Tracey Emin, IT'S SO HOT, 2004 mixed media, ink, embroidery, and appliquéon cotton calico

Walking inside Galleria Lorcan O'Neill Roma for Tracey Emin's show immediately gives you the “kid in a candy shop” feeling. White and soft pink walls sparsely decorated with mono-prints and paintings. Pink shadows reflect from pink neon writing. Sloppy letters in vibrant colors are stitched and embroidered on fabric. It's happy. It's sugary. It's sweet. Until you start looking at words and images.

DOLLY (embroidery and appliqué on cotton calico) is the distorted image of a female figure in fuschia, titled above with the word Dolly and a gauche embroidered flower on the crotch. It's almost driving you to call the girl a cunt.

WEIRD SEX shows the faint sketch of a seated girl, embroidered in colored threads on pink fabric. Odd, yet at the same time calm as this little lady sits relaxed on a couch. Almost blasé, you would pass by it if it were for the nice light pink fabric, so you read the writing “I'm going to get you, you cunt, you bastard, and when I do, the whole world will know, that you destroyed my childhood.” Little Miss Muppet, it's not.

IT'S SO HOT, a mixture of appliqué and ink on cotton calico, is fun. Big letters stitched on to a rectangular piece of calico. Childlike with the obtuse style of the letters and exclamative complaint. Again Emin makes you look inside the piece that you might have just glimpsed at. The middle appliqué is one of her famed reverse mono-prints that could've been written by a dyslexic, it reads “Like my whole insides are being burnt out with a hot iron”. The whiney complaint takes a drastically different suggestion.

Emin has just opened her can of worms and is letting you into a perverse world of girly anger. Manipulative and calculated. Her paintings and embroidered pieces are full of articulate subtext with bitter suggestions. They are all pretty things that are tainted somehow, perhaps direct commentary on Emin's own background of abuse and rape. However, this doesn't mean that she lacks in humor in the least. Or even irony. Her large square painting MEET ME IN HEAVEN, and her two pink neon writings, 165 cm long, reading again “Meet Me In Heaven,” and, “I Will Wait For You” are my favorites in the entire gallery. They seem like they are to be directed to me, but when I think about Emin writing them, they read more like a sarcastic shrug off to a lover whose done her wrong.

Reading the show and the gallery in the context of where they are located perhaps is what amuses me the most about them. It's a sunny afternoon a few blocks from the Tiber river in the last remaining Roman enclave, a quaint, early Renaissance neighborhood called Trastevere. The gallery's street is bordered by a wonderful Renaissance botanical garden and an active nineteenth century Roman prison. Rome is not known for its Contemporary Art, so this show is a much-needed breath of brisk, fresh air. And Emin's art is a nice collection of primmed and pedicured girly manipulations, with a sugar coating. A chocolate pandora's box of nightmares mixed with a little bit of hope. All in good fun.

Erica Firpo
Los Angeles, California