Maurizio Cannavacciuolo Installation Coming to Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Façade

Cannavacciuolo made use of a sci-fi theme for his latest work.

by Catherine Cray

An Italian artist is bringing his multicultural vision to a Boston institution.

Maurizio Cannavacciuolo will contribute a sci-fi themed mural to the side of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The piece tells a story about the Martian colonization of earth, narrated by a many-armed half-human, half-Martian teacher. With this Martian tale, Cannavacciuolo confronts the politically sensitive question of cultural appropriation through an absurdist lens. What do the Martians appropriate? Flickering television sets.

Cannavacciuolo is well-acquainted with the Gardner, having served as an artist-in-residence in 2003, 2004, and 2007. In 2004 he created a mural in the special exhibition gallery. The mural, called “TV Dinner,” juxtaposed images from Isabella Stewart Gardner’s personal collection alongside images of his early paintings and comic strips.

For the new piece, Cannavacciuolo draws aesthetically from international and cross-cultural artistic traditions, particularly Edo textiles from Japan and Cuban tiles from Havana.

In a press release, the Gardner Museum explains that “Cannavacciuolo’s elaborately overlapping drawings and patterns relate a science fiction story, drawing on cultural trivia, emotion, and aesthetics to deliver a witty and provocative message about life, culture, and consumption in the 21st century.”

The Gardner Museum is central to that message—literally. The façade features a scene set in a fictional performance hall in the museum, catapulting the Gardner’s classical style into a sci-fi inspired future.

The installation will go up June 28 and remain through January 9, 2017. The previous installation came from artist Rachel Perry Welty, depicting the text “What do you really want?” written in aluminum foil on a blue backdrop, and was displayed from January through June of 2016.

 
 “A LECTURE ON MARTIAN HISTORY” BY MAURIZIO CANNAVACCIUOLO / COURTESY OF THE ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM

“A LECTURE ON MARTIAN HISTORY” BY MAURIZIO CANNAVACCIUOLO / COURTESY OF THE ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM