What I’ve done

curated by Davide Mariani

09.06.2022 - 01.10.2022



(Journey from Rome to Athens)

Gramma_Epsilon gallery presents works by Anna Esposito in “What I’ve done”. The exhibition continues the Athenian gallery’s program dedicated to important female artists of the Italian art scene in the seventies.
The exhibition, which represents the first anthology of Anna Esposito (Rome 1935) in Greece, produced in collaboration with the independent space Lettera_E in Rome and sponsored by IIC Athens, offers a selection of the artist’s most desecrating works created in over fifty years of activity.
Located in two exhibition venues, the exhibition will open to the public on June 4 in Rome at Lettera_E and on June 9 in Athens at Gramma_Epsilon gallery, where it will remain until October 01, 2022.
Paolo Cortese and Francesco Romano Petillo, the directors of Gramma_Epsilon gallery, whose intent “is to pay tribute to the great female personalities who played a fundamental role in the artistic scene of the seventies and whose works are still extremely contemporary today”, said: “After the success of the retrospective dedicated to Mirella Bentivoglio, we are delighted to introduce the Greek public to Anna Esposito, a multifaceted and visionary artist whose works have always highlighted, often well before anyone else, the problems and contradictions of the society in which we live”.

 Uncovering the deception

Curated by Davide Mariani, the exhibition brings together over thirty works, including reliefs, collages and décollages that mirror accurate poetic judgements on the myths, characters, tragedies and hopes of today.
Anna Esposito’s primary artistic intent since the early seventies to demystify and denounce, is what highlighted her interest in surrounding reality. Although her artwork has crossed paths with protagonists and themes attributable to Italian Pop art and Nouveau Réalisme, by remaining free from any type of pigeonholing it has been able to evolve with great originality. “With my work I try to highlight the hidden parts of the truth”, says Anna Esposito, “I try to get inside the mixture, like a dough, to savour all the moods and extract the poison.”

 From the world for the world.

In the exhibition, through a series of themes ranging from social issues, such as immigration, religion and war, to environmental ones, such as climate change and pollution, the depth of this unfiltered art is clearly unveiled for the viewer. Her original style was singled out in 1976 by Maurizio Fagiolo, on the occasion of her first solo show in a public institution, in Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, when he remarked on how Esposito’s artwork did not consist so much in crowding the world with new images, but in taking from the world the already existing images to rework them according to her personal vision.
Her analysis, in this case, consists in the accumulation, subtraction, multiplication and division of subjects and objects so that she can examine the world using the world itself, such as in ‘Machine gun burst’ (Sventagliata di mitra,1972) and ‘An army’ (Un esercito,1974), both exhibited in 1978 as well as in the historic female artists’ exhibition curated by Mirella Bentivoglio for the Venice Biennial in the Magazzini del Sale.
Fifty years later, the artist felt the need to create a new version of Sventagliata di mitra (1972/2022) that will be presented for the first time in Athens, together with ‘An army’ (Un esercito,1974), as a further piece of reflection aimed at highlighting how war, yesterday as today, continues to cause pain and suffering: “Thinking of mankind in general and society, including myself, I feel a sense of compassion for the times that we are living through”, continues Esposito, “mine is never a definitive judgement but it is as if I am aspiring for a kind of redemption, for a reality that is a little more human because contemporary society is dehumanizing us”.

 What have I done?

Viewing the works on display is like witnessing the inevitable narration of the decay of our planet: trees are transformed into chimneys ‘Chimney Tree’ (Albero ciminiera, 2003), a house destroyed by war becomes a children’s jigsaw puzzle (Bosnia, 1992), meadows are drowned in waste ‘Red ecological view’ (Sguardo ecologico rosso, 1974) and the fate of animals in ‘Tailoring projects’ (Progetti di sartoria, 1985). The world maps appear worn out with their faded contours (Atlantis, 1991), in S.O.S, (1998), the ship in a bottle is a boat full of migrants and the bottle is made of plastic and in San Sebastiano (1992/2022) a trunk stabbed by chainsaws alludes to the icon of suffering.
For a long time we have clung to the illusion that our terrestrial Eden would be eternal and we promoted increasingly luxurious lifestyles without ever imagining that later a more disturbing side of the coin could be revealed: “What is behind those glossy images of lush nature, cities of well-being, clean and deserted beaches, dewy woodland, and the smiling and persuasive faces of those characters in the foreground? Behind them there are mountains of waste, cities assailed by concrete, seas of plastic and paper, polluted rivers and floods of people searching for the promised land, mud landslides that carry away just the most desperate, and young people with their arms crossed, waiting for the Messiah”, declares Esposito. In a scenario such as this, everyone should feel called into question and ask themselves the big question: what have I done?

