Margherita Raso

Fanta Spazio, Milan, Italy

Piercing is the title of the young Italian artist Margherita Raso’s new installation at Fanta Spazio – her debut at the gallery. It refers to hanging jewels and body decorations, but it also conjures the idea of an opening, being penetrating and ‘getting under someone’s skin’, both in physical and emotional terms. And yet, the elegant layout the artist conceived for the unusual architecture of the gallery doesn’t pierce any of its surfaces.

Fanta is an independent space run by three young curators: Alessio Baldissera, Gloria De Risi and Alberto Zenere. It occupies a railway arch; whenever a train passes over, the gallery fills with vibrations, which are amplified and reverberated by the corrugated iron cladding of the curved walls. As if to reveal the gallery’s skeleton, Raso removed a wooden mezzanine that previously split the space in two. She then lined it with a new, soft epidermis made of seven fabric strips, loosely sewn together, draped in folds and kept in place by hundreds of tiny magnets. The creases are thicker at the top and baggier at the base so that the edges seem to spill across the otherwise empty floor. The result is monumental and theatrical, akin to an upside-down stage curtain; it’s also weirdly girlie and haptic: like an elastic membrane, the fabric muffles any sounds. The result is a space that – surprisingly – encourages quiet contemplation. The architecture appears both concealed and emphasized by this second skin.


Installation view, Margherita Raso, “Piercing”, Fanta Spazio, Milan, Italy. Courtesy: the artist and Fanta Spazio, Milan; photograph: Roberto Marossi

Margherita Raso, Piercing (detail), 2017, installation view, Fanta Spazio, Milan, Italy. Courtesy: the artist and Fanta Spazio, Milan; photograph: Roberto Marossi

Raso employed a silky, silvery, synthetic textile that is fabricated by Jacquard-weaving – the same technique that is used to make brocade and damask, with tapestry effects. In the final stages of its production, the fabric is exposed to steam and the thermosensitive acrylic string interspersed in the warp and weft contracts, which results in a microscopic relief. Seen from up close, it looks like scar tissue.

Raso has employed and ‘morphed’ the same Jacquard technique before, for the group show ‘Where the Wild Flowers Grow’ at the Milanese artist-run space Armada (which she co-founded in 2014). For that exhibition, she created Senza Titolo (Untitled, 2016), a single strip of cloth hanging from the ceiling; its lattice of painterly garnet-coloured wrinkles and pleats contrasted with the wavy, dark blue background.


Installation view, Margherita Raso, “Piercing”, Fanta Spazio, Milan, Italy. Courtesy: the artist and Fanta Spazio, Milan; photograph: Roberto Marossi

Margherita Raso, Piercing, 2017, installation view, Fanta Spazio, Milan, Italy. Courtesy: the artist and Fanta Spazio, Milan; photograph: Roberto Marossi

At Fanta, at first the tangled black patterns inscribed on the grey surface appear abstract but, in fact, they’re fragments of layered self-portraits. Initially, the artist ‘recorded the passage and movements’ (her words) of her body on a large sheet of paper by tracing the contours of her legs, arms and torso with oil pastels, over and over again. Then she photographed her ‘choreographies’ [sic], overlapped and multiplied them, and transformed them into bitmap files as sequences of black and white pixels so that the Jacquard loom could ‘read’ them. The result is that her patchy, headless limbs appear slightly larger than life.

Raso’s twisted outlines reflect the impossibility of simultaneously perceiving the physical body and the self it contains as a unified entity; rather we tend to see it as a series of shifting fragments and images, distorted by our ways of looking, our feelings and our social interactions. It’s apt, then, that for the artist’s first solo show, Raso’s self-portrait is manifold and multidimensional. Piercing is all over the place: both in plain sight and almost invisible, it clings to the walls like a wallflower and camouflages itself like a tapestry.

Main image: Margherita Raso, Piercing, 2017, installation view, Fanta Spazio, Milan, Italy. Courtesy: the artist and Fanta Spazio, Milan; photograph: Roberto Marossi

Barbara Casavecchia is a contributing editor of frieze and a freelance writer and curator living in Milan, Italy.

Issue 193

First published in Issue 193

March 2018

Most Read

Forensic Architecture, Naeem Mohaiemen, Charlotte Prodger and Luke Willis Thompson are this year’s nominees
It’s the first statue of a woman placed in Parliament Square, marking the centenary of women’s right to vote
In further news: New York art project fights mass incarceration with house music; Marcia Hafif passes away at 89
From a preview of Konrad Fischer’s new space, to Simon Fujiwara’s thought-provoking commentary on gender bias
The Chinese dissident artist has justified posing with politician Alice Weidel, who has branded immigrants ‘illiterate’
‘I could be the President of the United States, and still half the people in the room would question my authority’
From Linder at the Women’s Library to rare paintings by Serge Charchoune, the exhibitions to see outside of the main...
The argument that ancestral connection offers a natural grasp of the complex histories and aesthetics of African art is...
Ahead of the 52nd edition of Art Cologne, your guide to the best shows to see in the city
‘I'm interested in the voice as author, as witness, as conduit, as ventriloquist’ – the artist speaks...
In further news: a report shows significant class divide in the arts; and Helen Cammock wins Max Mara art prize
A genre more associated with painting, an interest in the environment grounds a number of recent artists’ films 
A new report suggests that women, people from working-class backgrounds and BAME workers all face significant...
The divisive director out after less than six months by mutual consent
In further news: Gillian Ayres (1930-2018); Met appoints Max Hollein as director; Cannes announces official selection
With miart in town, the best art to see across the city – from ghostly apparitions to the many performances across the...
From Grave of the Fireflies to The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the visionary director grounded fantasy with...
In further news: art dealer and Warhol friend killed in Trump Tower fire; UK arts organizations’s gender pay gap...
Emin threatened ‘to punch her lights out’, she claimed in a recent interview
As the Man Booker Prize debates whether to nix US writers, the ‘homogenized future’ some novelists fear for British...
‘Very often, the answer to why not would be: because you’re a girl’ – for this series, writer Fran Lebowitz speaks...
The artist is also planning a glass fountain of herself spouting her own blood
‘The difficulties are those which remain invisible’: for a new series, writer and curator Andrianna Campbell speaks...
With ‘David Bowie Is’ at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Glenn Adamson on the evolution of the music video – a genre Bowie...
Under a metahistorical guise, the filmmaking duo enact hidden tyrannies of the contemporary age
The area’s development boom isn’t just in luxury property – the art scene is determined to keep its place too
In further news: Laura Owens’s 356 Mission space closes; John Baldessari guest-stars in The Simpsons
With his fourth plinth commission unveiled in London, the artist talks archaeological magic tricks and ...
When dealing with abuse in the art industry, is it possible to separate the noun ‘work’ from the verb?

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

January - February 2018

frieze magazine

March 2018

frieze magazine

April 2018