Home Magazine "In Venice"

American artist Melissa McGill - creator of the brilliant, collaborative public art project “Red Regatta”, 2019, in the Venetian Lagoon - presents her first solo exhibition at Mazzoleni London titled “In Venice” (until 18 September 2021), a grand tribute - through photography, installation, sculptural sound works and a new series of watercolors studies - to the regatta of 52 traditional vela al terzo sailboats painted in as many shades of red. The book “Red Regatta”, edited by Marsilio (2021) and designed by Beatriz Cifuentes in close collaboration with the artist, enriches the understanding of the unique aquatic experience. McGill’s personal reflections, along with original texts by journalist Silvio Testa and the curator of the Red Regatta Chiara Spangaro, and the visual portraits of the 52 armatori (boat owners) who collaborated in the project's realization.

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Since the early 1990s, Melissa McGill (b. 1969) has been deeply connected to Venice. While she was leaving there, McGill took her time to explore the local maritime culture, Venice’s humanity and the permeability - joyful and sometimes hostile - between land and see. The friendship that binds her with the city, the wind and the energy of the place connected to its fragile ecosystem, the placid atmosphere with the sound of tolling bells and seagulls flying over the lagoon, the majesty and gracefulness of the vela al terzo sailboats, are key elements that contributed to create all the artworks presented at Mazzoleni Gallery in London. And what these works leave in their glistening wake is a landscape in four dimensions, considering that they were all conceived in different phases of the Red Regatta’s project. In the photographic triptych Riflessi (2019) and in Venetian Lagoon Study (2020) - a watercolour on paper with an endless quantity of small touches of brush - the light is captured and returned in iridescent reflections that are full of charm and evocations. The vela al terzo’s vibrant colors - an excellent expedient, in the 18th and 19th Century, for the boats to be spotted - are condensed in the waves. The typical sailboats’ trapezoidal shape - whose maneuverability allows to penetrate even the lower channels and bridges - cuts, harmoniously, off the greenish blue water of San Marco’s basin, as we see in Red Regatta (Coppa del Presidente della Repubblica, Bacino San Marco, 2019). All of these elements are inside the show, legible, layered and transparent, exactly as McGill’s glass installation of red tinges on water.


Melissa McGill, Venetian Lagoon Study, 2020 Watercolour on paper, 57.1 x 76.2 cm 22 1/2 x 30 in, © Melissa McGill Courtesy Mazzoleni, London - Torino.


McGill’s chosen palette of reds for the Red Regatta - which has also been translated into hand-painted sailcloth Color Study (2019) - is a reflection on Venice historical traditions in the present days and the precarious balance between the city and the sea. Each red, each boat and each armatore has a strong individuality. Venetian reds have a very deep reference for McGill, both physically and emotionally. “The reds reference forces of life and passion, alarm and urgency, and Venice itself – from its bricks and terracotta rooftops, to its flag and history of trade in red pigment, to paintings of Titian, Tintoretto and other Venetian masters”, as Mazzoleni Art reports.


Melissa McGill, Red Regatta (Coppa del Presidente della Repubblica, Bacino San Marco), 2019 Archival pigment print with pigment 152.4 x 101.6 cm, 60 x 40 in, © Melissa McGill Courtesy Mazzoleni, London - Torino.


Melissa McGill, Color Study - Red Regatta, 2019, Signed and dated (on the reverse), Hand-painted sailcloth swatches mounted on gessoed wooden panel
101.6 x 127 x 5.08 cm, 40 x 50 x 2 in, © Melissa McGill Courtesy Mazzoleni, London - Torino.


McGill’s interdisciplinary practice is, therefore, tangible. The Red Regatta - which was born from the collaboration between many forces: art students, sailors, Venetians, Vela al terzo Association - navigated the environmental, social, cultural changes of the city of Venice, together with its dangerous climate change and water health. If, unfortunately, getting cruise ships out of the lagoon could take years, McGill’s glass work of art Acqua Alta reflects on the catastrophic flooding in Venice caused by rising sea levels and human blindness to the marine ecosystem.

Past, present and future, daily Venetian life - captured by the sculptural sound boxes Campo Box (Santa Maria Nova) and Campo Box (San Polo) - the local community entangled with the global hordes of tourists, the city and the islands, its branches. Melissa McGill’s “In Venice” is alive.


Melissa McGill, In Venice exhibition view, Mazzoleni London 2021. Courtesy Mazzoleni London - Torino.


Melissa McGill, Photo Peter Fleissig.


Melissa McGill, Campo Box (Santa Maria Nova), 2017, Painted Mahogany, speakers, amp, mp3 player and digital sound composition, 45.7 x 27.9 x 17.8 cm
18 x 11 x 7 in, Edition of 2 + 1 AP (#1/2), © Melissa McGill Courtesy Mazzoleni, London - Torino.


Click here to watch the video of Red Regatta.


Cover image: Melissa McGill, Riflessi (Red Regatta - 1 September 2019), 2019 Triptych of digital archival pigment prints, 137.2 x 91.4 cm (each), 54 x 36 in (each), Edition of 3 + 2 AP (#1/3), © Melissa McGill Courtesy Mazzoleni, London - Torino.

Written by Petra Chiodi

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