CONCEPTUAL FINE ARTS

Lorenza Longhi, a turbulence in the realm of perfection


Stefano Pirovano

The first solo show of Lorenza Longhi at Fanta MLN questions our understanding of perfection by looking into industrial design’s weakness.

We first met Lorenza Longhi in Zurich last summer. It was a rainy day and we were visiting Plymouth Rock, an artist-run space opened by Mitchell Anderson some time ago. The artist was born in Lecco, studied a Accademia di Brera with professor Alberto Garutti (here a link to our writing about Alberto Garutti’s best pupils). Then she moved to Switzerland, in the city of the Cabaret Voltaire, the Pavilion Le Corbusier (which has recently reopened), the Loewenbraeukunst (which will shortly undergo a renovation) and of the mega-gallery museum founded by Bruno Bischofberger (which has rarely been opened to the public, at least for the time being). Before then, we were introduced to the artist by her very same work that she exhibited, at the beginning of 2019, in the first artist collective organised by Fanta Spazio after it effectively turned into a gallery, that is Fanta-MLN. The work we mentioned is untitled, yet it has a very precise reference to USM Haller, iconic Swiss modular furniture, symbol of ‘adaptability, durability and timeless style’, as claimed on the website of company which developed this furniture system. Except that Lorenza Longhi’s version is all hand-made. The actual size sculpture was made by using found alveolar cardboard.

“USM Haller is a powerful and expensive object that can be found in prestigious offices, museums, but also in many houses. By living closely to it I realised it is a sort of passpartout. It lends any space a kind of power”.

Lorenza Longhi
Lorenza Longhi, Untitled, 2019. Steel, honeycomb cardboard, adhesive tape 75 x 225 x 35 cm.
Installation view, “Who knows what the ostrich sees in the sand”, Fanta-MLN, Milan, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Fanta-MLN, Milano. Photo: Roberto Marossi.

Lorenza Longhi, standard vs. normal.

Lorenza Longhi’s first solo show at Fanta-MLN is titled Visual Hell New Location, and it seems to stem from the piece we mentioned above, thus transforming the metaphor of the handcrafted UMS Haller into a wider and more articulated poetic conversation. Fanta-space, an ample industrial structure, with a large vaulted ceiling, has been made more intimate by lowering the height of the space to 2.10 meters with a structure made of steel cable and tie rods. On top of it the artist has placed big sheets of plastic film, that can call to mind the bright ceilings of certain museums; we immediately thought of the Kunsthalle in Basel and in Bregenz. The same formal approach is applied to the silkscreen prints, the fluorescent lights, and the wall sculptures on show.

“All the works bear marks of how they have been made. You can indeed spot the technique and notice the manual skills”

Lorenza Longhi, Installation view Visual Hell, New Location, Fanta-MLN, Milan, I, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Fanta-MLN, Milan. Photo: Roberto Marossi.
Fanta Milano
Lorenza Longhi, Installation view Visual Hell, New Location, Fanta-MLN, Milan, I, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Fanta-MLN, Milan. Photo: Roberto Marossi.

Lorenza Longhi started to employ the silkscreen printing technique in 2017, in a non-traditional way. Cut out texts are taken from magazines from the second half of the 21st century. Lorenza Longhi re-prints them on a support that can be then applied on the canvas. The image is monochromatic, is not impressed on the frame but instead cut out stickers are applied directly onto the fabric. It can’t be reproduced. It follows that the artwork is unique.

“Ultimately it is a way to obtain a surface”

explains the artist, thus formalising the expressive value of the making process. The form is consequence, effect, mark. In the case of the silkscreen prints we would say that it is about a non-geometric geometry. Like in the USM Haller, ideal elements, which do not exist in nature – like straight line, right angle, or the perfect parallelism – become real, even more natural (provided that there really is a discontinuity between res cogitans and rex extensa). Lorenza Longhi suggests to read with a hint of irony the title chosen for the exhibition at Fanta Milano: ‘Visual hell new location’. As much as human beings chase the idea of perfection in the objects they produce with their own labour, and once they think they achieved it this is a reason to brag about, then it is simply enough to look at a blade of grass to realise that nature doesn’t use geometry or maths. And this is also the reason why Picasso derided Raffaello.

Lorenza Longhi
Lorenza Longhi, Untitled, 2019 (dittico/dyptich). Silkscreen print on fabric mounted on wood panel, aluminium, adhesive silver, screws 138 x 100 x 2,5 cm (each). Courtesy the artist and Fanta-MLN, Milan. Photo: Roberto Marossi.

Lorenza Longhi, Giving space to vulnerability.

The two fluorescent lamps on show, mounted on the wall opposite to the entrance of the space are, again, the product of a manual labour whose evident mark is the active principle of the work. The neon tube lights are about to disappear from the market, replaced by Led lighting. Therefore they are objects that, as far as timing is concerned, are consistent with the magazines from where the writings for the silkscreen prints are taken, with the same silkscreen printing technique, and with the black and white images the wall sculptures revolve around. However, the neon tubes do add something more, that is they connect what before was separated, and this is where you can pinpoint one of the two kernels of human labour; the other one is moving things from a point to the other. Lorenza Longhi has indeed collaborated with an artisan of this industry to weld together two halves of standard neon tubes to make it into one piece, that is extraordinary. With regards to the gas running into the tubes, Lorenza Longhi explains: “I’ve tried to approach the recipe of the industrial neon tubes, which is not in the public domain. Together with the artisan I worked with, we attempted to create a similar gas mixture which however doesn’t work with a normal transformer. The one that I needed has therefore been made ad hoc. I would say it is the hacking of an element that looks like standard which however does need a further treatment so for it to function”. Leaving the standard, it is thus impossible to foresee, and control, how long the neon will last, or its luminosity or the colour of the light it emits. We are in the the field of unpredictability. Talking about functionality or performances doesn’t make sense any more.

Lorenza Longhi
Lorenza Longhi, Improved Accuracy II, 2019 (detail). Two half radium Spectralux Plus cold daylight fluorescent lamps welded together, Argon gas, transformer 12 x 121,5 x 5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Fanta-MLN, Milan. Photo: Roberto Marossi.

“I try to keep, in my work, a sort of vulnerability”

goes on Lorenza Longhi, and adds a topic that from the present time brings us to the Middle Ages of symmetries, numbers, perfect harmonies; let’s bear in mind that the territory where the artist comes from is actually rich of unique medieval remains. Through the rules the human being tries to protect himself; as a matter of fact these very same rules seem to be making him even more vulnerable. The standard idea, pillar of industrial production which aims at numbers and mischievously ends up establishing the rules (through marketing), is probably even more medieval than what we are willing to admit. By learning to unlearn.

Lorenza Longhi
Lorenza Longhi, Improved Accuracy II, 2019. Two half radium Spectralux Plus cold daylight fluorescent lamps welded together, Argon gas, transformer 12 x 121,5 x 5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Fanta-MLN, Milan. Photo: Roberto Marossi.

October 20, 2019