Milano, 13/01 to 12/03, 2011, 2010

Jerome Zodo Contemporary and curator Gabriele Tinti are pleased to present box(e), a group exhibition featuring six international artists – Sebastian Diaz Morales, Ben Grasso, David Rathman, Denis Rouvre, Wainer Vaccari and Li Wei – brought together in our Milan space to delve into the world of boxing, shown at the edge of creative expression.

The title that has been chosen, box(e), suggests an array of meanings. Shorn of its (e), stripped to a box, a container , it inevitably evokes the semantic notion of the gallery, as a place containing forms of art, an arena of action, a space for participatory projects and for forging relationships between the public and the works of art. The extended version, boxe , explicitly refers to the sport, to the discipline that has served as a catalyst for these artists and the thematic horizon that brings them together. Finally, the e in parentheses is not just a lexical expedient to complicate the meanings, but a reference to the exhibition that inaugurated Jerome Zodo Contemporary, (ex)communicate.
box(e) comes exactly one year after the opening of the gallery and that frst show. The echo in the title
underscores the course that it has charted, and, of course, its frst anniversary.

The refection at the core of this exhibition is a simple question posed by curator Gabriele Tinti: what can a body do? What are we capable of?

Knowledge of self and others necessarily stems from this, from the answer we manage to give to these questions. In this light, with this goal, boxing is a fundamental discipline. “The harder the contact, the deeper the consciousness” is the motto of the Dog Brothers1, because “to be thrown into the world is precisely to risk at every instant encountering something that decomposes me”2, encountering evil3, getting hurt, being afraid. All of this entails making an essay of our skills, concretely verifying them, putting them to the test and taking their measure. Boxing—as life does only in certain occasions—helps us make better choices, perfect the way that we live in the world. But naturally, that is not all. Boxing has the creativity, the abstraction, the symbolism of dance, along with the tangibility, the excitement, the passion —the reality—of a confict. This intensity of meanings makes it something special, “one of the fne arts”4. “Like a dancer, a boxer ‘is’ his body, and is totally identifed with it. And the body is identifed with a certain weight” (J. C. Oates). But dance is related only to a certain degree. In boxing, there are the blows that complicate the movement of the legs, there is the strategy and the power of a measure taken, a territory conquered, a rhythm composed of synesthetic complexities. And as we know, blows hurt, they slow down our movements, strain our footing, knock us to the ground.

Because boxing is more than just an aesthetic representation of combat (like wrestling); it is the incarnation of it, in its purest, most essential form. Because the Fight is those stairs to climb, those ropes to clamber through, that robe to take of, that act of coming into the center of the ring and fnding yourself alone. With nothing but a body, across from someone else’s body. Face to face. This space is sacred, and activates our civilized nature; the square in which we experience the sacred is magical, and furnishes a crystal-clear answer to the question posed at the beginning. Within it, everything is about style, about violent emotions, pulling out our very innards, cherishing pain, shedding sweat and blood. Outside it, we stand in worship, in adoration, ready to question ourselves, our instincts, our ethics, even our identity. In this realm, we are faced with the evidence of a relationship, we are thrown into the world, and thus fnd ourselves looking at our own limits, the experience of what my body really can do. And yours as well. Because an encounter entails a loss. It happens to everyone, sooner or later, and when it happens in a boxing ring, you can’t get up to object. You’ve lost the bout, and all too often, if you don’t have the stuf of a champion, you’ve lost your bearings.

The artists in the exhibition have all thought — each in his own way, of course — about all of this and much more as well. Denis Rouvre, for instance, has portrayed Senegalese wrestlers — the subject of a long series shot in Africa — in a photograph that conveys their bodily intensity, their aesthetic beauty, their tribal strength. Sebastian Diaz Morales in his work assembled sequences in which violence is staged as a spectacle: a boxing match, a demonstration, an agitated crowd. Instead of depicting its power, he shifts the focus onto the complex, profound, existential impact that the representation of violence always has on observers. His works are simulacra of a world that is seen as a sphere of illusions, a magical realm where you wind up shipwrecked along with all of your convictions, your dreams, your very identity.

Li Wei, on the other hand, has used photography to create an ambiguous reality, halfway between fact and artifce. All of his work is aimed at redefning man’s limitations, how this efort is the very essence of being human, our strength and our weakness: “ My inspiration is the spirit, the essence, of sports. ’Nothing is impossibile’ is the theme of my work, because the spirit is important, it’s essential”.
Ben Grasso, as an American painter, takes a more intimist bent, paying tribute to one of his teenage passions – the series on boxing by George Bellow – and shedding light on a key point in his artistic development and background.

