Cyd Charisse Is an Embroider, 2001, 2 b/w laser prints on canvas with metallic embroidery and golden frame, 59 x 49 cm each, courtesy of Doron Sebbag Art Collection, ORS Ltd., Tel Aviv
Francesco Vezzoli's works are characterized by a combination of elegance, wild camp, melodrama, melancholy and decadent beauty. They are suffused with allusions to, and quotations from, both "high" and "low" culture - and are pervaded by the influences of classical Hollywood films, Italian cinema, fashion and art history. Vezzoli first became known for his embroidery works during the 1990s. As an art student in London, he chose to focus on understated "female" crafts as a form of protest against the grandiose vigor that characterized the work of most Young British Artists during that time. In the three chapters of "An Embroidered Trilogy," Vezzoli himself is seen embroidering nonchalantly beside well-known Italian divas, while they act out dramatic scenes. His video works are composed of endless quotations and puns woven together to form an ironic homage to his favorite icons, and to the handicraft tradition he associates with them.
OK, the Praz is Right!, the first work in this trilogy, takes place in the home of the art and culture critic Mario Praz. Vezzoli embroiders this scholar's portrait as he sits on a couch embroidered by Praz himself, while the singer Iva Zanicchi sings her song "La Riva Bianca La Riva Nera" - which tells of two wounded enemy soldiers who befriend one another. Zanicchi is known in Italy as the hostess of the TV program "OK, the Price is Right," upon which the word play in the title of the work is based. This work also relates to Luciano Visconti's film "Conversation Piece" (1974), in which one of the characters was partially inspired by Praz. Moreover, one of Iva Zanicchi's hits accompanies a scene in Visconti's film.
The Dream of Venus, the second episode in this trilogy, stars the comic actress Franca Valeri, who falls asleep on an embroidered couch created by the actress Silvana Mangano. In her dream she appears as a dancer in a night club, wearing an evening dress designed by Roberto Capucci. Vezzoli appears in this work seated on a heavy motorcycle and embroidering Mangano's features. The song "The Model," played by the German band "Kraftwerk," can be heard in the background. The name of this work is a play on the name of the film "The Sign of Venus," which starred Franca Valeri. Capucci designed Mangano's clothing for Pier Paolo Pasolini's film "Theorem."
The End (Teleteatro) is the final chapter of this trilogy. The words of the Beatles song "Help!" are dramatically recited by the theater actress Valentina Cortese. She is seen roaming around her house in Milano, which is filled with numerous items she herself has embroidered. Oblivious to Cortese's call for help, Vezzoli - whose forehead appears to have been injured - sits and embroiders the portrait of director Douglas Sirk, the greatest director of Hollywood melodramas.
In embroidery works like the ones displayed in the exhibition, Vezzoli embroiders on printed portraits of former divas, delicately adding on tears, blood or makeup. In doing so, he supplies these distant icons with a personal and human form of touch. Vezzoli regards the act of embroidery as a metaphor for his obsessive attempts to draw close to his favorite icons, to appropriate them and to reproduce them. Cyd Charisse was a dancer and actress during Hollywood's golden age. She is known for appearing alongside Fred Astaire ("The Band Wagon," 1953) and Gene Kelly ("it's Always Fair Weather," 1955).
Born in Brescia, Italy, 1971; lives and works in Milan