Since he first came onto the scene, in the mid ‘90s, Francesco Vezzoli has used the solitary and obsessive technique of embroidery to mix the symbols of mass media society with the heterogeneous cultural references of his childhood. On the one hand his “super-liberal, super-sophisticated and super-politically correct” parents – as the artist recalls, with a certain flair for paradox – and on the other his grandmothers, trustees of a bourgeois vision of the world. So the sophisticated imaginarium of the Cineforum films revered by his mother and father interwove and contrasted with the glossy television variety shows seen in his grandmothers’ living room. And his classics studies at the strict high school in Brescia juxtaposed Derek Jarman and the early ‘90s club-culture in London where Vezzoli attended Central Saint Martins College and discovered the working-class authenticity of Young British Artists such as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas.
His early embroidery, featuring an array of celebrities from Madonna to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Proust to Steve Rubell (co-founder of Studio 54), had the initial building blocks of an eccentric and politically incorrect artistic language through which Vezzoli began to map out a fresco of our contemporary life in which mass culture and the avant-garde converge, and boundaries between “high-brow” and “low-brow” are wiped out. Subsequently, Francesco Vezzoli added to his repertoire the production of videos packed with cinematic and TV references and embellished with literary and musical touches, but always relying heavily on autobiographical elements. In his videos, Vezzoli appears as himself, the taciturn embroiderer in the midst of complex and hectic woven narratives.
After a long series of homages to contemporary icons, Vezzoli recently began looking further into the past, to the history of art, producing sculptures that are veritable collages of old finds and all-new techniques in a playful style. He readily admits that needle and thread are no longer his chosen tools and his signature embroidered tears feature less and less on the faces of his subjects. This new course makes the edition that Francesco Vezzoli has created by invitation of Federico Marchetti, yoox founder and CEO, entitled CON AMORE, FRANCESCO VEZZOLI (FRANCESCO BY FRANCESCO),2012 even more precious. The artist has added black tears to his own face, photographed by the great Francesco Scavullo. His finely stitched, painstaking embroidery is recreated this time by machine, and features for the first time in a series of 399 postcards with a dedication from the artist in pink glitter.
The seductive image strikes a balance between the languid glamour of an old autographed photo of a silver screen diva and the domestic nostalgia of the embroidered postcards that aunties and grandmothers framed and kept as precious souvenirs. The latter is a reference that Francesco Vezzoli cites as a clear source of inspiration for this project: “In life, and in my work, I believe that choices must be either truly exclusive or truly public and popular. So I thought about a project available in many copies, given that it will be sold online, and a commonly used object from the past, like the old postcards of embroidered ballerinas and other subjects that remind me of the happy summers I spent with my grandmothers in Emilia Romagna.” To emphasize the appeal of the work, and its complex balance of narcissism, irony, family reminiscences and highly topical issues, each piece is mounted in a pretentious silver-colored frame.
This is the first time Vezzoli has produced a multiple, but it is a very special occasion: all proceeds from the sale of the edition (399 signed and numbered pieces available exclusively at yoox.com for 399 euro each) will go to FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano (the Italian National Trust) to restore the 18th century bell tower of the Finale Emilia Town Hall, destroyed by last May’s earthquake that hit the region, which is dear to Vezzoli but also to Marchetti who was born here and where the yoox.com adventure began. Caroline Corbetta
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