New York based artist Christian de Vietri is a 21st Century alchemist. All materials are animated in de Vietri’s world, and they are always projections of larger ideas. The making of the work is an act of re-enchantment, re-aligning the form and content of an object in such a way that they two are in dynamic relation to one another. Physical properties are not fixed, they are separated, exchanged and interplayed as sculpture.
His latest exhibition, XYZ, at the Nordin gallery at Stockholm is unnerving. In one room lies the mesmerizing yet unsettling LightYears, a phantasm of a glow-in-the-dark vampire sculpture stretched out in solemn stillness as if awaiting galvanism. Oppositely stands Zero, a powder-cast Carrara marble sculpture of a cloaked monk of sorts. In a darker area, a series of neon lights disguised as ropes dangle down the walls projecting a haunting bright red glow onto the room. X1, a burnt-cast bronze sculpture of a bonfire centres the room and exudes a primitive ritual sensibility. X1 is an extension of an earlier commission by the Public Art Fund in New York City titled The Gathering.
The Gathering is a six foot tall bonfire cast in solid aluminium situated in the middle of a large public square. The work sparks reflection on the use and history of the bonfire, which has served as a nexus of human activity and interaction since the dawn of time, as well as actually defining its context as a space for contemporary human exchange. And it generates an unsettling ambiguity, provoking a range of potential ideas from the convivial to the sinister, from celebration to sacrifice. Being made of solid aluminium it is also deceptively permanent – this contradiction between surface and material is a common thread in de Vietri’s work.
“I make concrete sites destabilized by an uncertainty that generates an experience of mystery” he says. The sculptures indeed contain recognisable elements – icons, everyday objects, pop-cultural references, contemporary materials, shared histories – making the work immediately accessible. But de Vietri’s work is not just a celebration of popular culture, this common ground has been created so that together we have a place to meet, a place to doubt what is known, a place to reconfigure our realties. While his works are seductive and alluring, they are also deliberately confusing, and he believes in the social potential state – “The certainty of the references are laced with a kind of doubt and I believe this experience to be productive in the sense that it generates new possibilities within a context of open and undetermined social exchanged”.
By manipulating and exposing the inherent qualities of objects, and understanding how materials may communicate, De Vietri seduces the viewer into a state where they must ask the fundamental questions of their reality, how very Descartes! “When does a neon light stop being a neon light and start being a rope?” I pondered as I felt almost hypnotised by their red radiance.
De Vietri works in a post medium condition, with a vision as clear as crystal, moving with great skill across a wide variety of materials – neon, marble, bronze, gold, virtual 3D, phosphorescent plastic, carbon fibre and much more. His most recent work is a $500,000 privately funded public art commission, currently being installed in his native Australia. The sculpture consists of a baroque cloth form caught in motion, soaring 5 stories high. It is monumental yet the form possesses an ethereal lightness, like the magician lifting the veil. And indeed, for Christian de Vietri, the veil has been lifted.
Christian de Vietri was born in Australia in 1981. He graduated from the Columbia University MFA program in 2009, and is based in New York City. His work has been exhibited internationally at Art Basel Miami, the Gallery if Modern Art Brisbane, the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, and at the gallery formally known as Deitch Projects.
This article is originally published in WhiteWall Magazine in 2010