The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College will present the solo exhibition Marco Maggi: Lentissimo from January 20 to April 1, 2012. Curated by Mary-Kay Lombino, the Art Center’s Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator and assistant director for strategic planning, Lentissimo is an exhibition of 14 colorful new works by Marco Maggi made expressly for the occasion of this exhibition.
Named for the Italian word for very slow as well as the musical tempo that denotes only 40 beats per minute, Lentissimo explores the artist’s relationship to time while inviting viewers in for quiet, careful observation. The works on view represent not only the slow pace required for viewing the work, but also reflect the intense concentration, introspection, and attention to detail involved in the artistic process. For example, works in Maggi’s Hotbed series which will be on view on the floor of each gallery, are at once large-scale, site-specific installations and a series of miniature sculptures, inspiring the viewer in to experience them on two levels – from a distance and then up close.
Maggi, who resides in the Hudson Valley community of New Paltz (NY), “is an extraordinary draftsman known for his painstaking attention to process and minute detail,” remarked Lombino. “He takes ordinary mass-produced materials such as reams of colored paper, rolls of aluminum foil, empty slide casings, eyeglass lenses, white envelopes, and acrylic parking mirrors as the starting point for his work. He then transforms these everyday items through his intricate, often repetitive, and sometimes obsessive patterns that spread across their surfaces forming amorphous landscapes, imagined topographies, or elaborate diagrams that serve as a commentary on the high-volume, technology-driven speed of the world in which we live.”
Lentissimo: a conversation with Mary-Kay Lombino and Marco Maggi.
Marco Maggi, who is creating all new work for his upcoming exhibition Lentissimo, possesses a keen awareness of the tricks language often plays with logic. His attentiveness to paradox and to the hazards of the constant race forward in the name of progress is evident in his poetic approach to life and art. In a recent interview, Mary-Kay Lombino, The Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator and Assistant Director for Strategic Planning, spoke to Maggi about this approach as well as his influences, processes, and philosophies.
Mary-Kay Lombino (MKL):
The materials you use are not typical fine art materials, but household items like aluminum foil, eyeglass lenses, parking mirrors, and reams of paper. What attracts you to such materials?
Marco Maggi (MM):
Go slower and closer.
Speed is tragic in cars, arts, and malls. When I reduce my speed at Home Depot or Stop & Shop, I always discover amazing surfaces: from Macintosh apple skin to the silky back side of construction rulers. Each surface has many faces to establish intimate dialogues with my three tools: pencil, X-Acto knife, and time.
After seeing one of my aluminum drawings on view, the viewer, returning to the supermarket, can give a second chance or smile to Reynolds foil rolls.
The attention to detail in your works conveys the craftsmanship of the hand-made, yet they begin with objects that are industrially fabricated. This seems to set up a tension in your work because they are both high-tech and low-tech at the same time. Which aspect do you embrace more?
Industry will never create a more digital tool than a hand: five digits instead of only zeros and ones. I love computers because they go faster and faster to allow us to go lentissimo. Tension is a key word for me: tension between cold materials and personal hand, tension between text and texture, or between macro and micro. I can find many dichotomies and tensions but not one specific intention in my work; I am only suggesting some protocol mutations.
You have a talent for transforming the artistic gesture into tightly controlled, almost obsessive mark making. How do you attain such control? Do you use mathematical systems to work out your compositions, or are your drawings all free form?
It’s not a mathematical jail, it’s not free form, and it’s time.
My work has plenty of warm rules to try to make the time visible and the space invisible. Our illegible world is global and myopic. Braking time and reducing the scale is my answer. No big solutions or urgent revolutions: my proposal is a homeopathic process. Person by person, step by step, inch by inch.
You must have extraordinary reserves of patience and dexterity to achieve such minute detail in your work. Are these attributes you have always had, or skills you had to acquire through practice in order to accomplish your artistic objectives?
If you trust in slow politics you must exercise humor and patience. Waiting… I try to build a second reality.
Many of your works are quiet and understated and invite slow observation in order to discover some of the gems hidden in the details. Do you intentionally make art that unravels slowly as the viewer experiences the work more closely?
Yes, yes! That is the center of my protocol mutation proposal. Nowadays delicacy becomes a subversive activity because we love terahertz and long-distance lives.
Fast viewers see, from far away, a drawing as a blank sheet. Slow viewers can read ten times more in the same drawing, switching perspective and conclusions many more times. My main focus is not the object or the subject. I focus on the time between the object and the viewer. I am interested in the specific protocol of manners and pace in the viewing process.
Can you tell me about your interest in language and information (codes, maps, diagrams) and how that influences your work as well as the titles of your works?
Building a second reality needs a lot encoding and planning. A language hotbed is always based in a growing alphabet, happy diagrams, and syntax.
To draw is very similar to writing in a language that I cannot read: a text with no hope of being informative. It’s not a thread; it is training to stimulate our empathy for insignificance.
In recent years I have been working on a series titled The Ted Turner Collection from CNN to DNA. The project started by thinking about the word “cover”. It’s interesting to me that the mass media use the word “cover” to mean the opposite: to show something. They promise “complete coverage”. Sometimes the coverage is so efficient that we cannot recognize the difference between live transmission and death. We are familiar with the DNA structure or genome alphabet but we cannot read a hair that obviously includes the information to clone our best friend. I have only one question: is the inability to relate to this a type of information blindness or should it be described as a new form of illiteracy? In either case the most advisable thing to do is to patiently resign ourselves to the fact that we are doomed to knowing more and understanding less — victims of semiotic indigestion. The extreme percussion of news prevents any repercussion of the news. An overdose of drama is the perfect anesthetic, a tool for censorship that is more efficient than a pair of scissors. We are setting up a society of dysfunctional information.
Your Hotbeds remind me of Felix-Gonzales Torres’s stacks of posters or photocopies on the one hand, and on the other hand they recall tiny abstract monuments strategically placed in the center of miniature city plazas. Which do you relate more to, the simple yet powerful gestures Torres made on the floor of art galleries and museums or the more grand achievement of erecting sculpture in a public space?
Influence is always invisible to its victims. I know that I really love Felix and his generous art dissemination, dynamics, and sublime contamination.
My Hotbed series is related to tectonic archives and books profiles. They are static landscapes in transition between constructing and demolishing, between models and ruins. The American ream is a paper-like micro sculpture and pedestal all in one.
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College will present the solo exhibition Marco Maggi: Lentissimo from January 20 to April 1, 2012.
Opening reception and lecture:
His Humble Majesty: The Artistry of Marco Maggi
A lecture by Linda Weintraub, educator, author, artist, and curator.
Taylor Hall, Room 203
Reception: 6:30pm in the Art Center Atrium
For additional information, the public may call (845) 437‑5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.