Duane Reed Gallery Presents Monologues

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Alessandro Gallo Monologues


“I Know Exactly What I’m Doing”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 24” x 10”x 10”


Alessandro Gallo “Monologues”

Duane Reed Gallery


“None of Your Business”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 24” x 10”x 10”


Man Gave Names to All the Animals By Garth Johnson When I took my first art history course, I immediately gravitated to cultures that loved to anthropomorphize animals—from the ancient Egyptians on down. The Egyptians, of course, loved to represent their gods as humans with animal heads… but the gods were usually busy doing boring things like accepting offerings. I was far more interested in the way they drew actual animals engaging in anthropomorphized activities like playing board games, making music… or even engaging in interspecies dalliances that defy physiology.1 If you guessed that the Japanese, with their abundant mascots and love of manga would have a rich history of anthropomorphizing animals, you would be right. Created around the mid-12th Century, the Chojugiga (commonly known in English as the Scroll of Frolicking Animals and Humans) is commonly attributed to the 12th Century Japanese monk Toba Sojo 2. Between the pointed satire and the fluid drawing style, it is difficult to believe that these ink drawings are nearly 900 years old. In one of the most memorable drawings, a group of frogs wrestle while a rabbit rolls on his back, laughing. In another, a thieving monkey runs from a rabbit and frog wielding long sticks. In Europe, there is an equally long history of anthropomorphizing animals. In a 1st century thought experiment, the Roman poet Horace asked “…if a painter chose to join a human head to the neck of a horse, and to spread feathers of many a hue over limbs picked up now here now there, so that what at the top is a lovely woman ends below in a black and ugly fish, could you, my friends… refrain from laughing?” 3 Horace was trying give his readers a warning about artistic overreach, but he painted a vivid picture in their mind. In the 18th Century, Italians gleefully joined their German and French counterparts in the practice of Singerie, which translates as “monkey trick.” These paintings and sculptures depicted fashionablydressed monkeys engaging in human foibles. Singerie extended in the ceramic world through a series of Meissen porcelain figurines of monkey musicians known as Affenkappelle (monkey orchestra). Italian-born sculptor Alessandro Gallo (b. 1974) is the inheritor of these traditions. While keenly aware of his historical forbears, Gallo has chosen to jettison overt references to fables and vernacular examples from history in favor of razor-sharp observations about contemporary fashion, culture, and mores. Gallo originally planned to follow in his father’s footsteps by studying law at the University of Genoa, but followed his heart to Saint Martin’s College in London, where he began his artistic studies. Even though he has abandoned the legal profession, Gallo has retained a lawyerly eye for detail, as well as a knack for weaving a narrative web to invoke a sense of empathy for even his most feckless characters. Gallo’s cast of characters ranges from people on the margins of acceptable society to urban dwells that stare at their cell phones, eat snacks, or seem lost in thought. He is also unafraid of portraying intimacy and tenderness—a pair of spoonbills curled up in bed, or a pregnant woman with a rabbit head absentmindedly cradling her exposed belly. Even though his work takes on the scale and material of the figurine, Gallo nudges them away from the maudlin by his highly specific observations. Each panty line, shirt stain, or tattoo points the viewer to a narrative that is highly specific rather than universal, a trick he learned from some of his favorite songwriters—specifically Bob Dylan, whose presence looms large in Gallo’s work.


Above: “Easy Peasy”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 21” x 26”x 11” below: Detail of “Easy Peasy”


