A project by Casa Tesori
Curated by Davide Dall’Ombra, Luca Fiore, Giuseppe Frangi e Francesca Radaelli
Meeting di Rimini
20-26 August 2017

Davide Dall’Ombra

Once visitors have finished seeing the closing titles of the video, they must immediately come to terms with the first of the ten works exhibited, one that is directly linked to the theme under examination and one that is able to draw upon the Virgilian metaphor. This is Julia Krahn’s 2010 diptych, Mutter und Tochter (Mother and Daughter), in which the artist is depicted with her mother in two images that complete each other in a heartrending pendant. Krahn has for several years been using photography as a means for knowing herself and her closest family members. These two photos show the beginning of this process, and the first step – after a number of works on herself, on her own ego and on her desire for maternity – could only concentrate on her mother. This diptych is a path of knowledge but also one of acceptance, the fruit of hard labour, of a struggle engaged by her affections with her mother, gathered like her own Anchises on her shoulder, in the first photo, and in a pacifying embrace in the second. The artist plays all her stakes and asks the principal and primal affection of her life to do the same. Her total nudity is the necessary expression of her acceptance of this challenge. What we see is not the fruit of a process prepared at the drawing board, but a conquest achieved actually during the pose. The fusion between art and life is total and art becomes the place in which to amass a natural process of accepting her own being as a daughter and the mortality of her mother. The actual execution of the work of art, its technical process – made of poses, timer shots, changes of film, repositioning, physical tiredness, impatience, embarrassment – produces two images that are unexpected and perfectly complimentary, destined to certify a turning point, something essential, in their relationship. It is an iconic, perfectly achieved testimony to the process of evaluation, rejection and conquest of our parents. And the fact that this Virgilian metaphor is interpreted by a woman with her mother is not a simple gender substitution, it is an important indication of how contemporary art registers the changing times and the rediscovered centrality of the female figure. It is by no chance that the exhibition itinerary necessarily passes between these two images, these Columns of Hercules that plunge us, as if from a precipice, away from metaphor and into life. They increase, by no small degree, our expectations as we approach the other works on display. These nine “cases” are in some way exemplary. They have been chosen out of many other possible ones, not least thanks to the pertinent suggestions of Francesca Radaelli. They make no claim to codify the categories to which they belong, or to synthesise the variety of imaginable approaches. The intention has been to leave the work of art, not only to relate one of the possible ways of relating with our parents, but to demonstrate the drama, breadth and inexhaustible wealth of this relationship, especially for the self.
But the seven living artists, each presented in their own custom-made space, are to some extent introduced by two masters of the 20th century: Andy Warhol and Michelangelo Antonioni. These are present as a result of the numerous perceptions of Giuseppe Frangi which have marked out the progress of this exhibition. Two giants of today engaged in two homages to two giants of the past: Leonardo and Michelangelo.

The first work is The Last Supper, a painting in acrylic on serigraphy, transported to canvas in 1986, which testifies to the last cycle by the protagonist of American Pop Art, who died the following year. The cycle consisted of a large number of works of different dimensions and typologies, entirely dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. They were created for the Milan exhibition held a few months later at the Galleria del Credito Valtellinese in Palazzo delle Stelline, a few steps away from the Cenacolo. It may well be the most complex and detailed religious cycle ever created by an American artist. It is a testimony to an awareness of the iconic nature of Leonardo’s image, taken from a reproduction bought in a Korean shop not far from the Factory. But it is also a testimony to the fact that the artist’s faith was as real as it was hidden, linked as it was to his love for his mother. The great painting in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie is here cited literally and used as the matrix for his own work, revisited with the repetition and fluorescent colour typical of Andy Warhol’s language. It is a work that, in itself, is representative of a way of relating to the artist’s own masters. 
At the same time, it aims to grasp the iconic nature of the work that is to be reproduced, obsessively, in all its variants of number and colour. It is a hymn in praise of the surface, which Warhol had perceived to be the real field of action for a modern artist seeking depth. There is nothing irreverent here, if anything it encloses a wish: «Do you believe that the Italians are conscious of the respect I have for Leonardo? » asked Warhol of his friend Pierre Restany. 

The work that the great Michelangelo Antonioni dedicated to the Tomb of Giulio II at San Pietro in Vincoli, and to Michelangelo’s celebrated Moses, placed at the centre of the complex, is a work on silence. The short film The Gaze of Michelangelo is considered the director’s testament. Created in 2004, three years before his death, it is the only work in which Antonioni appears as an actor, and he does so occupying the entire scene. The director had himself filmed as he entered the empty church. Dragging his feet, he approaches Michelangelo’s statue. Very slowly, he comes closer to it. He examines it deeply, finally allowing himself a direct contact, caressing it. A simple, intense and moving progression. What makes it heartrending is the evident struggle of the protagonist, marked by age and, above all, by the stroke that had afflicted him almost twenty years earlier, making it difficult for him to walk and talk. But his silence is not, here, the sign of a defeat forced upon him by the ravages of time, Rather, it is the real protagonist, the instrument with which he pays homage to Michelangelo. According to tradition, Michelangelo himself had been the first to experience the full dramatic nature of that silence between art and life. When he had terminated the statue, he struck it, declaring «Why don’t you speak? » Antonioni draws upon Michelangelo’s exasperation for a perfect beauty that does not translate into life, into the possibility of speech. He creates that silence, and obtains it with complex technical means, needed to obliterate the sounds of the city while maintaining those that are pertinent and significant, such as those produced by his steps along the nave or by his wedding ring against the marble surface. Thus Michelangelo’s gaze is transformed into sound. The compulsive repetition of Warhol that releases energy, and Antonioni’s caressing of a full silence. Two opposite means sound the possible starting note for the expression of a re-earned love for our parents. They provide the visitor with a final blessing before departing on this new journey into contemporary art. 

Read full text


On display at the 2017 Rimini Meeting: I Promessi Sposi cancellati per venticinque lettori e dieci appestati (2016) by Emilio IsgròMadonna (2007) by Alberto GaruttiArcipelago (2016-2017) by Giovanni FrangiVia Crucis (2011) by Adrian PaciNew York, November 8, 2001 (2001) by Wim WendersProcession (2015) by Andrea MastrovitoQui Ora (2011) by Gianni DessìMutter und Tochter (2010) by Julia KrahnLo sguardo di Michelangelo (2004) by Michelangelo AntonioniThe Last Supper (1986) by Andy Warhol.

Go to the bookshop

Posted on: 11 November 2021, by : Alessandro Ulleri