Last but not least, David Rathman puts the legendary match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman into a liquid universe, delicately and evocatively rendering the whole incredible atmosphere of a fight that went beyond boxing, because “a man was fighting for a certain idea of freedom” (Alexis Philonenko). For some time now, Wainer Vaccari has been giving both the bodies and faces of boxing heroes an ideal space of representation, in the conviction that fighting should truly be considered one of the fine arts. Vaccari was one of the first people in Italy to understand that this view, today, is not an attempt at rehabilitation, let alone a sophisticated echo of Neoclassicism, but a necessity. Because sports have become a cornerstone, if not the cornerstone, of contemporary life. They are the sphere of change and mutation; they are culture.

The box(e) project, however, is more than just the exhibition. In order to take a true journey into the world of boxing, and make the exhibition project truly participatory, the opening will include a real demonstration of the sport, in which two of the best boxers in Italy at the moment, Carel Sandon and Antonio Moscatiello, will face of live. At the ringside, three of the greatest world champions of all time will be in attendance: Sumbu Kalambay, Nino Benvenuti and Rocky Mattioli, plus recent world champion Giacobbe Fragomeni, playing an integral part in the project just like the artists described above.
Will also be present the Dolce&Gabbana Thunder Italian Boxing Team.

The gallery, usually seen as a space strictly dedicated to artistic events, attended by an elite public, thus becomes a space for real dialogue, where something that has always been considered “high” (the art world) rubs elbows with what has always been set “lower” (sports, the emotions and approaches of the bodily sphere). In the conviction that art is not something “that belongs to the humanities, but something as physical as fngerprints” (Gottfried Benn).

Sebastian Diaz Morales was born in 1975 in Comodoro Rivadivia, Argentina, and currently dividing his time between that city and Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Sebastián Díaz Morales belongs to the newest generation of Latin American artists. His work has been exhibited widely at many prominent venues—such as the Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou; Stedelijk Museum and De Appel, Amsterdam; Art in General, New York City; Ludwin Museum, Budapest; Bienale Sao Pablo; Biennale of Sydney; Miro Fundation, Barcelona; MUDAM, Luxemburg; and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon—and is the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou; Tate Modern; Fundacion Jumex, Mexico; Sandretto Foundation, Torino; Sammlung-Goetz, Munich; and the Fundacion de Arte Moderna, Museo Berardo, Lisbon. In 2009 he was awarded with a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Ben Grasso was born in 1979. After earning a BFA in Painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art, in his home town, Grasso continued his studies in this feld with an MFA from Hunter College in New York, the city where he now lives and works. In 2010, he received a painting fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). He is best known on the US art scene, with recent solo exhibitions such as ”TBD” and “Clearing”, both at Thierry Goldberg Projects in New York, and “Close to Home” at Kinkead Contemporary in Los Angeles. His group exhibitions include ”Recess” at Crossing Art, New York; “Queens International” at the Queens Museum of Art, New York; and “The Grand”, at the Amelie A. Wallace Center, SUNY College, Old Westbury, NY.

David Rathman has had exhibitions at the Larissa Goldston Gallery (NY) and the Mary Goldman Gallery (CA). Moreover, his work has been featured in solo and group shows at the Contemporary Arts Museum (TX), il Walker Art Center (MN) and the Arts Center of St. Petersburg (FL). It can be found in many public collections, including those of the Whitney Museum of American Art (NY), the J. Paul Getty Museum (CA) and the Art Institute of Chicago (IL).

Denis Rouvre born in 1967, lives and works in Paris. He has been represented by Corbis Outline Agency since 1998. His work has been published in national and international periodicals such as Elle, Geo, GQ, Intramuros, L’Equipe, L’Express, Le Monde, Le Monde 2, Le Nouvel Observateur, Libération, Madame Figaro, Marie-Claire, The New York Times Magazine, Foto, Première, Psychologie, Studio, Télérama, Têtu, and Vanity Fair Italia. It has also been featured in many solo and group shows around the world.

Wainer Vaccari was born in Modena, Italy, in 1949. In the 1985 he exhibited for the frst time abroad in the Galerie Susan Wyss (Zurigo). Personal exhibitions: Galleria Mazzoli (Modena) and the Museum of Modern Art Wörlen-Stiftung (Passau). Group exhibitions: XIII Quadrennial of Rome, Projections 2000 (Rome), 1998 “Continuity of ‘image’, Mole Vanvitelliana (Ancona); Orthodox Icons, Galleria d’Arte Moderna (Bologna). Enzo Bargiacchi, Achille Bonito Oliva, Massimo Carboni, Zdenek Felix, Vittorio Sgarbi, Gualdoni Flaminio, Tommaso Trini, Luca Beatrice, Laura Cherubini, wrote about Wainer Vaccari.

Li Wei was born in Hubei Province, China in 1970. In 1993 he went to study in Beijing, where he still lives and works. The major exhibitions that have featured his work include: “Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China” (ICP, New York, 2004), “Ofcina Asia” (Galleria Arte Moderna, Bologna, 2004), “Out of the Red” (Spazio Consolo, Milan, 2003) and “The Second Pingyao International Photography Festival” (Pingyao, China, 2002). One should also note his participation in the Prague Biennale in 2003 and the Shanghai Biennale in 2000.