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Shots for an unrealized dream sequence. A. captures the beach in a bottle and confronts the commodification of her smile.
On the occasion of International Women's Day, Gisella Meo_ Soft Squares solo exhibition curated by Paolo Cortese and Manuela De Leonardis opens in Athens at Gramma_Epsilon Gallery. Over 30 works are on display, including drawings, collages, interventions on photos, objects, installations, object books and artist's books.
The exhibition starts with a selection of drawings made in 1965 that are part of the series called ‘Per merito di Beckett’ (Thanks to Beckett). The objects, shapes and volumes in these drawings re-appear in her work in the early 70s, when the artist’s work took a conceptual turn. From that moment on, in fact, Gisella Meo carried out rigorous research on her concept of the Module, which was to vary according to its context. Even the choice of fibre elements, such as her frequent use of thread, rope or elastic as a medium of expression, has its roots in her conceptual vision.
SOFT SQUARES explores certain key stages in her decades of research. There is a special focus on her use of the square module in its various forms (from installations, to its insertion in to environmental contexts, and object books). A second focus turns to the artist’s revisitation of her liaison with Tancredi Parmeggiani, with whom she had a relationship when she was young.
Her interest in the square as a possible modular element began when, on Carnival Day in 1971, she was fascinated by the bunting that a student was hanging in the corridor of the school. Her subsequent research led to the idea of the "square module", a central element in her 1976 solo exhibition at Fiamma Vigo’s Numero gallery.
Soon Meo also began to insert her module into her surroundings by creating installations and urban social interventions such as ‘Vestire una fontana’ (Frascati 1977), ‘Le Onde del quadrato’ (Venezia 1980), ‘La Medusa nella chiena’ (Campagna 1985). The current exhibition contains a series of very recent works linked to these installations where Meo intervenes on old photos of the events, by weaving a mesh of thread or inserting a module of very light paper, giving it a three-dimensional effect. It is a sort of revisitation, as in her ‘Ab-braccio infinito’ panel, in which Meo identifies the module in the Gisella-Tancredi series and discovers that Tancredi's arm forms a common thread with which she also creates ‘il Ventaglio’.
In addition, a new edition of many of the works exhibited in 1976 at Fiamma Vigo’s Numero gallery are on display, as if to reconfirm her ‘conceptual’ choices made back then. The exhibition is completed by some of the object-books that Gisella Meo has created over the years and that all have the concept of modularity in common. ‘Vuotare la pagina’ (1976), ‘Leviatan’ (1978), ‘Col-legamento’ (1981), ‘Libro Nori’, ‘Square’s square’ (1979), and ‘Zero Seme’ (1981), made in collaboration with Mirella Bentivoglio.
The exhibition, organized under the patronage of the Italian Cultural Institute of Athens, is part of "Le ragazze di Mirella", a Gramma_Epsilon Gallery project dedicated to Mirella Bentivoglio and the artists she supported. It will be accompanied by a catalogue curated by Paolo Cortese and Manuela De Leonardis, with contributions by Paolo Cortese, Manuela De Leonardis, Alessio Vigni.
Gisella Meo was born in Treviso in 1936, and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice with Bruno Saetti. It was there in 1957, where she met Tancredi Parmeggiani, and with whom she had a relationship that would later influence her work. In the early 60s she lived in Africa where her initially ‘figurative expressionist’ work became informal and multi-material.
Returning to Italy in 1964, Gisella held a solo show at Fiamma Vigo’s Numero Gallery in Rome in 1976. On this occasion, Meo presented entirely ‘Conceptual’ works, accompanying them with a declaration of Poetics, where she identified the square as her perfect module.
Meo became involved with Fibre Art, carrying out large installations and urban social interventions as seen in the following works: Vestire una fontana (Frascati,1977), Il cilindro mobile (Gubbio,1979), Le onde del quadrato (Venezia, Canale Grande, 1980), La maglia umana (Reggia di Caserta, 1982), Tombknitting (Cerveteri, Etruscan Necropolis, 1984-86), Imbragare una torre (Torre di Bagnaia, Viterbo, 2002), on the occasion of the first anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers of New York.
Also working on object books, Meo was encouraged and supported by Mirella Bentivoglio, and featured in the historic "Materialization of language" exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1978, with Leviatan. She developed a partnership with Bentivoglio that lasted a lifetime and which led to joint works such as the object book Zero Seme in 1981.
Her 'object-books' are kept in the 'Special Collections' of the Getty Center in Santa Monica, California, at the NMWA Washington, in the Icpa Archives of the University of Oxford, in the MART, Trento and Rovereto, at the Luigi Pecci Center, Prato, in the Ma*Ga, Gallarate, the Museum of Senigallia and in numerous Italian private collections. She has exhibited in Italy, Germany, the United States, France, Austria and Australia. Her works featured in the Venice Biennale (1978, 1985, 1995) and in the São Paulo Biennial, Brazil (1981, 1994). In recent years she has had several retrospectives in institutional spaces: in 2013 at the Complesso di Santa Caterina, Musei Civici, Treviso, in 2016 at the Biblioteca Angelica, Rome, in 2022 at Museo Nori De’ Nobili, Trecastelli (Ancona).
Gisella Meo, Le onde del quadrato, 1980-2023, intervention with polyethylene inserts on photo