ADRIAN TRANQUILLI | after the West
For twenty years Adrian Tranquilli has taken the figure of the hero (or anti-hero) as his point of departure. With a particular focus on the various treatments which this figure has been given in popular literary forms such as the superhero comic, Tranquilli has centred his artistic research around ideas of myth and archetype, including contemporary incarnations of these, in order to examine the relationship between the individual and the collective; between the power of individuals and that of superstructures, be they of a religious, ideological, political or economic nature.
Now, with After the West, Tranquilli starts from the consideration that in a society like ours, where the ratio of “power” – understood in terms of control, influence and wealth – is 1 to 99, the need to ask ourselves whether an alternative kind of society might be created becomes urgent in the extreme. We are the 99% – as the movements which challenge our current capitalist, globalised society define themselves: activists, in other words, who see themselves in, and identify with, Anonymous, Occupy, Indignados and similar protest movements – represents a social force which seeks power in its turn, and therefore inevitably runs the risk of being assimilated into the system.
In After the West, Tranquilli tackles the idea of the mask/symbol from a different perspective to that evident in previous cycles of work such as These Imaginary Boys (2004), The Age of Chance (2005), Don’t Forget the Joker (2006) or In Excelsis (2011/13), where the main subjects were identifiable as super or anti- heroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman or The Joker.
Here the show’s protagonist is recognisably similar to ‘V’, the mysteriously named, ambiguous hero of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s 1988 graphic novel V for Vendetta, subsequently made even more popular by virtue of the 2005 film of the same name, directed by James McTeigue. In creating their rebel hero, the English authors were inspired by the story of Guy Fawkes, the famous English anarchist who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605. The white mask with the sardonic smile behind which the imaginary hero V conceals his identity, one of the highest-selling pieces of Hollywood merchandising, is now the symbol of We are the 99%, a global protest movement. This suggests that the hero is no longer the individual who, thanks to the mask, projects themselves onto a distinct symbolic plain so as to serve as a model, but an identity which has dissolved into the unrecognisable, plural and collective: one which has in turn taken on the same unfathomable, invisible quality as the 1% that holds power.
After the West, the cycle of work in which V’s mask is the constitutive element, represents a further chapter in the singular visual narrative which Adrian Tranquilli has put together over the last decade. His enquiry into the heroic figure with its obligatory mask (costume) causes us to notice the paradigmatic shift which has taken place between the 20th and 21st centuries: the single person has given way to the multitude; an individual does not step outside of the dominant model, but camouflages themselves within it, amalgamating themselves with those who feel the same and working with them through subversive, viral means; and they find their personal ideal (symbol) in the very products of fantasy and popular literature where there is no longer a clear division between good and evil, hero and antagonist – between terror and utopia.
The After the West solo show at the STUDIO STEFANIA MISCETTI follows the first retrospective of Adrian Tranquilli’s work Giorni di un futuro passato at the MANN – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, curated by Eugenio Viola.
Read and download the exhibition’s press release.
ADRIAN TRANQUILLI was born in Melbourne in 1966. He lives and works in Rome. His major solo exhibitions include:
Days of a Future Past, MANN – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples 2016; Welcome to the Fall, MART – Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Rovereto 2014; All is violent, all is bright, MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome 2011; Don’t Forget the Joker, Palazzo Reale, Milan 2010; These Imaginary Boys, Parkhouse, Düsseldorf 2004; Know Yourself, MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome 2003; Believe, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome 2001.
Adrian Tranquilli’s work has been shown as part of major group exhibitions at numerous public and private institutions, including: SPSI – Shanghai Oil Painting & Sculpture Institut Art Museum, Shanghai 2015; LAUBA, Zagreb 2015; CoCA – Center of Contemporary Art, Torun 2014; La Maison d’Ailleurs, Yverdon-les-Bains 2014; La Maison Rouge, Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris 2009; Sala de Exposiciones Alcalá 31, Madrid 2008; Botkyrka Konsthall, Stockholm 2007; KUNSTHALLE, Wien 2006; GNAM – Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome 2005; Palazzo delle Papesse – Centro Arte Contemporanea, Siena 2003; IASPIS, Stockholm 2002; Dalì Museum, St. Petersburg (Florida, USA) 2001; PAC – Padiglione d’ Arte Contemporanea, Milan 2000; Bienal de La Habana, La Habana 2000; MAK, Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst / Gegenwartskunst, Wien 1999.
For a more complete artist profile, see the artist page.
more exhibitions by ADRIAN TRANQUILLI with STUDIO STEFANIA MISCETTI.