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John Armleder, Elmgreen & Dragset

‘Room Service’ is the title of the new exhibition that just opened at the Massimo De Carlo Gallery, in Milan. It’s more than a show, Room Service is a dialogue between John Armleder and Elmgreen & Dragset. The title, composed of two words, speaks clearly: it’s all about the two as a symbol of union, of exchange, of what – as Martin Buber would say – connects the I with the Thou.
In Room Service, the artistic dualism that distinguishes the work of E&D intersects with Elderman’s ‘less is more’ approach. The result is a synergistic exchange of installations, canvases and ready-made’s, a six-handed action that merges with ‘millerighe’ marbles, rationalist intarsias and eclectic ceilings of what once were the rooms of Casa Corbellini-Wasserman.
Each space is unique: the overture begins in the main living room, where the dialogue between the artists arises through the artworks on the walls, whose dots are repeated on the notebook of the child sitting on the floor, as well as in the sequences of fried eggs in Armleder’s ‘Liop Elip’ and ‘Pile Poil’ canvases. The gash in ‘Safe/Black Dot Painting’ reveals the presence of a safe: it’s a prelude to E&D’s systematic analysis of daily life, thought as a set of social, affective and economic conventions. The kitchen, on the left, is a prime example: ‘Powerless Structures, Fig.85’ shows a messy pile of dishes inside the sink waiting to be washed, although each is immaculate. The tableware on the sideboard is decorated with brains and meal calories, while a mop is ennobled on a pedestal (‘Woody (FS)’, 2022).
The objects’ loss of functionality makes them magnets capable of capturing the viewer’s attention and placing them in an almost discomfortable condition of mediation between E&D and Armleder. From the broken glasses in the living room (‘Charivari’, 2015), to the vulture towering on a perch in the corner of the smoking room, as well as the doors with two handles that don’t open, the E&D’s ‘Coupled Lamp’ in white marble, or Armleder’s ‘Furniture Sculpture’ – which combines a desk with double drawers, two acrylic canvases and broken chairs: a pervasive dualism that once again underscores how looking inward is a way of looking around us, at our everyday life and the seeming randomness that fills our days. And fate is precisely the element with which the exhibition concludes, manifesting itself in the last room – completely covered in optical motifs – in the artwork ‘Wheel of Fortune’. There’s no prize, no numbers, no darts. The wheel is naked, consisting of a single large mirror that shows our face as it continues to turn on itself. An invitation to question? The answer is in its reflection.
‘Room Service’ will be open to visitors until May 13, 2023, at Massimo De Carlo Gallery, Viale Lombardia 17, Milan.


Oscillating between the ideas of presence and absence, juxtaposing bodies with objects and bringing us into contact with them, the artistic integrations between John Elderman and Elmgreen & Dragset analyse the everyday with acute irony. The ‘Room Spaces’ rooms themselves become part of site-specific installations in which the here and now of the works exists in relation to the floors, walls and fixtures of one of the most successful examples of Piero Portaluppi’s architectural rationalism

Credits: Text by Riccardo Omar Krichi – Photos by Simon