Kim Foster Gallery is pleased to present Antonio Petracca’s new exhibition Mezzogiorno (literally “midday” in Italian.) Giuseppe Garibaldi, credited as the primary force behind the unification of Italy, popularized the term that is now used as a reference to the Southern region of Italy and Sicily. Before Garibaldi, the South was ruled by a succession of Norman, French and Spanish feudal lords. Unification eliminated the feudal system, but did little to educate and transition the commoners to meaningful work. Famine and disease were rampant in the South, contributing to a mass exodus, including the artist’s family to the United States.
Today, the term mezzogiorno is often used as a pejorative. Northern and Southern Italy are worlds apart with different economies. But when it comes down to the abundance of Greek, Roman, Norman, Phoenician, Turkish and Spanish architecture, antiquities, food and ethnic diversity, the South rules. It also is home to some of the greatest museums in the world, Renaissance art included.
It is against this background that Antonio Petracca’s new exhibition is “pinned.” Mezzogiorno is the latest investigation into his Southern Italian heritage through his art. His previous work, These are not My Shoes, appropriated Italian art masterpieces, combining them with actual stereotyped material culled from the news, books, the web, and historical references. Pompeii Tagged followed in which the artist combined Pompeian frescos tagged with mob movie slang and T-shirt one-liners.
This new body of work is less confrontational and relies more on tweaking the visual language to comment on his observations and personal revelations. In the image, Mezzogiorno Matera, a man appears draped over a rock ledge. Is he a worker taking a siesta at midday, or an odd tourist photo op? Petracca borrows major tourist attractions; the Amalfi Coast, Napoli, Pompeii, Sassi di Matera, the Salento, and Apulia to use as a foil. Petracca believes he has found a language that conveys his quest: to understand and comment on the subtle and not so subtle bias against Southern Italians in Italy and America.
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.