Anna Esposito

Anna Esposito (1935) lives and works in Rome. From a young age she showed a strong aptitude for manual and creative work, so in 1958, after graduating, she decided to enrol in the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, where she attended a sculpture course, under the guidance of Pericle Fazzini.
This was an important experience that had a significant impact on her propensity to formally conceive her artwork. However, she did not complete her academic studies because in 1968 she won a position as a school teacher.
After her sculptural phase, she began to devote herself to painting and frequented the leading galleries of the Roman art scene of the time, and in a short time became one of the most appreciated artists by critics and the public. During the seventies she exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions, in public and private institutions. In 1978 she took part in the exhibition Materialization of Language, curated by Mirella Bentivoglio, organized for the Venice Biennial.
Between the late seventies and early eighties, her work was exhibited in several national galleries (Spazio Alternativo, Rome, 1979-1980; Unde Gallery, Turin 1980; NSM Gallery, Milan, 1983) and internationally (Galleria Drehscheibe, Basel, 1981) and she participated in four consecutive editions of the Art Basel fair (Galleria Artivisive, Rome, 1979-1980-1981-1982). In 1979 she was present in the collective exhibition From Page to SpaceWomen in the Italian Avant-garde between Language and Image, curated by Mirella Bentivoglio, at Columbia University in New York, while in 1981 she was included, again by Bentivoglio, in the exhibition O quadrato do dizer/ The Square of Saying, created as part of the XVI Biennale in São Paulo, Brazil.
In the following decade she held a series of important solo exhibitions curated by the main exponents of Italian criticism of the time, such as Enrico Crispolti (Galleria Sala 1, Rome, 1985) and Palma Bucarelli (Galleria Banchi Nuovi, Rome, 1987-1991). Her works were included in the XI Rome Quadriennial (1986) and the International Biennial in Naples, curated by Marcello Venturoli (1988), and in numerous other collective exhibitions, including those curated by Mirella Bentivoglio (Gubbio, 1988; Senigallia, 1989; Cagliari, 1990; Riolo Terme, 1991; New York, 1993; São Paulo, 1994) and Achille Bonito Oliva (Erice; Rome, 1995). She exhibited thirty-three works from the anthology ‘Appearances’ (Apparenze, 1970-1998), which opened to the public in December 1998 in the Municipality of Marino Exhibition Hall (Rome). The exhibition, expanded with her production in the early 2000s, was revived in 2006 at the Palazzo Comunale in Serra dè Conti (Ancona). Her works appear in several collective exhibitions aimed at historicizing artistic production at the turn of the sixties and seventies, such as Post-scriptum – Female Artists in Italy between language and image in the 60’s and 70’s, curated by Mirella Bentivoglio, at Palazzo Massari in Ferrara in 1998 and Le immagini affamate (‘Hungry Images’), Donne e cibo nell’arte (Women and food in art) Regional Archeological Museum in Aosta in 2005.
Among the exhibitions held since 2010, it is worth noting the anthologies L'apparenza inganna (‘Appearances can be deceptive’), curated by Eva Clausen and Maria Chiara Salmeri, in the Sinopoli Foyer at Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome in 2010 with the accompanying monograph (ed.De Luca), Per interposte immagini (‘interposed images’), curated by Elio Pecora, at Palazzo Flangini in Venice in 2016 and Questo nostro mondo, curated by Cornelia Bujin, at Alson Gallery in Milan in 2019. Her works have also been included in several reconnaissance surveys dedicated to artists operating between the sixties and seventies, including La donazione Bentivoglio, curated by Daniela Ferrari, at MART in Rovereto (2011), ‘Unexpected subject’ (Soggetto Imprevisto,1978), Art and Feminism in Italy at FM Centro for Contemporary Art in Milan (2019), curated by Marco Scotini and Raffaella Perna, and Histoire d'E part 1 – Between language and image, curated by Paolo Cortese and Francesco Romano Petillo, at Spazio Lettera E in Rome and at Galleria Gramma_Epsilon in Athens (2021). Recently she has also been included in L'arte e la città, curated by Stefano Pezzato at Centro Pecci in Prato (2021) and The poetry of translation, curated by Judith Waldmann, at Kunst Meran Merano Arte in Merano (2021).