Speaking of Dylan, his work permeates Monologues. I Must Have Made a Few Bad Turns takes its name from Highlands, a song on his 1997 return to form Time Out of Mind. The subject of the sculpture is a pronghorn antelope—common to the area of Montana where Gallo lives. The antelope stands with his shoulders hunched together, holding a U-Haul moving box. Everything is specific—from the iconic printing on the U-Haul box to the “puffer” jacket, an accessory many Montanans wouldn’t be caught dead without. The character is obviously at a crossroads, but the Dylan lyric perfectly sums up a particular type of middle-aged life and career reevaluation familiar to many of us. Dylan was nothing if not an arch synthesist. He channeled the ghost of Woody Guthrie, at whose bedside he sat as the musician was dying of Huntington’s Disease. Dylan also immersed himself in Russian novelists—particularly Tolstoy. During a visit to the Soviet Union, Dylan went out of his way to visit Tolstoy’s estate, even convincing the caretaker to allow him to ride Tolstoy’s bicycle.4 Tolstoy pioneered many of the literary devices that Dylan (and later Gallo) borrowed for their work. In his 2021 critical analysis of the Russian short story A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, author George Saunders urges readers to consider Tolstoy’s flair for specificity: “Consider the difference between “The maid carried the samovar to the table” and Tolstoy’s version: “After flicking with her apron the top of the samovar which was now boiling over, she carried it with an effort to the table, raised it, and set it down with a thud.” 5 Gallo accomplishes a Tolstoyesque specificity in his new sculpture The Clouds’ll Roll away, also named after a song lyric—in this case, a Gershwin tune covered by everyone from Judy Garland to Thelonius Monk. In this spirit of eclecticism, The Clouds’ll Roll Away is a faithful portrait of a woman Gallo met during a residency in Minneapolis. Her head is a faithful rendering of a common merganser, a duck common to Minnesota. Her bold Sailor Jerry-style vintage tattoos and stylish scarf stand in stark contrast to her sequined butterfly shirt—the kind a middle-aged 1980s housewife might have glammed herself up in for a night out drinking wine coolers with the girls. Gallo perfectly manages the highwire act of portraying a confident young woman who effortlessly mixes kitsch with an edgy sense of style. True to form, in Monologues, Gallo reserves some of his sharpest insights for self-reflection. Since the beginning of his career, he has used the donkey as his alter-ego. These anthropomorphized donkeys laze on the couch with a remote, or stand around in rumpled suits, hands planted firmly in pockets. The donkey makes his awkward return in I know exactly what I’m doing, which depicts Gallo balancing all his eggs in one basket. The piece is a metaphor about life, of course—is Gallo blissfully unaware of the dangers that lurk ahead, or is he racked with self-doubt? Given the exhibition’s title, Monologues, I would bet on the latter. I know exactly what I’m doing is also a reference to Gallo’s painstaking process. Most artists are pushed to work in different media and in different modalities as a hedge against shifting markets and uncertain futures. Gallo remains true to his vision—he has only begun to mine the rich veins of literary observations (not to mention the vast unexplored corners of Noah’s ark). With his attention to detail, as well as the uncertainties and of working in a fragile medium like clay, there is always the danger of failure. Gallo forges ahead. Gallo’s cast of characters in Monologues hold their own space, both internal and external. Like actors, they interact with the space around them. The new sculptures Keep on keeping on and Easy Peasy represent new heights for Gallo in terms of introducing increasingly elaborate surroundings, props, and armatures. Principally, though, the characters all display a sense of interiority… no small feat for a group of anthropomorphic animals. Monologues is a perfect title for this cast of characters. As they carry out their idiosyncratic (and highly specific) actions, the viewer is left to follow the trail of breadcrumbs that Gallo has left to determine their motivation.


Above: “Or How About You All Fuck Off for a Day or Two”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 7” x 13”x 9”. Below: Detail of “Or How About You All Fuck Off for a Day or Two”


There are too many members of Gallo’s menagerie in Monologues to name them all—from a raccoon slyly sweeping something under a rug to a nattily-dressed snake in business attire caught mid-unhinging as she swallows an egg. Recently, Gallo has moved beyond his donkey self-portraits, which have painted him into a self-effacing corner. In their place, Gallo leaves us with a tender self-portrait of the artist as rooster (Gallo means rooster in Italian). Forever Young (Dylan again!) depicts Gallo with his son (a chicken) on his lap, absorbed in reading on a tablet. Again, Gallo snatches subject matter that could easily play as sentimental from the jaws of Hallmark and imbues it with true-to-life details—from their clothes to their body language. The son grips the father’s hand, which holds the tablet, an act both tender and assertive. I’ve already pontificated about Tolstoy, Horace, Japanese scrolls… and wine coolers, so that’s probably enough for now. I’ll turn things over to you to make your own conclusions. I’ll leave it to the Bard to play us out. May your hands always be busy May your feet always be swift May you have a strong foundation When the winds of changes shift May your heart always be joyful May your song always be sung May you stay forever young 6 Garth Johnson is the Paul Phillips & Sharon Sullivan Curator of Ceramics at the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY 1 Babcock, Jennifer. Anthropomorphized Animal Imagery on New Kingdom Ostraca and Papyri: Their Artistic and Social Significance, New York University, Ann Arbor, 2014. 2 Mari, HASHIMOTO. “Enigmatic Picture Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans - Discuss Japan.” Japan Policy Forum, 1 Oct. 2021, https://www.japanpolicyforum.jp/culture/pt2021100115473411599.html. 3 Kort, Pamela, and Frances S. Connelly. “Profound Play: The Image Tradition of the Comic Grotesque.” Comic Grotesque: Wit and Mockery in German Art, 1870-1940, Prestel, Munich, 2004. 4 Kamalakaran, Ajay. “The Time Bob Dylan Rode Leo Tolstoy’s Bicycle.” Russia Beyond, 31 Aug. 2020, https://www.rbth.com/history/332641-bob-dylan-tolstoy-bicycle. 5 Saunders, George. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022. 6 Dylan, Bob. “Forever Young.” Planet Waves. Asylum Records, 1974. Transcript of lyrics.


