur Duff – Syntax Parallax
Via Reggio Emilia 22-24, Rome

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