The Devil in the Glass | Antonio Riello | Salon Vert | 23 October – 1 December 2012


DIABOLUS IN VITRO is Riello’s first solo exhibition in the UK, comprising of two large scale wall-mounted installations of objects made from Venetian glass.

Spending his childhood surrounded by books in an immense library compiled by his mother, Riello grew up to become a bibliophile– a book addict with a possessive instinct for holding on to his most treasured volumes. In the installation Ashes to Ashes the artist presents a new kind of library – a taxonomic style display of elegant Venetian glass chalices, each hand-blown in a unique design. Within the stem of each glass is encapsulated the ashes of a burnt book. Through this sacrificial artwork, Riello creates a ‘virtual library’ immortalising his most loved and venerated books, from children’s classics to Kafka, Freud and Plato. As he puts it they are “precious relics of self-inflicted biblioclasm“ and allude to the historical tradition of burning books to suppress heretical religious doctrines or to keep alchemical knowledge secret. Like medieval reliquaries each glass contains the vestiges of ‘sacred’ literary knowledge. They also symbolize the notion that books are becoming relics of the past with the growth of eBooks in our technologically reliant future, Riello’s ‘library’ is an ongoing project began in 2010. Presented at Salon Vert are the new books created specifically for the show and in the largest ever version of 100 books.

As a material glass has a neutral, impartial quality that Riello finds ironically appropriate for imparting emotional contexts. Civil War is an installation that consists of 100 handguns cast in opaque white Murano glass. He regards glass as a metaphor for fragility and this arsenal of pistols symbolizes aggressive behaviour, which in turn alludes to social and psychological fragility and insecurity. This installation continues the artist’s fascination with the ambivalence of violence and society’s need for aesthetics. His work often involves philosophical explorations that draw on aspects of history, craftsmanship and the epistemology of objects.

Although Riello frequently creates installations it is difficult to categorize his practice as confined to any particular form of artistic expression since it includes outdoor sculptures, site-specific installations, displays of crafted objects, drawing and photography. Yet his work can be seen as distinctly sculptural in the broadest sense where it requires the perceptual and emotional involvement of the viewer to complete it.


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