War x Artifice

War x Artifice, Feb4- March2nd,  Opening Reception Feb6th, 2017, 6-8 pm

SVA Gramercy Gallery,
209 East 23 rd Street.
NY, NY 10010


In War x Artifice, Riccardo Vecchio called upon the 100 year anniversary of World War I to explore the relationship between war and the artifice of nation-state building and the creation of borders.
Vecchio focuses this exploration on the unearthly typography and transformation of a stunningly beautiful yet infamously brutal repository of human suffering – the mountain ranges of the Italian dolomites. Between 1915 and 1918, across this 11,000 foot elevated Alpine Ridge, horrific battles waged between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire each in its quest for military and political dominance in Europe. In an attempt to cut off the advance of the enemy, trenches and tunnels were dug into glaciers and rocks where tons of dynamite was exploded. Entire peaks imploded, burying many alive. Others succumbed to gunfire, avalanches and frost. Indeed, with the current rising waves of populist rhetoric and nationalism around the world, these mountains stand as witnesses and spectral presence for Vecchio of the carnage inflicted on man and nature in the pursuit of power and profits. Monuments to human vanity.
On location, it was clear that the starkly elegant forms in ice and rock were not benign natural geologic occurrences, but instead, scarred mountain peaks and craters blown up by relentless bombing almost a century ago. As the glaciers at the highest altitudes continue receding today, new war relics and corpses continue to surface. Up close it is possible to see the stress cracks in the rock, remnants of detonated bombs, and other after-effects of the war. The melting glaciers, revealing a virtual cemetery riddled with gravestones. Back in his studio, Vecchio explores the relationship between technologically advanced tools of visualization, such as Google earth and satellite imagery, and his firsthand experience, in order to depict the landscape as a projection of emotive states.
Using photographs taken on location as reminders of the unearthly spectrum of greys, mustards and lavenders he observed, and literally mapping his steps by creating 3-D silicone and sand models of the exact latitude and longitude of the places he had been, Vecchio creates monumental paintings.
Clearly referencing the Dolomites, but with no known landmarks and a dynamic play with perspective, Vecchio is able to transform the landscape into a magical place where the works take on a character of their own. Weaving together memory of place, with firsthand experience and digital technology, the works become a dynamic exploration of an imagined adventure; emotionally charged, and no less valid than those created on location.

Di Qui Non Si Passa!

"From here you shall not pass!" selected paintings from the series "DI QUI NON SI PASSA!" (From Here You Shall Not Pass) are on view by appointment in the display cases in the Great Hall at the Duke House in Manhattan. Till March 29th 2016

For the past 2 years I have been working in the Italian Dolomites (Trentino and Veneto) on a series of works studying the topography and natural transformation of infamous World War 1 battle sites.
Ruins and urban rubble have been a reoccurring theme in my work for some time. I have always found a ruin created by man through warfare or urban neglect bizarrely intriguing. Eerie and romantic, these sites often have historical significance, and feel as if at any moment they could be at the tipping point from destruction to reconstruction. Maybe this is what I find so alluring, and what draws me to them. At current and former urban battle sites charred and disfigured by detonations and fires, the remaining ruins expose structural elements and intimat interiors. Missing roofs and walls bring stage light to dark rooms and a glimpse into rows of neighboring homes, where it’s possible to begin to imagine the lives of those who came before. Historically, during reconstruction some ruins have been preserved serving as warning memorials and political monuments. Left untouched, nature does its best to heal its marred skin, but all too often visible scars remain. Where former battle grounds are more accessible, for example on the French Belgian World War 1 border, Gettysburg or Waterloo, the fields are meticulously manicured and memorialized with museums cemeteries, and perhaps even a gruesomegift shop. In fact, today it is hard to believe they were the sites of such apocalyptic warfare. The words “battle” and “field, a seeming oxymoron. I chose one of the most implacable of these landscapes to begin my current series of works because of this stark contradiction.
Between 1915-1918, one of the most suggestive landscapes in Europe, The Dolomites on the Italian-Austrian borders, were the stage to some of the most horrendous conflicts of Word War 1. But, today you have to hike up high above the idyllic alpine ski and pastoral tracking tourism infrastructure to discover the scared battle fields. From a distance, it is even difficult to distinguish the natural geologic rock formations from the manmade gaps and rock slides caused by the detonations used during war time. But, upon closer inspection, the stress cracks in the rock, the deterioration of the stone, as well as the abnormal convex crater shapes, become visible and are clearly the after effects of war. Shredded metal from shell casings can still be found everywhere. Even today as the glaciers recede, they uncover corpses and intact telegraph and munitions barracks frozen in time. When enemy fire was not the cause of death, the steep terrain, freezing temperatures and avalanches where the largest cause of casualties. Trenches were dug into glaciers and rocks. Provisions, machinery, artillery and munitions were all carried by men and donkeys up thousands of feet into this savage and unsparing climate, that culminated into trench warfare that came to a complete stand still. A brutal and futile mission, fueled by manaical patrotism, with little to no military significance. In this landscape, deep tunnels were dug for shelter and storage. The narrow paths in such high altitude put opposing trenches only a few feet from each other. In order for one side to gain territory, or the highest amount of enemy casualties, tunnels were carved underneath enemy lines to create large chambers, and then filled with explosives. Sometimes thirty thousand kilograms of explosives. More than once, these detonations would manage to blow an entire mountain peak off, and the resulting shockwave would force the collapse or detonation of an adjacent mine chamber, burying hundreds of soldiers alive, those who were still digging or rigging fuses.
The knowledge of what took place in this setting, that in fact you are climbing up what is essentially a breathtakingly beautiful graveyard, was not lost on me. Evident is also the artifice of a state border and how muchblood had to be shed to draw it on a map. Even the physical limitations of having to travel with very little material and provisions, coupled with the difficult weather conditions, only made me feel more empathetic to those foot soldiers, affecting my depiction and interpretation of the sites in a way that I could never have imagined by sitting in my warm and comfortable studio in NY. Back in NY, I am continuing to work on larger versions of the numerous small paintings and drawings I had created on site.
I visited these sites in childhood, and now, at the 100th anniversary of the WW1, coupled with the current discontent in Europe, all came together to inspire me to walk those same paths again on borderlines that have been untouched, at least on paper, since World War II.

