Paul Branca and His Totes Exhibition at Giorgio Galotti Gallery Turin
Shop until you drop! I shop therefore I am! Keep calm and carry on shopping! These are just a few of the slogans we all may have heard or even jokingly said to our friends. But, is there really room for jokes? Artist Paul Branca investigates with his Totes Exhibition the overwhelming craze for tote bags, reaching almost a fetishistic desire to posses them, and with it comments on the propelling experience of contemporary art’s economy. Known for his research on the social connectivity of food culture, his food paintings, as well as other projects, question painting’s ability to reflect alarming strategies within its historical languages.
The crisp cotton canvas of the bag and bold navy offset stripping portrayed aesthetics of ease, simplicity and sportiveness that defined a burgeoning middle class in the post-war years. Falling out of fashion during the 80’s and 90’s, tote bags returned back in the 2000’s. No longer can we view the tote bag as the simple bag we take with us when shopping. The choice of your tote bag helps to defines you and certainly sends a message about who you are, what biennial, art fair, museum and art gallery did you visited recently. They suggest a code to one layer of our identity. Keeping the integrity of the bag, Paul Branca allows for the handles or straps to hang loose. Acknowledging the bag’s material as a canvas, the artist places the tote bag on a wooden stretcher and begins with his intervention by applying traditional grounds of gesso, splashes of paint and stencil lettering. Following the tradition of a readymade, the tote bag is re-used and transformed from once lose and baggy object into an articulated and strong symbol.
The Neo-liberal Economy
Paul Branca is not the first artist in history to use found canvas and jute in his paintings. Just a quick look at the history of Arte Povera movement will locate the suggestions of these references, in particular with the work of Alberto Burri. Even though Branca acknowledges and re-uses the canvas material of the bag, the reflection and use of the bags show Branca’s long-standing interest and research of everyday objects of neo-liberal economy, consumerism, food culture and art culture. Sharing the love for tote bags, food and art culture merge and share the use and functionality of the tote bag. The two now share the ‘ space ‘ that helps promote their products and institutions.
Tote Exhibition at Giorgio Galotti Gallery in Turin
Best known for his research and reflections on the social connectivity of food culture, paintings of sausages links as well as cold cuts and vegetables, Paul Branca with the use of a tote bag continues and broadens his re-occurring interest and experimentation with every-day objects in his Totes Exhibition. On view from 21st February – 31st March 2016 at Giorgio Galotti Gallery in Turin, the exhibition showcases the private collection of the artist’s tote bags from various art institutions, such as Kunsthalle Berne, The Whitney Museum of American Art, MACBA Barcelona and various magazines as new art objects.
A shared love for the tote bag of food and art culture of today’s economy and consumerist society reflects on the question of the functionality of the bag and provides a wider, deeper look at the bag itself. Questioning the economy, reflecting upon the question of identity as well, Totes Exhibition, viewed within an art context, uses the very material that helps to boost contemporary art’s economy experience.
All images courtesy of Giorgio Galotti Gallery. All featured images in slider are installation views of Paul Branco – Totes Exhibition – Giorgio Galotti Gallery, Turin