Since 2005, Scottish artist Charles Avery (born 1973) has been developing an epically structured body of work about a fictional island whose capital city is named Onomatopoeia. The exhibit Onomatopoeia Part I at Florence’s EX3 has also traveled to Frac Le Plateau in Paris and Kunstverein in Hannover; this is his first solo exhibition in continental Europe.
The large, open “white cube” space at the EX3 displays drawings, sculptures, and text related to this fictional island whose inhabitants’ hairstyles reflect their philosophies. In fact, the show is a meditation on central themes of philosophy and a critique of dualities such as conscious/subconscious, real/unreal. The island, which in some ways mirrors the island of Mull in Western Scotland on which the artist was born, is a critique of colonialism. The exhibit takes you on a cognitive voyage through a parallel world that mixes profound references with pop culture.
Fundamental to the narrative is the text itself, a whole story that Avery has composed and that is available in a beautifully printed book at the front desk. While the original text was written in English, in the gallery it’s displayed in Italian translation – so go to the front desk and read the 4-page prologue before going in. (I asked them to provide a photocopy of this at the desk, so see if by chance they complied…)
In the lobby, a reading area is set up with (Italian versions of the) books that influenced the artist. In a room off to one side you can watch a series of films that played a role in the artist’s imagination – being full-length features, though, you’d have to be quite lucky to happen upon the start of one.
EX3: viale giannotti 81 Firenze
Charles Avery – until Jan 9 2011
Open Wed through Sunday 11-19; Friday night open until 22 (closed mon/tues)