The space between goldsmith and artist

Matteo Bonafede e Greta Penacca

20/01/2022 – 20/01/2023

There has always been a sense of convolution when determining the hierarchy between hand and mind. This is especially true in the world of jewelry. Conventional thought usually assumes that those who make are merely craftsmen, mechanical problem solvers, or at most, technical marvels; they are not the ones who think. The conceptual genesis therefore remains the domain of the artist who simply does not bother with such things.
Maestro Matteo Bonafede is perhaps the most remarkable of exceptions to this tired thought. It is true that he gracefully served as the late GianCarlo Montebello’s right hand for about thirty years, with whom he has realized works in jewelry for artists like Man Ray, Fausto Melotti, Niki de Saint Phalle and more. But this exhibition aims to spotlight the maker’s private wonders, never before exhibited, which clearly illustrate that he is an inspired creator in his own right, able to execute his own brilliant ideas in jewelry at a world class level.
At once this project defines and then immediately blurs the convoluted distinctions between Artist Jewelry – jewelry designed by artists, executed by goldsmiths, for which Babs Gallery is known – and Art Jewelry, which is more conceptual jewelry designed and made in a studio by a singular person (also known as Author Jewelry, Studio Jewelry or Contemporary Jewelry). The exhibition serves as a venn diagram of sorts: the intersections of authorship is up for question as the viewer moves from Bonafede’s own pieces to the thoughtful collaboration between himself and painter Greta Penacca, concluding with Penacca’s own singular works on canvas.
At first one might wonder what the seemingly disparate creators have in common other than their inherent bond as husband and wife, and the natural push and pull of critique that comes with sharing one roof over their two studios. But as one looks closer, a commonality of approach is revealed, as all pieces from the duo share a similar level of transparency with how they came into being. Bonafede has masterfully determined a minimal amount of passes to render a jewel totally complete– the works are feats of precise engineering, and are never more than they need to be to stand.
Conversely, Penacca’s paintings and graphite drawings are loaded with a looser, more organic energy. Though they are formalized by a dedication to mark making to create free but uniform texture, it’s her final touch of a faint but deliberate red line that draws a work to its completion. And it is this level of exactitude that unifies the two. Sharing an exhibition space for the first time in both of their respective careers, VICINO LONTANO examines the oscillating space between authorship and execution, between the varying definitions of goldsmith and artist.