Artist Francesca Pasquali Turns Drinking Straws Into Textured Visions

NYC's Leila Heller gallery is mounting the first U.S. solo exhibition of the Bologna-native artist.

Francesca Pasquali
Photo: © Francesca Pasquali 2016, Courtesy of the artist

It’s been 50 years since the Arte Povera movement first emerged in Italy. The Guggenheim recently paid tribute to one of its most fearless thinkers, Alberto Burri, who burned, tore, and punctured whatever materials he could get his hands on—this frugality being a chief tenet of the movement. The Guggenheim’s major retrospective was called The Trauma of Painting.

Five decades later, one hardly recognizes artist Francesca Pasquali’s vibrant works to be in the same tradition as Burri’s technical violence and dark palette. Though iconic Arte Povera artists like Lucio Fontana worked in bright colors, Fontana’s slashed canvases also amount to visual wounds.

Leila Heller Gallery in NYC’s Chelsea is currently mounting Plastic Resonance, the first U.S. solo exhibition of Bologna-native Pasquali. She uses plastic drinking straws, duster bristles, neoprene and foam to create dense topographies.

Francesca Pasquali
© Francesca Pasquali 2016, Courtesy of the artist

In one showstopper, hot pink straws of various lengths spring from the wall of the gallery, clustered together to give the impression of a natural surface despite being twice manufactured: by the maker of the plastic, and then by Pasquali.

Gallery founder and owner Leila Heller first encountered Pasquali at an art fair in Istanbul. Pasquali’s work is so popular in Europe, it took Heller 3+ years to bring her to the states. "She is always sold out," Heller explains.

Heller applauds the versatility of Pasquali’s works which can be shown singularly, or as diptyques and triptyques. They are equally engaging hanging from the ceiling or rising from the floor. Her circular straw works, contained by black borders, look like a row of maki.

Pasquali is a founding member of “Resilienza italiana” (Italian Resilience), an art movement that celebrates emerging Italian talent. Like Arte Povera before it, the movement seeks to sculpt readily available media: thereby forcing the world to see quotidien material in a new light.

Pasquali has installed the plumes of her reimagined dusters on the exterior of London’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and crafted a site-specific window display for Salvatore Ferragamo’s Milan store.

Francesca Pasquali
© Francesca Pasquali 2016, Courtesy of the artist

“She likes the relationship [between works],” Heller says, adding that Pasquali oversaw every detail of Plastic Resonance, placing one mirrored work where it would reflect a different piece from every angle. Against another wall is a length of coiled foam, easy to dismiss as stray construction material. However, the entire assemblage was created by Pasquali specifically for the space.

For a movement that embraces little-celebrated materials, it’s no wonder Pasquali’s works are best appreciated on the fringe– just as Arte Povera was once considered the radical edge of the art world. Transparent straws create a blurred effect on the edge of one diptyque, causing visitors to question their eyesight. Pasquali encourages a new way of seeing by celebrating the objects that live in our blind spots.

Plastic Resonance is on view until November 5th, 2016

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