ORBITA. AN EXHIBITION BY MASSIMO UBERTI
The artist of the work that will change the Museo Gamba
A project by Casa Testori
Curated by Davide Dall’Ombra
Castello Gamba – Museo d’arte moderna e contemporanea
Châtillon, Valle d’Aosta
26 March – 5 June 2022
From 26 March to 5 June 2022, as it approaches its tenth birthday, Castello Gamba, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Valle d’Aosta, opens its 2022 season with Orbita, a solo exhibition by the artist Massimo Uberti, one of the greatest interpreters of Light Art in Italy, with major environmental interventions to his credit installed in several countries in Europe.
Organised by the Regione Autonoma Valle d’Aosta, Assessorato ai Beni culturali, Turismo, Sport e Commercio and Casa Testori, the exhibition is also the sixth “episode” of the Détails series, with which Castello Gamba enhances its heritage, drawing the public’s attention to one of the artists in the collection. After Federico Ashton, Federico Pastoris, Leonardo Roda, Francesco Tabusso and Emilio Isgrò, the museum continues with the contemporary, presenting, once again, a living artist.
Orbita, which gives the title to the exhibition curated by Davide Dall’Ombra, is the work that will change the face of the Gamba: a large permanent sculpture that Uberti will install this summer on top of the castle, immediately marking it out as the Museum of Contemporary Art. “An identifying work destined to become known all over the world, as this museum and the Valle d’Aosta deserve” says Jean-Pierre Guichardaz, Councillor for Cultural Heritage, Tourism, Sport and Commerce of Valle d’Aosta -. Once again this will happen thanks to the collaboration between our Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Casa Testori, an important cultural hub on the outskirts of Milan with which the Museum has been collaborating since 2018 and which will complete this cycle of curatorships for Museo Gamba with an important summer exhibition”.
Orbita is a true anthology of Massimo Uberti‘s work, with many previously unseen works, located in the exhibition spaces and rooms of the museum, in relation to the permanent collection. This is a unique opportunity to understand from whom and from what the work Orbita, which gives the exhibition its title, originated: a large ring of light that in a few months will encircle the top of the Castle and become part of the Museum’s collection. “The task of this exhibition is to tell us who Massimo Uberti is and where, in poetic and conceptual terms, the work that will be installed in the museum comes from – underlines Viviana Maria Vallet, Head of the Historic-Artistic Heritage and Management of Cultural Sites Unit, scientific head of Castello Gamba. A work that will also be ‘a sign’ for what has proved to be the home of contemporary art in the Valley. 2022 is a special year for Castello Gamba and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Valle d’Aosta: on 27 October we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its opening. It will be an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved and imagine together the future we would like to build. After some successful exhibition experiments, the last four years have been marked by the collaboration with Casa Testori, which will allow us to celebrate this tenth anniversary with the installation of a large work by Massimo Uberti, which we will announce together with an international conference dedicated to Light Art that will present Gamba and its contemporary face to the protagonists of the sector”.
In a process of dilation and liberation of matter, up to the purity of the Orbita (Orbit) that will surround Castello Gamba, the object becomes the protagonist of the space it occupies, not to circumscribe it, but to generate it. The works of a museum are trampolines of thought and emotion. ESSERE SPAZIO (BEING SPACE) is a simple luminous inscription that, marking the Castle, denounces this generative process that triggers the works in the eyes of the visitor.
This is how some of Uberti’s works participate in this re-creative process and contaminate the rooms of the permanent collection to underline key aspects of it. In the main hall, the sculpture Tre dimensioni (Three Dimensions) is nothing more than a large chair, erected to become a throne of the absolute, while it is crossed by the luminous lines of possible directions. Here it is set to compete with the heroic nature of the Castello’s protagonist, Arturo Martini’s Ercole, which is placed at the real and symbolic centre of the entire building. It is around him, lately, that Uberti’s Orbita will revolve, and it is he who is the “masculine” with whom the “feminine” of this luminous line sculpture, only apparently more fragile, now clashes. Walking through the rooms there are other unexpected works, such as the woollen kilim carpets on the floor, which open up the rooms to the harmonic complexities of ideal cities, and one of the artist’s neon chairs which, just like the paintings that surround it, accepts to be “used”, as long as the spell is not broken, transgressing the two golden rules: that of due observation time and that of looking but not touching… Coming to terms with objects is not a painless operation. Neon, like our thoughts that pass through things, does not always caress the forms of reality, sometimes it seems to overwhelm them or, better, pierce them.
This is what happens when light gushes like a sword through the rock from a book or pierces it. The same can happen between two chairs, eviscerated by the drama of a complex relationship that seeks its own thread to follow, right from the title: Due come noi (Two like us).
