Friday, January 4, 2013

Castles in the Air


Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I find it amusing to learn which modo di dire or expressions are common between countries and cultures, compared to what is not even translatable. Here in Firenze, Italia, I find myself having friends not only from Italy and America, but also from many other countries as well. One of my dearest friends, Caroline, is a Brit. She called me on New Year’s Day (and thankfully on this particular morn, not before noon!) and invited me to meet her and our Italian friend Doria at Palazzo Strozzi. We went to see the exhibit "The Thirties. The Arts in Italy Beyond Fascism".

It was more interesting than I expected it to be and I am not even sure how to explain what my expectations were other than I did not really have much of any. Like the Frances Bacon exhibit in the side gallery Strozzina, I had been riding the fence about whether or not I wanted to bother (I have not on the latter). I like to see art of all kinds, but I have a strong drive now to do my own thing.

I was amused because Doria and Caroline decided to share an audio guide, each taking one fork of the earplug microphones, in the same way that the kids share sounds on an iPod. They found themselves often being pulled back towards the other as their interests diverged, like a leash that kept them hostage. I rarely bother with the audio guides. Granted, they serve to give someone(s) a job, but much of talk seems like rubbish to me, or information that might be interesting, but omits what I really wanted to know about a work of art. I was able to roam about more freely.

I find that I really enjoy going to museums and exhibits in a foreign country in which English is a strong second language. I could have stayed longer at the Strozzi that day because I find it interesting how the Italian is reconfigured into English. It is a great way to learn a new language as well as appreciate anew the subtle beauties in one’s own. And so I languished among the artworks that I mostly felt little connection with, until Caroline psssstted me over to see one she thought I needed to see.

Once I arrived at her side, it was obvious why. She pointed and said, “Look at the title!” This painting (shown below) by Osvaldo Licini in 1936 is titled “Castello in Aria” (Castle in the Air). It is one of our running – and affectionate – jokes between ourselves: my ability to build many “castles in the air” (envisioned improbabilities) from one phrase, sometimes even one word (Hello?), uttered by another. What DOES it all mean? Ahhaha … Doria confirmed that not only do I do this, but Italia has the same expression. [Or as my former husband use to say, “Kelly, you could ‘What if’ me to death!”]

An exciting perk about attending group exhibits is to discover an artist that you would like to learn more about. In this mostra about the 1930s art in Italy, the one who struck my curiosity most was next to the Castle. It was a painting by Tullio Crali. Not only, like my father, was the artist an avid pilot, but his art uses mathematics in a beautiful and creative way and I was hooked! Crali’s work in this exhibit at the Palazzo Strozzi was titled “Horizontal Spin” and is shown here.

I found that my favorite part of the exhibit was the collexion of side posts that contained memories of people from that time period. The world was changing so dramatically and so quickly. The black and white hands drew me in (each panel had a different image of hands) and I read quotes such as this one:

“When Hitler came to Florence I was sent off with the Avanguardisti from heaven knows where, but still, all that orchestration was impressive. Yes, the city had been heavily “made up” for the event. You still couldn’t feel it, we only realised afterwards . . . And all this showing off, there was this business with the aeroplanes, you never knew how many were flying by; it seemed like a hundred, but it was only one flying by a hundred times. It was all about hiding things which there was nothing to be ashamed of.” ~ Lapo Mazzoi (Firenze 1925)

And this one:

“It was a crystal set, or cat’s whisker receiver, which as a very odd-looking little instrument containing a pin that was moved on a stone—it was a galvanic stone—and it managed to set up a contact with radio broadcasts. So the movement of the pin on the stone made it possible to intercept radio broadcasts, which you listened to through headphones connected to this little machine. It was technologically fascinating for those days. And then of course there were the radios, which were far simpler.
But the idea was that we could partly build them ourselves, using small parts. It was lots of fun.” ~ Franco de Peverelli Luschi (Firenze 1928)

It was interesting to note that various prestigious artistic awards of this time and place (such as the Bergamo Award and various Biennale) were caught up in politics. Perhaps not unlike today, but since that world of high-end contemporary art is still so foreign to me, I hate to comment on it. I found myself revisiting the chicken-and-egg question of whether art imitates life or life imitates art. We are all a product of our times and there are so many things happening at once that I doubt we individually have much control over what influences us. For example, in my world, it seems that there is a growing interest in “realistic” art (not even sure what that means since I see everything as relative and interconnected). Can we artists help this? Should we rebel or embrace? Should we consciously worry about these things or should we just move ahead, creating art in whatever means we are inspired to do? I am inclined to think that latter – that even if we try to remain spontaneous, we will inevitably record some part of the times we live in. That is not a bad thing, in fact, is perhaps what we are intended to do!

Links of interest :
  • Palazzo Strozzi: The Thirties. The Arts in Italy Beyond Fascism The site is actually pretty cool and you can get a good idea of what the exhibit was intending to demonstrate. Click here… then click on ‘English’ in the top left corner. Then on the right column, click on ‘Exhibition Walkthrough’ and scroll to your heart’s content.
  • Live with Art: blog post by Nora Buñuel about this Strozzi exhibit

1 comment:

Nora Buñuel said...

Thank you for including my post in your links of interest, I'm glad you liked it!

I really enjoyed the memories from the 1930s too, I believe they show us how people lived back at that time and help us understand what was behind their art.

Happy 2013!
Nora Buñuel

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