Patrizio Di Massimo held his first solo exhibition in Portugal at Kunsthalle Lissabon, where he presented Me, Mum, Mister, Mad.

Me, Mum, Mister, Mad is an exhibition constructed as a family portrait. In the title the initial letter of the pronoun ‘me’ replaces those of the other characters. The exhibition space is inhabited by three large contiguous installations portraying the Father, the Sister and the Mother.

Me is what actually becomes visible in the presence of these three representations, which substitute assemblages of upholstery and trimmings for the family members. Each of them evokes, in their own way, the relationship between the biographical and the domestic, the familiar and the alien, the material and the virtual, the static and the performative.

The Father is Mad. This is the first character we encounter when we visit the exhibition. He has a separate room and consists of three oversized bolster cushions made from different clothing fabrics, leaning on each other as in a game of mikado, as well as a cluster of bird cages holding canaries.

In the role of the Sister we see Mister, a pile of cushions against a closed door. Sometimes a girl’s limbs can be glimpsed from under these cushions, indicating a live performance. The cushions are made from cotton jersey and cloth, adorned with cut fringes, trimmings or painted shapes.

The Mother, finally is represented as Mum, by a curtain fitted onto one of the windows in the venue. It is composed of a pelmet, an oversized tassel, transparent flesh-colored hosiery fabric and a climber plant.

According to Di Massimo, our relationship with domestic objects is thematized as both abstraction and figuration. If the price we pay for our western civilization and the domesticity that embodies it is the repression of some basics desires and fears, then the very same objects we use for this purpose can also take on the opposite function and bring back to the surface some of our submerged personal memories.

The family portrait, a classical trope of art history, also continues the artist’s earlier engagement with themes such as the absence of orphanhood in Western culture (Without Orphanhood, 2007). Self-portraiture is, in fact, a fundament of Di Massimo’s practice, connecting his latest project to earlier works such as Untitled (My Father Emulating Me), 2007, or Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man, 2012.

The new body of work now presented in Kunsthalle Lissabon is the continuation of the research into the use of furnishings as tools for allegorical representation that Di Massimo began for the Lustful Turk project (Villa Medici, Rome, 2012, and Gasworks, London, 2013), the exhibition I Want to Live Like This (T293, Rome, 2012) and the project Monologue for Two, 2013.

Installation view. Photograph by Bruno Lopes
Patrizio Di Massimo, “Mister”, 2014. Cushions in denim, cotton and raw canvas, piping, trimmings, tassel, live performance.