The title of Renato Leotta’s first exhibition at London’s Sprovieri gallery, “Linea, Punto.,” enacts one of the show’s key themes: the movement toward stillness. The colored textiles and black-and-white photograms evoke nonhuman gestures and temporalities in their muted dynamics, capturing the shapes and patterns of waves, minerals, and planetary movements.
The focal point of the show are seven works from the series “Multiverso” (Multiverse), 2019-2021. Leotta made these elemental “paintings” by dipping rectangular cuts of dyed cotton into the sea and then leaving them to dry. A single salt line tracks the depth of submersion and, by extension, the height of the tide, which is connected to the lunar calendar. The moon itself appears, albeit invisibly, in “Un Riccio” (Sea Urchins), 2021, a series of “luminograms” of urchins created by exposing photosensitive paper to moonlight. With their glowing outlines, the creatures float against the black background like nameless celestial objects.
The exhibition exposes the line between the artist and the nonhuman author, and just like the lines crossing the “Multiverso” canvases, it is a hesitant, wavering one, articulating no clear divide and no total separation. These are the works of an artist who stands by and watches the sublunary world and, in so doing, invites us to follow his gaze. Perhaps the silence on his part is what makes the work so empathically alluring, if visually plain. Today, there is not a single millimeter on Earth’s surface where human activity cannot be detected, and so we long for the material simplicity of the original elements that existed before the introduction of thousands of new chemicals and substances in the fossil-fuel age. In Leotta’s oeuvre, we find that simplicity.