For Miart 2023, Sans titre presents a solo exhibition by Zuzanna Czebatul comprising a series of new paintings and a new bronze sculpture produced at Milan’s Fonderia Battaglia.
The artist has produced her first bronze sculpture, Andrea, inspired by Vulcan, the ancient Roman god of fire, often represented with his muscular arm holding a hammer. Over the centuries this commonly used emblem of craftsmanship and trade became an icon of industry. Czebatul’s work makes reference to its use as the logo of the General Society of Tradesmen and Mechanics of the City of New York. This professional association aims to promote access to education to those in the building and construction industry, who can be said to have quite literally built the sprawling city of New York.
Czetabul reimagines the city as a rock formed over time, with stonemasons and craftsmen representing the forces of nature that led to its emergence. The posture of the arm, which seems just about to strike, is expressly ambiguous: does Andrea create or destroy?
The work’s title, a gender-neutral name, introduces the suggestion that overcoming traditional gender-roles in industry and politics - and thus power - will be necessary to change our means of production towards a more sustainable one.
By producing Andrea in bronze, a classical sculpting material able to endure centuries under harsh conditions, the artist reinforces the work’s themes in its form. The Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, where the sculpture was manufactured, is an institution of the city of Milan, with a reputation dating back centuries for bronze works for the most renowned artists of the era. Manifesting the humanities’ greatest achievements, which have resulted from technological advancement, Andrea carries an progressive yet ambiguous message, linking this icon of industry to a potentially disastrous future.
This major work is presented alongside a series of new paintings, entitled Rather a Nail than a Hammer, a twist of « I am rather a Hammer than a Nail », a song by Simon & Garfunkel. Conceived by the artist, they were produced in oil on canvas by a Chinese factory, specializing in the production of commissions for the European and US-American art markets. These manufactured paintings question the values and the authorship of an artwork. Their own status is challenged and the artist plays with the business to reproduce visual materials and its act of sabotage in our globalized social reality.
The three large-format and single small-sized painting show dented and useless nails, objects known for their robustness rendered touchingly fragile in the works of Zuzanna Czebatul. They refer to the Useless Tree, an ancient Chinese story in modern Taoism, stating « Every man knows how useful it is to be useful. No one seems to know how useful it is to be useless. » The hazardous position of the nails and their weakness depict what the artist believes is a nonconformist method to escape a forced function.