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Contemporary works addressing consumer culture and ecological issues on show at the Estorick Collection
Enrica Borghi (b. 1966), Patchworkcity, 2008. Polythene bags, Tetra Pak containers. Private collection.

LONDON.- This autumn, alongside the exhibition of sculpture and drawings by Emilio Greco (1913-1995), the Estorick Collection presents a number of thought-provoking works by Enrica Borghi, one of Italy’s foremost contemporary artists. Second Life, on display from 16 October to 22 December 2013, is a site-specific intervention curated by Giovanna Nicoletti, an Italian independent curator, art critic and journalist.

Enrica Borghi began exhibiting her work in the early 1990s, presenting anthropomorphic installations made with sweet wrappers, plastic bags and other non-biodegradable materials. She has continued to use these, creating works that draw on classical iconography to explore imagery traditionally associated with the feminine and domestic spheres. The little obsessions and rituals of daily life – from grocery shopping to the pursuit of pleasure and the difficulty of living up to preconceived notions of beauty – are present in her works as are other issues pertaining to ecology and the need to challenge today’s disposable culture.

This installation takes a number of works from the museum as starting points for the exploration of Borghi’s familiar concerns. For example, placed alongside Medardo Rosso’s Impressions of the Boulevard: Woman with a Veil is a Bust of a Woman, a seductive neo-classical sculpture seemingly covered with shiny scales. On closer examination, these turn out to be fake fingernails painted pastel pinks: objects that are simultaneously fragile and strong.

Boccioni’s Modern Idol serves as a pretext for investigating the theme of reflected light. In these works, many-sided hats created with sections of plastic bottles appear to take on the function of armour, as if constructed to defend the precariousness of beauty.

Gino Severini’s Boulevard is re-imagined as a large blanket of woven plastic strips and Tetra Pak containers. Grounded in the fact that objects are outlived by their packaging, Borghi gives shape to Patchworkcity in the form of an urban map where Tetra Pak products are glimpsed among the containers. These in turn form clusters of ‘buildings’ mimicking the topographical structure of a town.

Decoration as a symbolic form and an analysis of contemporary materials, capable of being transformed from containers into autonomous objects, is therefore the overriding theme of this intervention, which not only engages with the works in the permanent collection but also extends to the building itself. The windows and lobby area are decorated by complex structures that has been applied to the fabric of the building (as in the case of a translucent ‘mosaic’ covering the Collection’s windows) or occupy its spaces, such as a work entitled Nebula that is designed to be suspended from the ceiling.

According to the artist, the use of discarded materials is a metaphor for contemporary society, engaged in a dizzying cycle of production and consumption. Borghi’s striking and innovative work is concerned with ‘collecting the debris of this vortex, this hurricane, to rebuild what is broken’. Enrica Borghi was born in Novara in 1966. She graduated in sculpture from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, and lives and works in Ameno, Lago d’Orta and Berlin.

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