Lupo Borgonovo, Tomaso De Luca, and Gabriele De Santis.

Lupo Borgonovo, Tomaso De Luca, and Gabriele De Santis.

I was recently part of the curatorial residency programme at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin. During four months I traveled across the country and meet artists, curators and researchers. It was a privileged opportunity through which I got to know the Italian artistic context and I was captivated by the vitality and the energy of the many scenes of the country. The programme ended with an exhibition at the Foundation’s space in Turin where a selection of artist met during the research displayed their work. Here I have highlighted three artists who were not part of the final exhibition but whose work I am interested in.


Lupo Borgonovo (1985) lives and works in Milan.

Borgonovo searches for the boundless pleasure in experimenting with materials and shapes. He proceeds through mixing and associating materials, confronting solids and liquids, existing and imaginary objects, refined and brut materials. His surreal sculptures seem to (re)become organic and living, edible, adoptable. Yet hard to grasp, since they emerge from a chemical and poetical kitchen which provokes a strange fascination, as if something exotic; extraterrestrial organs, mutant machines, transfigured moods. The impermanence of the process and the instinctive dimension of the relation to the material urges Borgonovo to create sculptures that seem ready to convulse.

by Marie Villemin


Ornithology, 2014


Maialito, 2014


Fruttolo, 2014


Eskimo Effervescent Entities, 2013


Costanteen McDonald (Leesa), 2013



Tomaso De Luca (1988) lives and works in Rome.

De Luca investigates the relevance and modernity of archetypal, political and personal images, analyzing the products of these images in our collective consciousness. 

His work takes cue from reflections about architecture, design and classical forms of art: practices able to induce both imagery and behaviour in the westerner, as visual machines designed to form his conscience. Often grounded on notions as technique, comfort and beauty, these practices reveal themselves as codes that underhandedly contribute to the establishment of the homo faber, the maker in and of society, the architect as much as the working citizen, who produces in accordance with the history of humanity. De Luca's work, alternatively, functions as a bachelor machine that spreads cultural images around. The artist invents his own terms and laws, which do not refer to comfort or technique, but become their antidote, and are independent from History by proxy, therefore becoming homo ludens.

The subjects that take part to his work are often liminal, unimportant and obsolescent: irrelevant materials, dying or diseased objects that apparently have no right to become subjects. De Luca arranges abandoned mattresses and suffered furnishings, withering decorative palms or even the walls of a prospective public toilet as the remains of a fading body: these are public and human evidences of a difference that has become perpetually dropped from the image and which is not contemplated in architecture or sculpture. By using large series' of drawings or increased numbers of images, the artist reintroduces these materials as symbols, pointing out the political structures in which the object and the subject are embedded in precise functions.


Salopp Gesagt Schlapp, installation view, 2014


An Incomplete Portrait of Anchises, installation view, 2013


Generous Palmstroke, detail, 2012


Sad Disco Stone Men, installation view, 2012


The Monument, installation view, 2012



Gabriele De Santis (1983) lives and works in Rome.

Social media, symbolism and separation are ingrained into the work of De Santis; showcased in his paintings are a scattering of networked signs prevalent on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Generating unusual juxtapositions, De Santis incorporates skateboard wheels, grip tape, and traditional marble into his works. As a result, questions of instantaneity, movement and transmission are raised, as well as themes revolving around the ambiguity of symbols, the precariousness of human connection, and the notion of intimacy in an increasingly digitized world.

Through the use of skateboard grip to formulate his bold symbols, De Santis references not only the flow of digital information, but also the immediacy of online connection. This acts in antithesis to the slow changing nature of marble that is often used in his images. De Santis progresses this dialogue through the inclusion of skateboard wheels that are mounted to the back of some of his canvases.

Many of De Santis’s recent works translate popular culture into a something humorous. For example, As Long as You Love Me riffs on the 1997 Backstreet Boys classic single of the same title, playfully creating a dialogue between the brackets in the diptych. His artworks are not just about the nature of contemporary popular culture but also relate to the nature of humans; “I have an interest in personifying the artworks, giving them human attributes — allowing them to form a personality.”

By juxtaposing contrasting materials and symbols, the artist addresses the change and chasm between the digital and real world, raising questions about the development and alteration of human contact and giving new meaning to the notion of social media outside of the networked digital world.


Dear Michael,, 2014. Installation View. Courtesy of Frutta, Rome. Photo by Roberto Apa


Dear Michael,, 2014. Installation View. Courtesy of Frutta, Rome. Photo by Roberto Apa


Dear Michael,, 2014. Installation View. Courtesy of Frutta, Rome. Photo by Roberto Apa


Dear Michael,, 2014. Installation View. Courtesy of Frutta, Rome. Photo by Roberto Apa


Dear Michael,, 2014. Installation View. Courtesy of Frutta, Rome. Photo by Roberto Apa


Dear Michael,, 2014. Installation View. Courtesy of Frutta, Rome. Photo by Roberto Apa



João Laia

João Laia (1981, Lisbon) is a writer and curator with a background in social sciences, film theory and contemporary art. He publishes regularly in international magazines and newspapers such as Frieze, MOUSSE and Público. Past collaborations include BES Arte e Finança in Lisbon, CCCB – Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, Waterpieces Festival in Riga, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, The Delfina Foundation, South London Gallery, Cell Project Space, The Mews and Whitechapel Gallery in London. In 2014 he was in residency at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin and along with Rosa Lléo founded and runs The Green Parrot in Barcelona a non-profit space dedicated to contemporary art practices – He is a member of the curatorial team of the 19th edition of Videobrasil a contemporary art festival dedicated to the Global South that takes place from October to December 2015 in São Paulo.

30 June 2017 / by / in

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