Blurring the line between restaurant and gallery, Di Stasio's Pizzeria in Carlton follows suit from restaurateur and vigneron Rinaldo ‘Ronnie’ Di Stasio’s Di Stasio Citta which opened in 2019, with mesmerising video works projected on the raw concrete walls.
Each of the three distinct spaces in the restaurant house a vibrant, large-scale painting from a series titled Genesi by interdisciplinary, contemporary Aboriginal artist Reko Rennie. Rennie is known for works provoking discussion surrounding Indigenous culture and identity in contemporary urban environments. Many of his pieces combine the iconography of his Kamilaroi heritage with stylistic elements of graffiti to subvert romantic ideologies of Aboriginal identity.
Genesis III, located in the front Bar Sport, features three brusquely painted gold symbols commonly used by Rennie. The crown is a nod to Indigenous sovereignty and Jean Michel Basquiat, while the diamond is a reference to Gamilaraay patterning. There’s also an outline of the Aboriginal flag. In the second room, the Ladies’ Lounge, Genesis II features one of Rennie’s trademark statements, “I Was Always Here” tagged across stenciled bricks splashed with a rainbow gradient. In the Caravaggio Room, named for the leading Italian painter, hangs Rennie’s most evocative work, illustrating the First Fleet approaching land on which two Aboriginal men with spears stand armed and ready.
After his first encounters with Reko Rennie and the Genesi series - originally presented in 2015 as part of the Indigenous Arts festival, Tarnanthi - Di Stasio maintains one of Melbourne’s most exciting artist-patron relationships. Looking back on his first purchase of Rennie’s work, Di Stasio enthusiastically advises fellow art collectors to “purchase what you can't live without.”