Italian artist Lara Favaretto works at the intersection of whimsy and melancholy. The tension she creates between these two oppositional emotions mirrors an unsettled relationship between her work and the museum setting. Her first survey exhibition, Just Knocked Out at MoMA PS1, begs to be touched at every turn, yet subverts any possibility for a tangible connection.
Favaretto anthropomorphizes her objects, whether a piece of wool, an oversized series of brushes, or a decrepit tank. Each piece feels trapped in the museum, unnaturally still and contained. In Plantone (Plantoon) (2005-2012), compressed air tanks in a grid-like, military formation line the basement level of PS1 as if preparing to march to battle. Each of the tanks is connected to a red party whistle, which inflates sporadically as the tanks sigh and groan. The random intervals leave the viewer waiting anxiously for the next whistle to uncoil like a narrow tongue.
A room of multi-colored confetti, Tutti Giu per Terra (2004), incites a thwarted, childlike desire to play. Behind a glass window, pieces of confetti create an amorphous sea of color in a small room, while three electric fans gently nudge some pieces into the air. The fragments swirl like bits of snow, as the fans cause a tantalizing ripple. Nearby, a string of car washers provokes a similar sentiment in Gummo (2012). The Crayola-bright washers spin at varied times and speeds in a range of sizes, each revealing an independent personality—one moves quickly in lean strokes, another squat brush snags with each cycle, and one brush doesn’t spin at all.
Before leaving the exhibition, visitors are invited to take a relic of the show with them: a book with an image that has inspired Favaretto tucked into it. Excited by the opportunity to touch, explore, and interact with Favaretto’s work, I picked up the 1978 spy thriller Eye of the Needle, and as promised, one of Favaretto’s images peeked out from between the pages. In the photocopy, a man glides through the sky attached to a vibrant, multicolored parachute, a final example of exhilaration seen but not felt.
Organized by MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey, Just Knocked Out is on view through September 10.