From « Confined Tools »  to « Ashes to Ashes »

We met Antonio Riello in London last Fall during the Frieze Art Week. The artist guided us through Regent’s Park for Frieze Sculpture. He is currently exhibiting two series of works at the Danielle Arnaud Gallery : Confined Tools and Ashes to Ashes.

Antonio Riello, Confined Tools series © Antonio Riello

Antonio Riello (1958*) is an eclectic, visionary and controversial artist, working in techniques as varied as drawing, sculpture, design, photography, installation and videogames. Incorporating the ironic manner of a conceptual charade, Riello manipulates and almost mistreats the images and objects which he invents. He is strongly committed to ‘explore’ the paradoxical features of domestic environments.

Antonio Riello’s actual solo show is focusing on an on-going series of biro drawings started during the lockdown in Italy. The drawings of the series Confined Tools are a very personal and tormented form of reportage of a kitchenscape. During these weird times, the artist started an obsessive production of a catalogue of his kitchen tools and food: just humble sketches, but together these might be considered tantamount to a lockdown visual dictionary; a sort of late-modern encyclopaedia (currently 347 tools have been classified). This has now become a work in progress; a taxonomic classification of every creature ‘living’ in the artist’s domestic environment.

Antonio Riello, Confined Tools series © Antonio Riello

Riello has turned himself into a XVIII century style explorer re-discovering his familiar indoor spaces like if they were pristine unknown exotic islands. This evidently Linnean attitude echoes Riello’s passion for Mark Dion’s research. The aim is to set an anthropological museum of culinary ergonomy and domestic cruelty.

All the drawings are made using blue ink ball point pen (BIC) – the same kind Alighiero Boetti loved to use so much – and humble paper. The artist does believe that we need very ordinary tools to be able to imagine and live very extraordinary adventures.

Antonio Riello, Confined Tools series © Antonio Riello

More recently Riello started to expand his exploration to other parts of his domestic spaces, classifying many other objects in his flat. Discomfort, fury, irony, defiance are the main features of these new still life drawings. They portrait family dramas, maybe small but for sure real. They also represent a devoted and unconventional homage to Giorgio Morandi. A broad spectrum of different objects have been invited as sitters. Some hidden features (almost metaphysical) of everyday life are somehow detectable and one could even spot, here and there, a sort of dark energy amongst the intricate biro lines and doodles. Nothing is so dangerously wild than the quiet normality.

The exhibition also presents Ashes to Ashes, a series of bespoke glass vessels containing the ashes of the artist’s beloved books.

Antonio Riello, Ashes to Ashes series © Antonio Riello

In Ashes to Ashes, the artist ceremonially burns some of his loved and influential books, reducing them to illegible ashes. The ashes of every book are then encapsulated in their own bespoke glass urn, designed and made by the artist in the same way the Middle Ages holy relics were protected and preserved. Each urn (made of borosilicium glass) is a respectful funeral celebration of the printed books and libraries.

Antonio Riello, Ashes to Ashes series © Antonio Riello

Recent solo exhibitions of the artist include: 2019 Solo Riello, Kanalidarte Gallery, Brescia; 2018 Museomania #8, Museo Civico Bassano, Bassano DG 2017 Ne’ Capo Ne’ Coda, Galleria LABS, Bologna; 2016 Ex Voto, Museo Civico Bassano, Bassano DG Libricida, Galleria Paolo Tonin, Torino. Selected group exhibitions include: 2021 Glasstress Hermitage, Hermitage State Museum, St Petersburg; 2020 DRIVE-IN, BelleArti Generali Ass, Brescia; 25 Years, Danielle Arnaud, London; 2019 Glasstress2019, Fondazione Berengo, Venice; 2018 Verticality, Rosenfeld Gallery, London; 2017 Biennale Di Venezia – Modus, Venice; 2015 No Place to Hide, Galleria Civica Monfalcone, Monfalcone; 2014 Chanakkale Biennale, Istanbul and Chanakkale; They Used to Call It the Moon, Baltic, Gateshead.

Portrait of Antonio Riello

Antonio Riello Confined Objects
Danielle Arnaud Gallery, London
Until 5 March 2022

Related article : Frieze Week 2021

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