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Maurizio Cannavacciuolo


In 2003, Maurizio Cannavacciuolo spent his residency wandering through the Museum galleries looking at the collection and the building, exploring the conservation labs, and talking to the staff. He also explored Mrs. Gardner's collection of rare books, her travel scrapbooks, particularly the one from Cuba, Mexico, and Denmark, and several guest books. From these, he selected 300 slide images for possible use in his own work. A year later, Cannavacciuolo returned to the Museum and spent five weeks creating two elaborate wall drawings in the Special Exhibition Gallery with the help of four assistants. This site-specific work, titled TV Dinner, was created before Museum visitors, who viewed the process through a window built into the gallery door. During the installation Cannavacciuolo also created and distributed the 18th version of his "Notebooks on Taste" entitled Guardian Angels of the Collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to all the Museum staff and volunteers. This handmade edition of 200 included a list of all the guards who had worked at the Museum from the time it opened in 1903 to 2004 in the order they were hired. In 2007, Cannavacciuolo returned again for a talk entitled Be Very Happy in which he chronicled what had happened to him from the time he first set foot in the Museum to the present day, using his work to illustrate the narrative.

In June 2016, he was the eighth Artist-in-Residence to create a temporary site-specific work for the façade of the Museum: A Lecture on Martian History, his fictional narrative about the colonization of the Earth by Martians, told generations later by a many-armed teacher, the product of human-Martian interbreeding. The façade artwork had five vignettes, each telling part of the story, including a scene set in a fictional performance hall at the Museum.

In 2017, he came back to lead a conversational drawing workshop. Over five magical days, visitors found inspiration in a set of images, collected and researched by the artist, that referenced the Collection, Isabella Stewart Gardner’s travels, and Cannavacciuolo’s own work. The artist then invited the public to join him in creating a collaborative drawing; storytelling and lively discussions ensued.

Maurizo Cannavacciuolo (b. 1954 Italy) is part painter, part architect, part philosopher, and part writer. A critical observer blessed with an acute sense of the ridiculous and the absurd, he animates surfaces with intricate drawings that can be vibrant or almost invisible. Cannavacciuolo takes images from popular culture, natural history, anthropology, architecture, and posed snapshots into his work. His source materials are turned into slides, which he projects onto a wall or a canvas and then traces in pencil, ink, or paint. For example, he might mix images of an Art Nouveau wallpaper pattern, comic book characters, grinning heads from a Bangkok dentist’s display, African tribal carvings, insects, and the vaulted ceiling of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris—all in unpredictable sizes and combinations.

Maurizio Cannavacciuolo has had solo exhibitions at Sprovieri Progetti, London; Allegra Ravizza Art Project; Milan; Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead; Museu da Republica-Galeria Catete, Rio de Janerio; and Sperone Westwater, New York. His works are in several collections including the Foreign Ministry in Rome, the Naples Metro, the Muze Savremene Umjetnosti of Sarajevo, the Italian Embassy in Tel Aviv, and the Italian Embassy in Santiago. Cannavacciuolo's roots are in Naples. His extensive travels led him to study, live, and explore the Far East, Cuba, India and Thailand. He currently lives in Turin.

Maurizio Cannavacciuolo: A Lecture on Martian History, 2016. Video by Dillon Buss.

Maurizio Cannavacciuolo, A Lecture On Martian History, 2016.
Maurizio Cannavacciuolo, A Lecture On Martian History, 2016.