Friday, May 15, 2009

Anselm Kiefer: Hortus Philosophorum at the Gagosian Gallery

I don't usually focus on private art galleries here but there's a small yet exquisite Anselm Kiefer exhibition running right now at the Gagosian Gallery on Via Francesco Crispi which is well worth going out of your way to visit. Whilst the Gagosian may present a challenge to some artists given that its principal exhibition space is an oval room, Hortus Philosophorum (a title charcoaled directly on the wall by the artist) consists of a group of eight sculptures which work perfectly in the main gallery.

Each sculpture in the series is a variation on the core form of a massive, irregular stack of books made from lead and the visitor is allowed to circle around them exploring the unique attributes of the individual works which reference poetry, mythology, and diverse strands of cultural history. I particularly liked Sternenfall (Falling Stars) in which the stack of books is surrounded by glass shards inscribed with numbers; although it isn't immediately obvious what these numbers mean – they could even be phone numbers – they actually correspond to stars in the charted galaxy. Verungl├╝ckte Hoffnung (The Wreck of the Hope) inspired by Caspar David Friedrich's arctic landscape is also very beautiful with a shattered terracotta urn and a rusted “boat” reminiscent of the grounded Hope being the evocative additions to the lead tomes.

The show is completed by a smaller room featuring large vertical collages based on photographs of Kiefer's 2005 work The Seven Heavenly Palaces, a series of monumental towers cast from concrete and lead which explored the seven stages of spirituality. The collages, instead, explore the theme of Ararat, the mountain on which Noah's Ark came to rest after the flood.

Highly recommended!

Anselm Kiefer: Hortus Philosophorum continues at the Gagosian Gallery at Via Francesco Crispi, 16 until 23 May, 2009

Photo © Gagosian Gallery

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Futurism: Avant-garde-Avant-gardes at the Scuderie del Quirinale

In recent years Rome has played host to several exhibitions celebrating what is arguably Italy's most important contribution to twentieth century art – Futurism – most notably with the exhaustive Italian Futurists show in 2001 at the Palazzo delle Espozioni and once again there in last year's The Myth of Speed which saw the Futurist aesthetic as a recurrent theme throughout. I'll admit, therefore, that I felt a little jaded towards Futurism before going to this new exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale and wondered whether I'd learn anything new or find anything to surprise me.

As it turns out, Futurism: Avant-garde-Avant-gardes, curated in collaboration with the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Modern in London and organised to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the publication of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto in 1909, does, in fact, offer something which has so far been lacking in Italy – for the first time the Italian Futurist movement is shown in a wider European context. Whilst the exhibition as a whole is rather scholastic in its approach, this presentation of Futurism alongside Cubism and other avant-garde movements of the early 1900s such as Russian Cubo-Futurism, English Vorticism, French Orphism and even American Synchromism, reaffirms the important position of the Italian movement whilst properly situating it alongside parallel creative forces.

There are several major works on loan from New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) such as Umberto Boccioni's The Laugh and his three States of Mind paintings - The Farewells, Those Who Go and Those Who Stay - as well as Carlo Carrà's large canvas The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli, which all make the show well worth a visit. I was personally delighted to find Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 also on display and even more thrilled by the section on Russian Futurism! I've always loved the Natalia Goncharova painting The Cyclist, ever since I read Camilla Gray's The Russian Experiment in Art, 1863-1922 as a student, so I was really pleased to see it here in Rome alongside a couple of wonderful works by Kazimir Malevich - Portrait Of The Artist Ivan Kliun and The Aviator.

Futurismo. Avanguardia-Avanguardie at the Scuderie del Quirinale is curated by Didier Ottinger and continues until 24 May 2009.

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