Smoke by Mark Handforth at Villa Croce in Genoa

Villa Croce presents SMOKE, an exhibition by Mark Handforth, combining existing works with sculptures specifically created in response to the museum’s spaces. This Anglo-American artist has gained international recognition with his large-scale public sculptures that are born from a reflection on the bewildering dimensions of American metropolises and the minor features that populate the urban landscape such as road signs, benches, and street-lights. The exhibition title derives from the artist’s fascination with the lettering of the word “smoke” as it appears on American road signs. For Handforth “smoke” is a word, a sign but also the indication of a clouded environment in which forms are dissolved and shapes are set in movement.

By altering both the materials and the proportions of ordinary objects, the sculptures of Handforth appear to be serious and ironic, playful and formal, monumental and melancholic. The artist intervenes on the signs and symbols of everyday life creating a gallery of expanded objects endowed with a wild physicality and a distinct dynamic energy that generates a free flow of mental associations and a wide range of poetic and whimsical interpretations of reality and contemporary art. Rife with aesthetic references to Pop and Minimal Art, his work pushes a rigorous formal research into an immediately recognizable figurative dimension in which prosaic items and universal icons manage to coexist. Out-sized proportions and exaggerated distortions radically transform the relationship between the viewer and the artwork as the sculptures invade the rooms where they are situated with their powerful plastic energy.

For the exhibition at Villa Croce the artist reinterprets the architecture and the spaces of the neoclassical mansion creating a surreal sequence of twisted lamp-posts, fluorescent mandalas of neon lights, gigantic coat hangers and crumpled stars that form narrative itineraries marked by a dynamic tension between organic and inorganic shapes, concepts of immanence and change, abstraction and symbolic representation.

The large-format sculpture placed outside the seaside façade, in the park, affects the relation between the museum, the Mediterranean horizon, and the port below. Specifically created for the exhibition, Flagpole is a huge flag flipping on a crooked pole that, in spite of its considerable dimension, conveys a sense of precariousness, suggesting the absurdity of territorial disputes, the impossibility of conquest, or even one last ditch-call for help.

In keeping with Mark Handforth’s idea, that “art is a kind of dance, and I am not sure that standing still is quite the point,” SMOKE creates a choreography of shapes floating in space that question our symbolic universe and the perceptual moorings of the spectators transforming them into shape-shifting characters who, like in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, become bigger and smaller in size and find themselves suspended above light floors or amidst stars falling from the ceiling.

SMOKE: a new publication documenting the exhibition in Genova will be released in the summer, published by Silvana Editoriale with texts by Ilaria Bonacossa, Mary Cerutti and Veronica Gonzalez Pena. The show and the catalogue have been supported by Galleria Franco Noero, Torino; The Modern Institute, Glasgow; Galerie Eva Pressenhuber, Zurich; Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York and Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Santa Monica.

Villa Croce – via Jacopo Ruffini 2  – 16128 Genova.
Opening 22 June 2016, 6:30pm
23 June – 5 September, 2016