Melodrama Act I: Luxembourgh & Dayan, London

Melodrama is an exhibition taking place in two acts and in two locations by Luxembourg & Dayan in collaboration by curator Francesco Bonami. Act I opened in London on the 24 June, Act II following shortly after on 14 July at the gallery in New York.

Act I is a strikingly minimalist exhibition, consisting of solely four pieces of work arranged across two rooms. Act II will similarly only feature a few carefully selected works, most affectingly of all, it will place a 19th century bust by Vincenzo Gemito amongst a cast bronze sculpture by Jeff Koons. An Urs Fisher will face a Richard Serra, thus completing Act II.

Act I sets the scene with a markedly violent image, that of a taxidermied, seemingly beheaded horse, hanging from the wall, frozen in a particularly distressing stance. The pathos of the poor creature is palpable, and whilst Maurizio Cattelan’s work is known for its tendency to shock, as well to overturn classical modes of representation, nothing prepares the viewer for a confrontation with the actual body of a fully-grown horse suspended from the neck by a single hook. Naturally, this brings to mind Damien Hurst’s animals pickled in formaldehyde, and many may clamour for an end to the menagerie of dead animals that contemporary art seems to place centre stage. However, Cattelan’s obsequiously titled Untitled is undoubtedly melodramatic, and contributes to the discourse pertaining to horses in art by debasing that instantly recognisable trope of power and nobility- the equestrian portrait.

Cattelan’s piece competes for the limelight with a no less evocative piece by Pino Pascali, a “fake sculpture'” entitled Coda di Delfino of 1966. “Fake” in this instance refers to the fact that the piece is in fact a painting, it is after all, composed of canvas, wood and paint. The concept of a 3D painting is one which requires thought, Clement Greenberg’s insistence that modernism was defined by flatness in an essay published only six years prior, is here rendered null and void by the fact that the painting appears as though  at any moment, it will disappear, with a flick of its tail, backstage and out of sight.

The second room contains Franco Vimercati’s photograph series entitled Ciclo Zuppiera, where a soup tureen is photographed with the care and devotion a photographer would normally endow to a Hollywood ingénue. Facing them is Heart by Swiss duo Fischli and Weiss of 1987. Whilst as a work of art it seems to single-handedly embody the aesthetics of the 1980s; bringing to mind Mapplethorpe’s sadomasochistic portraits, cast as it is out of black rubber. However, it still appears oddly dangerous, as if it might suddenly  spring to life and begin to pump black tar instead of blood.

With Act I’s cast of characters complete; the fallen hero in Cattelan’s horse, the wise fool in Pascali’s tail, the damsel in Vimercati’s tureen and the villain in Fischli and Weiss’ heart; all that is left to do is to take a bow. Melodrama is third exhibition by Luxembourg & Dayan concerned with sculptural investigations, in a project that has already proved to tread the fine line between reality and imagination.

Laura Catsellis

Melodrama: Act I is at Luxembourg & Dayan until 13 August.

For more information:

1. Photo:Will Amlot, exhibition view of Melodrama: Act I courtesy of Luxembourg & Dayan. Pino Pascali, Coda di Delfino, 1966. Painted canvas stretched on wooden structure. 142 x 66 x 87 cm. Private Collection. Photo courtesy Luxembourg & Dayan.