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Gilberto Zorio is on a serious Dr Frankenstein tip. As you walk through this mini-retrospective of the 69-year-old Italian artist (a member of the Arte Povera – ‘poor art’ – movement in the 1960s and ’70s), you may as well be in some twisted, conceptual art laboratory. Javelins jut precariously from the walls; Pyrex vials filled with alcohol hang from their tips. Shallow lead troughs lie on the floor, filled with luminous pools of copper sulphate and hydrochloric acid. Electricity fires through copper wires, buzzing noisily as, every 15 minutes or so, bright lights flash on and off.
‘Leads II’ (1968) – those trays of lead containing corrosive liquids – is the best illustration here of Zorio’s interest in alchemical transformation. As the pools of acid and copper corrode the metal, the piece mutates and takes on new life. In ‘Microphones’ (1968), you’re encouraged to approach a number of mics suspended above breeze blocks, your sounds echoing and twisting through the space.
Stars, again representing change and growth, feature heavily in Zorio’s work and here a three-metre-high aluminium pentagram hangs on the wall, while the centre of the gallery is dominated by a huge construction in the shape of a star. The symbolism is a little heavy-handed to work really well. But as soon as the lights flick off, the room comes to life. A black canoe, pierced with javelins, spins from the ceiling as bits of copper shudder with electrical charges. The darkness reveals previously unseen splashes of luminous paint and phosphorus sprinkled across the gallery. It’s a big, noisy experience that is brilliantly overwhelming.