It begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a loneliness. It is never a thought to begin with. It is at its best when it is a tantalizing vagueness. - Robert Frost
Scaramouche is pleased to present "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," Eric Mistretta's first solo exhibition in New York. Mistretta finds a rich source of inspiration in seemingly conflicting feelings such as optimism in the face of despair, or sincerity undermined by naiveté. For Mistretta, comedy and tragedy demand each other in a very dynamic way, a relationship the artist seeks to articulate through paintings, sculptures and installations.
Mistretta incorporates language and recognizable cultural imagery in his work, often fusing seemingly disparate elements to create visual hybrids that elicit both a feeling of familiarity and a sense of absurdity. For instance with Pale Fire, a series of canvases constructed with multiple layers of stretched nylon pantyhose, Mistretta plays with the ambiguous role of the undergarment, which conceals as much as exalts the body that it is meant to cover. In repurposing a woman's wardrobe staple, he also explores its rich materiality to create mysterious textures and intricate linear patterns that are at once elegant but also exude intimations of lust and violence.
In other instances, the artist re-contextualizes identifiable images to infuse them with a new sensibility. In the painting Ninety Poems by Robert Frost, Mistretta's homage to a twentieth century author who tirelessly avoided innovation by relying on the traditional forms of nineteenth century poetry, the artist depicts the non-existent title of Frost's imagined volume in the style of a 1990s Newport cigarette advertisement. These ads are most remembered for conveying a heavily manufactured sense of excitement and enthusiasm, which culminated in the "Alive with pleasure!" campaign. In Ninety Poems by Robert Frost, Mistretta deploys Newport's advertising strategy to instill the painting with a sentiment deliberately at odds with Frost's sobering, rural poetry.
Similarly, the works in "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" create a romantic slow-dance between the ordinary and the absurd. They conjure their own world in which preconceived notions cannot be trusted and the viewer is left to explore a very familiar, but ultimately strange place.
Eric Mistretta (b. 1985, Queens, NY) received his M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts (2012) and a Bachelor of Science in Visual Arts from SUNY New Paltz (2007). Mistretta's work was featured in The Virgins Show curated by Marilyn Minter, the inaugural exhibition of Massimiliano Gioni and Maurizio Cattelan's gallery project Family Business, New York. His work has been exhibited internationally most recently at F_AIR Gallery, Florence, Italy and MonChéri, Brussels, Belgium. Mistretta lives and works in New York.