“Massimo Uberti is an artist who draws with light – states Davide Dall’Ombra, curator of the exhibition. To do this, he reaches out to our everyday lives, collecting objects and sketching rooms and places that belong to us. Often these are elements of disarming simplicity: a ladder, a chair, two easels, the structure of the house as we drew it as children… A simplicity that wants to corner us, forcing us to go to the essentials of what surrounds us, stressing the contours, so that the appearance of things reveals its framework, its substance. The house, the staircase, the chair become the idea that generates them and the use that makes them necessary and familiar, fundamental”.
The series of “bricks” (mattoni) (glazed, gilded, enamelled or marked with text…) created especially for the exhibition, declines in their simple linearity the basic module of constructing space for living, fundamental to the artist’s poetics. “The bricks – underlines Dall’Ombra – are the cornerstones, the ‘cornerheads’ of the artist’s thought and the imagery he creates. Four of them are marked by the topical phrases that underlie all the artist’s work: Spazio Amato, Altro Spazio, Spazio Necessario and Essere Spazio. They are the places of artistic creation, generated or welcomed by his work. It is no coincidence that the artist defines himself as ‘a designer of places for poetic inhabitants’”.
In the hall, two large works conceived by the artist almost twenty years apart face each other. Spinario, dating from 1994, is a founding work in his career, in which the homage to the famous sculpture in Musei Capitolini, one of the most popular subjects in the history of art, becomes the poetic image of the artist’s role, called to stand on the threshold between the visible world and another, infinite world, represented here by the square of light. In front of it, the large sculpture Giorni Felici (Happy Days), created for the exhibition of the same name at Casa Testori in 2011, has the mature elements of Uberti’s language: in the transfiguration of everyday elements and in the orderly, paratactic progression of the beams of light that unleash their grandeur, dilating the function of the everyday.
A second series of works created for the exhibition marks the walls of the balcony that can already be glimpsed from the inside, between the two large luminous sculptures, linking the two levels: that of the bricks and that of these canvases. They are, in fact, two closely related families that, in a certain sense, reveal the framework of the artist’s poetics. Canvas after canvas, it is possible to discover in detail the formal tools with which Uberti declines his four meanings of Space and the synthetic and generative forms that recur in his environmental and three-dimensional works: the gap, the ideal city, the line.
The last of the archetypes is Orbita, which this summer will generate the large permanent installation designed for Castello Gamba, to which an in-depth study is dedicated in the Altana. On the walls are original preparatory drawings, technical prospectuses, renderings and accounts of the genesis of the work.
In an imposing but light steel structure, as light to the eyes as it is in weight, runs a line of warm LED light, following the supporting structure for 65 metres in length, 20 metres in width and 13 metres in depth. It is an ellipse of light designed by the artist to encircle the top of the castle and embrace its perimeter: an orbit visible from far away and not only at night, it is unique in Europe and will transform the Museum into an iconic image recognisable throughout the world.
It is a work that will change the face of Castello Gamba, the result of a project developed with the artist by Casa Testori, and commissioned by the historic-artistic heritage and cultural sites management department of Valle d’Aosta regional superintendency. An orbit of which the building and the works of art it contains are the generative centre, the sun around which it rotates. The castle’s severe structure is thus pierced and lightened by a contemporary sign that accelerates the cultural irradiation capacity of its content, placed in a new circle of transmission.
Orbita is an artwork realised thanks to the contribution of Regione Autonoma Valle d’Aosta and the project is the winner of the public notice PAC2020 – Piano per l’Arte Contemporanea, promoted by Direzione Generale Creatività Contemporanea of the Ministero della Cultura (MIC).
The presentation of the work Orbita in the Altana was set up thanks to the contribution of CVA Energie.
Massimo Uberti (Brescia 1966) lives and works between Milan and Brescia. In the early 1990s he was a member of the Lazzaro Palazzi group of artists in Milan. After international acclaim for his work, in 2008 he installed the large Tendente Infinito in the exhibition Sogni di una città possibile, at the Fondazione Stelline in Milan. In 2012 he won the international Artist’Book NOPX award in Turin.
From 2008 to 2014 he taught Painting and Visual Art at the Santa Giulia Academy of Fine Arts, in Brescia, and in 2013 he directed the Macroscuola training course at MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, in Rome. He has participated in several light festivals in: Amsterdam (Holland), Gothenburg (Sweden), Ontario (Canada), Washington (USA), Manchester (UK) and Shanghai (China). He has held solo and group exhibitions in private galleries and museums, taken part in international competitions and created a set design for the Domus Aureashow of the Fondazione Italiana della Danza, with enormous success in Europe. He has worked with many public administrations and private companies such as Bentley America and Russia, Campari, Bolton Group, Maison Scervino. He was selected by the European Commission in 2013 for two workshops in Milan and Berlin on the subject: Nuova Narrativa per l’Europa (New Narrative for Europe).
He worked on a permanent installation on the façade of the University Medical Center in Amsterdam, on behalf of UNESCO, and on a widespread project involving the city of Verona on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri. The work Today I Love You is on display at Expo 2020 in Dubai.