Antonio Petracca’s exhibition 10 was a journey that started with 9/11. Like many others, 9/11 had a direct and profound effect on the artist. Displaced and living in a hotel, Petracca felt compelled to begin a new series of paintings that responded to this horrific event. In September 2002, this work was exhibited at the Kim Foster Gallery. His mission was to depict the destruction, the sense of great loss and, more importantly, the can-do spirit of rebuilding and renewal that most New Yorkers felt at the time.
Unfortunately, some populations became the object of fear and bias. This triggered mixed emotions in the artist. Memories of prejudice against Italian Americans in his childhood neighborhood of Rochester resurfaced. The stereotypical jokes heard constantly throughout his life, the Sopranos, and the Mafia docudramas finally gave him the impetus to handle these issues in his art. Petracca appropriated Italian masterpieces and portraits of Italian American celebrities, combining them with quotes from the news, the internet, and historical material. Other work depicted ancient Pompeian frescos tagged with mob movie slang and stereotypical one-liners.
His later work on identity mined similar territory, but his focus was broader. He used the theatrical to investigate how the use of color and identification with cultural and architectural landmarks could help or hinder the formulation of one’s identity. In Three Brothers, Petracca took a familial look into generalizations based on ethnic and social preconceptions.
With the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Petracca revisited the place where his journey began. The work depicts the rebuilding that is now visible at Ground Zero. This sense of finally moving forward is articulated in WT Corner V, in which two new buildings emerge victoriously with only a partial reflection of a crane. The work is best expressed as the tension between the representation of a site and the abstraction that evolves in the manner in which it is cropped to focus our attention on the relevant information. For years, we have been tantalized by the construction going on elsewhere in the City. On this 10th anniversary, it appears that the architectural design plans that have been plastered around the area of Ground Zero are becoming realized.
Antonio Petracca had a solo exhibition at the Italian American Museum in NYC and the Garibaldi Meucci Museum. He has been awarded several grants and special projects including an MTA mural commission. His artwork is in the collections of the Museum of the City of New York, New York Historical Society, George Eastman House, and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
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