Ciao ragazzi! The mercury here in Rome hovers around 40 degrees Centegrade (which is the upper 90's for those of you in the realm of Farenheit). What better excuse then to take refuge in the cool marble halls of an art museum! For my first visit to the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, we were able to catch the 15th Quadriennale d'arte di Roma, which runs through September 14th.
As an outsider to the here and now in contemporary Italian art, this was a good introduction. However, like many survey format shows, which must be a nightmare to curate, I have to admit that it left me feeling a bit lost for vision at the end.
Primarily comprised of emerging and mid-career artists, the show spotlights 99 living artists, with a special (post-mortem) tribute to a 100th, Arte Povera sculptor: Luciano Fabro. During our visit, the museum staff was busy building a large platform for one of his final marble sculptures: "Autunno"; up to this point, not yet shown in public. The casino created by this construction caused an unfortunate interruption of some of the more subtle sound environments and video installations on the 1st floor; for example: Mariateresa Sartori's video installation "Il concerto del mondo". This subtle piece, a video cropped to the mouths of various paired speakers, each vignette in a different language, was accompanied by a soundtrack of music composed to match the rhythm and volume of the subjects as they conducted their conversation. Unfortunately, the excess of ambient noise outside of the viewing room did not serve the interests of this piece.
At a loss to interpret some morbidly lush paintings clustered on the ground level, I found myself drawn to a pair of rather cheeky works in animation shown on the second level of this gorgeous palace. The first, Federico Solmi's "King Kong and the End of the World", was a joyous F.U. to the excesses of American capitalist culture and an energized animation, to boot. Scenes of "the artist as King Kong", sporting a ballooning red erection while smashing the Gagosian Gallery to bits with the edifice of the Guggenheim had me crowing with laughter. I appreciated the way that the museum installed a large selection of original drawings from the animation around the plasma video display. The style, very "schoolkid doodling in the margins of his notebook" was accessible in a way that just barely obfuscated the naughty bits of the subject matter.
"Eine Symphonie Des Greuns", an animated environment by Andrea Mastrovito, featured similarly sketchy drawing style; in this case doubly projected in black and white over a still scene comprised of A4 sheets of paper photocopied and taped simply to the wall. The animation, a dreamlike sequence toying with the self-generated birth and death of a bearded young dude, was surreal in a way that reminded me of Rami Farah's narratives in Julia Meltzer and David Thorne's work shown at the Whitney Biennial.
Incidentally, it was impossible not to notice a heavy influence of British pop-music on this generation of Italian artists, as this piece was accompanied by a looped clip of the intro to Radiohead's "No Surprises" - and the former, by what I sketchily identified as the piano bridge in Eric Clapton's "Layla"...
I admit that I found myself a bit alienated from much of the formal work in the show, and my non-artsy husband, although born and raised in Rome, was no help to me in interpreting the movements behind the evidence. Paintings to my eye were morbidly garish, depicting either grossly overgrown vegetated environments or circus nightmares. Sculpture resonated fairly flat, with the exception of a lovely trio of maps, delicately carved into bars of cream-colored soap by Elissabeta Di Maggio. These pedestalled tesserae depicted, in turn, full aerial street maps of La Città di Messico, Parigi, e Algiers. Each complete map was enclosed in a lovely red linen box display, with the city name penned on an ornamental label.
Leaving the cool marble oasis of the Palazzo, we sported nostri casci and sped away on nostro motorino.