Detail of “I Must Have Made a Few Bad Turns”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 25” x 10”x 10”


“I Must Have Made a Few Bad Turns”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 25” x 10”x 10”


Detail of “Type A”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 19” x 12”x 8”


“Type A”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 19” x 12”x 8”


Detail of “Clouds Will Roll Away”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 23” x 10”x 10”


“Clouds Will Roll Away”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 23” x 10”x 10”


“Forever Young”, 2020, stoneware & mixed media, 16” x 7.5”x 14” - Private Collection


Above: “The Magician”, 2021, stoneware & mixed media, 20” x 30” x 10” - Private Collection Below: “Cold Turkey”, 2020, stoneware & mixed media, 12” x 15” x 11” - Private Collection


“I Will Not Burn Bridges”, 2020, stoneware & mixed media, 23” x 10”x 10” - Private Collection


Detail of “I Will Not Burn Bridges”, 2020, stoneware & mixed media, 23” x 10”x 10” - Private Collection


“It’s Alright, Ma”, 2020, stoneware & mixed media, 28.5” x 10”x 10” - Private Collection


“Zero, The Fool”, 2021, stoneware & mixed media, 26” x 16” x 10” - Private Collection


“With God on Our Side”, 2021, stoneware & mixed media, 23” x 16” x 10” Bacl Cover: Keep on Keeping On”, 2022, stoneware & mixed media, 21” x 15” x 15”


Alessandro Gallo -1974 Born, Genoa, Italy -1993 - 1997 University of Genoa, Italy - Law Studies – not completed -1998 - 1999 Central St Martins College of Art - Foundation Course, London, UK -1999 - 2002 Chelsea College of Art - BA (Hons) Fine Art, London, UK Selected Awards and Residencies 2020-2022 Speyer & Windgate Fellowship. Long Term resident, Archie Bray Foundation. Helena, MT 2019 McKnight Residency Award. Northern Clay Center. Minneapolis, MN Jan-Apr 2019 2018 Visiting Artist at Clay Center of Missoula. Missoula, MT 2016 Guest Artist at Clay Gulgong Ceramic Festival. Gulgong, Australia 2013 Foundation of Shigaraki Ceramic Culture Park. Artist in Residence. Shigaraki, Japan. 2012 Virginia A. Groot Foundation Grant. First Place. Invited Artist ‘Seto International Ceramic and Glass Art Exchange Program’. Seto, Japan. La Meridiana. Certaldo, Firenze Italy. Visiting artist and Summer Residency Solo Exhibitions 2022 2019 2016 2014 2008 2006 2004

‘Monologues’, Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, MO. ‘Most of the time’, Abmeyer Wood, Seattle, WA. ‘For some reason’, Jonathan Levine Gallery, New York City ‘Strani incontri’, Jonathan Levine Gallery, New York City ‘Riding Out’, Jill George Gallery, London ‘Donkey Afternoon’, Jill George Gallery, London ‘Forse’, Marco Canepa Gallery, Genoa

Selected Group Exhibitions 2021 2020 2019

2018 2017

2016 2015 2014 2013

2012 2011

Beautes Equivoques at Fondation Bernardaud International Ceramic and Glass Art Exchange Program. Seto, Japan. Stiftung Nantesbuch - Kunst und Natur. Germany Biennale Internationale de Ceramique Contemporaine Vallauris. Vallauris, France Hey! Modern Art and Pop Culture #3’. Halle St.Pierre Museum. Paris, France – Group Duane Reed Gallery. St.Louis, MO About Face. Contemporary ceramic Sculpture’. Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts., AL Premio Faenza’-60 th Anniversary at MiC (Museo Internazionale della Ceramica). Faenza, Italy Incongruos body’- AMOCA, Pomona, CA Concurrent/Conventions. A spectrum of Contemporary Ceramics’ Sacramento State Univ., CA Tempered Beasts’. Northern Clay Center. Minneapolis, MN Unnatural Histories VI’, Antler Gallery. Portland, OR Bodies and Beings’. Abmeyer + Wood Gallery. Seattle, WA Welcome to New Jersey’. Jonathan Levine Projects, Jersey City, NJ National Ceramic Invitational’ Sarah Traver Gallery. Seattle, WA Trophies and Preys: A Contemporary Bestiary’, Peters Projects. Santa Fe, NM, USA Ceramic Top 40’, Gallery 224, Office for the Arts at Harvard, Allston, MA, USA Ceramic Top 40’, Red Star Studio, Kansas City, Mo, USA Clay Bodies’. Barry Friedman Gallery. New York, NY. USA Seto International Ceramic and Glass Art Exchange Program 2012/2013’. Seto City Art Museum. Seto, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Collect 2013 Art Fair with Terra Delft Gallery (NL). Saatchi Gallery, London, UK Collect 2012 Art Fair with Terra Delft Gallery (NL). Saatchi Gallery,, London, UK 54th Venice Biennale. Italian Pavillion.Venezia, Italy Biennale Venezia. Regione Liguria.Genova, Italy


Duane Reed Gallery 4729 McPherson Ave. St. Louis, MO 63108

314.361.4100 www.duanereedgallery.com info@duanereedgallery.com


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