Luca Lo Pinto
THE FIRST TIME I heard of her, it was the name which intrigued me most: Alek O. With a dot after the O as she makes a point to specify. Whether it is her real name or a pseudonym I have yet to work out, but I don’t mind the idea of remaining in this particular state of limbo. After hearing of her, I was lucky enough to put a face to the name through two works: Self-portrait without glasses (2007) a conceptual homage to the famous Rembrandt self-portrait and Self-portrait with long hair (2010).
When I finally met her, what struck me was her accent. Fluent Italian, but with a noticeably Spanish accent. As her CV testifies, she tells me that she was born in 1981 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2001, seduced by the great masters of Italian design such as Mari, Sottsass, Castiglioni, she moved to Milan to study Industrial Design at the Polytechnic. Though her involvement in the design world was short-lived, Alek’s fascination for objects remains to the extent that it has become one of the key elements of her art. Reversing the perspective of design, Alek favours re-creation over creation and deconstruction over construction. Protagonists in many of her works created between 2009 and 2012 are objects chosen not so much for their formal quality as their emotional quality. A bestiary of objects related to the life of the artist - a bunch of keys no longer in use, a coffee pot by Aldo Rossi received as a gift, a family corkscrew, a work bench - are translated into sculptures not through an act of naming but the sculptural act itself. The keys thus appear reincar-nated in a rectangular slab of iron (Keys, 2010), the coffee pot in a steel plate (Il Conico, 2012), the corkscrew in a brass sheet (Corkscrew, 2010), the work bench in several rectangular panels of wood, plastic and iron according to its constituent parts (Desk, 2009). In these examples, the artist suggests with the title of the work, the form and function of the original object, but not its autobiographical import.
In changing the form but not the material of these objects, Alek’s emotive fe-tishization in their regard remains and this is one of the things that set these sculptures apart from the American minimalism of which these works are reminiscent on first sight. The minimalism and conceptualism of Alek O. are ‘warm’.
Many of the works seem to function as props in the film that is her life. Ayrton Senna (2010), Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Edward Higgins White IV (2010-2012), Brigitte Bardot (2009) are the titles in a series of embroideries, stretched over and displayed on picture frames. Each comes from a sweater belonging to the artist and is representative of a specific moment or memory of his life. Each sweater is unravelled to return to its raw, rough, material, which is then remodelled and rewoven according to a specific geometric pattern. In the case of these works, as with Alessandro (2010) and Roberto (2010), the title is not tautological, but creates an intimacy with the audience by allud-ing to the idea of a portrait, a double meaning. An object that both represents itself as an object and represents something other than itself as a person. These are narrative works in that they tell stories; stories which are as many in number as the perspectives from which we observe them. The textures of the fabrics, just as the various events related to their origin, are made and unmade in a solitary, intimate, long, laborious process.
Actions which are seemingly useless to the community, but necessary for the artist. Similarly, keeping record of all the doors through which the artist passed on a certain day in London and then reproducing them in miniature on glass (The Doors (London, 17 March 2012), 2012). Or collecting broken umbrellas found on the street and re-assembling them in the order in which they were found (Untitled (umbrellas), 2011).
However, the autobiographical element is not dominant in all her work. Particularly in her early works, the artist creates installations based principally on a subtle shift in meaning or function. Who Killed Cock Robin?, 1935 (2008) is an old Disney car-toon displayed on a TV, but as a still screenshot. As such it is no longer the plot that is important, but the stories that the image itself is capable of engendering. Los Angeles 1972-1973 (2007) is a two-minute video montage of several frames taken from the TV show Columbo where the actors are absent so that it is the set itself which becomes the protagonist. Rien que les heures (2009) is simply an image that has been found showing someone diving into a pool. Once more, deprived of any detail with which to contextu-alize it, we are forced to process the work with a more personal interpretation.
Fundamentally, all of Alek O.’s art is an invitation to open up to observing reality and allow ourselves to be convinced that everything, be it an image, object or thought, can be renamed without losing meaning, but acquiring others.
Luca Lo Pinto, «Histoire d’O.», in Moroso Award for Contemporary Art catalogue, 2013