Little Stories Colored by Irony

The discrete fascination and charm of printed paper. This, for Vincenzo Giugliano, since the time that he was young, made him very curious. He was seven years old when Francesco, his father, took him to the apartment where he was working as a housepainter ripping off old wallpaper and fixing on new. And, underneath this old wallpaper, sheet upon sheet of newspaper. Vincenzo, just learning how to read and write, stood behind his father, joking and decoding the old words from the old news that someone had glued onto the walls long before his birth. He already had a clear idea in his mind about his future métier. If someone asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?," he answered without hesitation, "A painter." For him, a painter was a person who made still life and landscapes. Far from the family's dream of an architect. In these early years, he started to understand the meaning of what it meant to draw and to build. A few weeks before Christmas, his elementary school teacher taught her class how to build a nativity scene, showing them the way to build a little house out of sugar and paper. Vincenzo, very attentive, went back home and imitated the teacher's work. The day after, he gave the exact copy of a house to her-to the astonishment and delight of everyone.

It was at school that he discovered his talents. In the second year of junior high school, the art teacher assigned a theme: "A day in your town." He thought about Sunday and drew a picture of the comings and goings of the locals in the piazza of his town. For this, he was honored with the third prize in a competition organized by his town. At age 14, as a result of the wrong advice of a teacher, his parents signed him up for a technical school of land surveying. As it was the wrong school for him, he failed. He dropped out and took odd jobs, one of which was selling fabrics in open markets. This experience taught him to love textiles-the very textiles that would appear later in his work. He incorporated jute, for example, into many paintings. Between the ages of 14 to 18, he failed in a series of schools-the wrong schools.

He looked toward the future and at the end of this difficult period, he met Mario Fortunato, a graphic art professor at the Istituto d'Arte in Napoli. And, with his help, Giugliano received a diploma in Fine Arts from a fine arts high school in Napoli. With his diploma in hand, he flew to New York in 1989 at the invitation of a friend who worked as translator. There, while working as a pizza man to stay as long as possible in New York, he devoured the modern art of the Big Apple. Picasso, Burri, Fontana, Miro-all the 20th century masters he could find at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In Soho, at a bistro one special evening, he discovered walls covered with sheet upon sheet of Le Figaro newspaper. This vision impressed him.

Back to Italy eight months later, he mixed his passion for art with the world of theater and TV that he appreciated so much. And at the Accademia di Belle Arte in Napoli, he chose to study for a diploma of set design. His teacher was Albino Ottaiano who said that the first rule was: never be afraid of big things. This directive took root in Giugliano's mind-he was never frightened. Even if he had to organize a set as big as football field . . . Also, he was not discouraged, even when his friend Vittorio asked him to create something new for his garçonnière. Giugliano remembered the New York bistro and covered the wall of his friend's place with newspaper and here, created his first angel: that of Caravaggio from "The Flight from Egypt." When his friend Vittorio left, Giugliano cut out his first angel from the wall and put it on a canvas he had painted red. This was the beginning of his voyage amongst headlines, brushstrokes, words and collage. Irony became predominant. Giugliano built scenes on canvas and wood, satisfying his own fancy by providing those very scenes with sentences of his invention.

A photo of one of legendary Rocky Marciano's matches was cut up into two separate pieces for a diptych-showing the precise moment that the two boxers began a new round. The painter intervenes to de-dramatize the suspense of the match with sentences like: "Red cheeks waiting for a kiss" or "Before leaving, between a question and an answer."

Giugliano was captured by the bizarre comics of daily life, found, for example, in his painting "Groucho Marx 59" where a procession of academics, one of whom puts their hand to their forehead, demonstrates the stress of success, and that is annotated with sentences like "Crime and punishment, there's nothing left but to laugh." Unfailingly, the word became the protagonist.

Paintings, little stories, a slice of life. Giugliano makes pictures of common people and revisits these ideas over and again in his work, accumulating stolen memories from 'the grotesque' of reality, playing with a labyrinth of visions, as did Hitchcock, his favorite teacher of thrillers. Giugliano interprets fragments of the world. He narrates deeds-stories-emerging from everyday ideas.

From Ritratti d'Autore by Donatella Gallone, Suk Edizioni, 2004.

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