There’s a kind of child who doesn’t get so easily satisfied by the stories that are given to them. Alfredo Aceto must have been one of them. And trying to imagine what his relationship to classic childhood narrative was is not that uncanny, since most of his gestures take that stage of his life as a point of departure. More precisely, they exploit particular details that became, with time, obsessions: we’re talking about Sophie Calle, Pripyat, Whales, Godzilla, or cars (and specifically some models). Those are the components of a cosmology that the artist is permanently reconfiguring for every project, building up a world full of symbols and events, where the timeline is unclear – meaning non-linear.
The timeline – more than time itself – is precisely Alfredo Aceto’s primary obsession. Concerned with the way stories are narrated, his exhibitions are always finding a way to tell a story without telling one. The first missing element being characters. The human is never present in the artist’s work, but always suggested. That state of absence of any identifiable characters doesn’t mean there’s no one. Like Pripyat-the-now-ghost-town, his works are full of traces. The human presence can be tracked, but seems to escape. This manifests itself in Aceto’s gestures, which often have the particularity to be undetectable, his work reaching a state of quasi-readymades (if reaching is the right word?).
This was already the case for most of of his early works. Take the clocks series, pieces that are made out of a wall clock which is not running. Their heavy shiny frames show the impact of bullets whose origin is unclear: is the artist responsible for the shots? The story surrounding them wants us to believe something else. The artist recalls, talking about them, that passage of Walter Benjamin’s On the concept of history (1940), recounting the French Revolution:
During the evening of the first skirmishes, it turned out that the clock-towers were shot at independently and simultaneously in several places in Paris.
Harking back to this anecdote, Alfredo Aceto replaces the work in another time-frame. However, the temporal tensions are pushed to their extreme: the clocks used for this series also have a story – they are Aldo Rossi’s clocks, and, more precisely, the enlargement of the original « Momento » design Aldo Rossi created for the first Alessi’s wristwatch. The clash between the product, the history of this very product, and the violent intervention arising from a historical event blurs the lines between the author, the maker and the artist.
Even in the pictures Alfredo Aceto produces, his intervention can be questioned. Subverting the classic idea of style, the artist often borrows codes to different genres to draw and paint. The comic for Alfredo was a little boy, Sophie was a charming woman, Paola performed an act ofmagic, 2013, t he engravings for his Re-Mental Landscapes, 2016, and, for his last series of drawings ( Untitled, 2017), the technical drawing and the amateurish landscape watercolor painting – a s depicted in Edward Hopper’s J o in Wyoming (1946).
Deliberately avoiding any essentialisation of his work, Aceto’s solo exhibitions often give the feeling to be group exhibitions. The inclusion of works he’s made as a child offer a counter-point to his most recent productions, creating, again, a temporal distortion in his own biography, while making the bridge between different narratives – the ones he used to believe in, the ones he still wants to believe in, and the ones he’s trying to make the witness of his works create by themselves. These layers of stories belonging to the life of the artist overlap with already written histories, giving birth to an unresolved mythology.
Coming back to his solo-show at Bugada & Cargnel: Everyone Stands Alone at the Heart of the World, P ierced by a Ray of Sunlight, and Suddenly It’s Evening, whose title, a three-verses poem by Salvatore Quasimodo, could be read as a tale, a statement and a protocol for the exhibition, it is interesting to underline the presence of different portals – both temporal and geographical. The first one ( S.L.A.V.1, 2015), a theatre backdrop style painting, represents the entrance of the gallery in Torino where the artist had his first solo-show. The second, ( Loyal Sauce B.C. - Noisy Whitish A.D., 2016), a large semi-opaque PVC strip curtain, marks the passage between two temporalities (and more), as suggested by the title, but also two places (and more).
On one side of this portal is standing (alone) T he Thinker (2016), the enlarged reproduction of a statue from the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (c. 5200 to 3500 BC – Eastern Europe) which Alfredo Aceto discovered during his quest of Prypiat’s past. On the other side lies down the replica of an horizontal window belonging to Sara Winchester’s house, also known as the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, whose story itself is a modern myth (1881 – 1922). The dialogue that exists between these two works, made stronger by the portal that separates them, can only be resolved through an epic mental time travel – weaving the elements of the show as a detective would do.
But what matters in Aceto’s practice is not the solution. The jump in between times and places which would appear, in the first place, impermeable, is what profoundly interests him. It is about disrupting the timelines and geographies that help us read the past and pave the way for a future, thus providing us with new ghosts, new aliens, and new knights, breaking the boundaries of a current epistemological endemism. Modesty or Surprise (2016), produced at the occasion of an exhibition at Museo Pietro Canonica in Rome, represents another attempt by the artist to travel through times. Obsessed by the roar of Godzilla since his childhood, Aceto recently had the desire to re-create the sound by himself. Among the sculptures of the museum depicting christian scenes or renown soldiers, the sound of the fictional monster resonates to the bones of the bronzes and marbles.
For his latest project to date, Endemisms, Alfredo Aceto is, through urban sculptures, furniture pieces, a video and a series of watercolours, re-interpreting Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971), which was shot during the early years of the car-chase in cinema. For the first time, the artist is using moving image to build his « to be continued » epic and boundless mythology.