A Little Crumb - La Michetta

The MICHETTA originated during the Austrian occupation of Milan, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire reigned in Lombardy, after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.  As is the case, the occupiers, in this instance the Austrians, brought with them new foods which the Milanese adapted, and then transformed to make their own. One of these delicacies was a bread with the evocative name of “Kaisersemmel”, or "Emperor’s sandwich”, which was a sandwich weighing 50 to 90 grams in what was a traditional rose form. To spite the occupying Emperor and his Habsburg troops who guarded the city, the Milanese renamed the bread with the diminutive of “micca", "mica", or “Michetta" which originally meant “crumb”.

But, the primary transformation that took place and made it what it is to this day,  had to do with the “architecture" of the bread. In the humid climate of Milan, the Kaisersemmel didn’t retain the freshness it had in the much drier climate of Vienna, where it would stay fresh and fragrant till evening. In Milan, the dough quickly absorbed the ever present humid air, making the bread stale and gummy very quickly. The intuition of the master bakers in Milan was to figure out a way to hollow out the bread, in effect emptying it, which immediately lightened it, and enabled it to maintain its crisp outer shell, ensuring a longer lasting and more fragrant and digestible bread.

My personal fascination with the Michetta has much more to do with nostalgia for my youth, and for a Milan that no longer exists for the most part. I don’t think you would be wrong if you said that the Michetta is the equivalent of a bagel for the native NY’er, in that it became essentially synonymous with the locale. In Milan, during the years I was growing up, most bakeries had few choices when it came to your everyday bread. So, the Michetta was paired with everything from Nutella (which was still relatively unknown outside of Italy), to your classic salami and Mortadella lunch time fare. These sandwiches became a scrumptious daily ritual in all school cafeterias and bars (bars in the Italian sense, that is to say, more like a café here).

In terms of shape, even though all Michette look slightly different, the general form is quite distinct and recognizable to anyone who grew up around them. They all have a distinguished oval octagonal form with a puck like growth coming out of the top, similar to the way the top of a bowl of stiffly beaten eggs look when you pull the egg beaters out of the bowl. And, as I mentioned above, the crust is very light and thin, and on the inside it is mostly hollow with pockets of moist, fragrant, and chewy wonderfulness. So, for the history, for the wistfulness for a youth gone, and most importantly, for the rush of feelings I get when I take that first bite, I love them and I decided to paint them.


RAW: Word and image / Opening RECEPTION NOV 20TH 7-10PM @ SPACE776


NOV 20TH 7-10PM

Space 776


NOV14 - DEC 7, 2015




Word and Image

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Paintings can be composed of boundless raw

materials, including food for thought, considerations of the flesh, and examination of

the physical locus of our being. Protein, carbohydrates, and encouragement are

what keep us going. Maps, phrases, and daily sustenance support and nourish our

daily existence.  A random bullet can stop us dead and end everything in a second.

Paintings by Kate Ryan study meat: slain, drawn, and quartered chickens, entrails

and parts. Paintings of daily bread by artist Riccardo Vecchio, Michetta, form a series

of quietly intriguing unique observations.  Word paintings by William Hempel,

including the Insults, painted with food-grade oils like poppy, linseed, and olive oil,

and the “Right Place at the Wrong Time,” series of paintings, made with a series of

physical constraints, remind us of the constant need for reassurance and

encouragement in our daily existence. Christopher Smith’s Underbody takes the

simple movement of paint and transforms it into a sensual meditation on perceived

reality. Piers Secunda collects bullet holes from actual sites of targeted violence, and

then molds them in paint, quietly asking big questions with small pieces of evidence

taken from random and pointless acts of aggression.

With perception, humor, and visual acuity, these artists convey a sense of daily

poetic transcendence over the quotidian lot of humanity.

Featuring paintings and video by William Hempel, Kate Ryan, Piers Secunda,

Christopher Smith, Riccardo Vecchio

Curated by Lisa A. Banner


229 Central Avenue, Brooklyn 11221