ART NEWSROOM International

Italy's plastic fantastics

Marco Veronese, W.A. Mozart 2000

Exhibition Review by Rachel  Le Goff

Art theorist Giuseppe Chiari, the eccentric group of artists that call themselves 'Cracking Art' and multimedia sculptor Piero Gilardi, three voices in Italian art unite for an exhibition called 'Musicarte' at Florence's top gallery, Santo Ficara (11 nov. - 9 Dec.). The aim of the show is to present music through art in forms hitherto untried.

Chiari, has a long, intense rapport with music firstly as a composer and then with his participation in the legendary Fluxus and more recently, through a representational intervention resulting in images of instruments, particularly guitars. Chiari uses watercolour, collage and ink to depict a series of projects for musical events. These works on paper can be seen at Santo Ficara but Chiari's  participation in this show is more profoundly as the mentor of ideas. His life, his work is a source of inspiration for Ronda and the Cracking Art group. In fact, the exhibition catalogue reproduces not his guitars, but terse scribbled notes on music and sculpture, like cryptic poems. 

The major contribution is from Cracking Art's seven artists: Omar Ronda (a previous gallery owner), Alex Angi, Kicco, Renzo Nucara, Carlo Rizzetti, Marco Veronese and Alessandro Pianca. They are in theory, a group that likes to see themselves as a 'movement', manifesto and all. The common denominator in their works seems to be the use of plastics.  They came together under the invitation of Ronda in 1989 and in no time at all, have become a major presence in Italian art. With the city of Florence and Santo Ficara's fine gallery housed in a renaissance palace, Cracking Art have built up a close relationship. It began in 1994 on the occasion of 'The Most Beautiful Gallery in Italy' when they organized one of their first group efforts - 'Performances to save the Arno River from Pollution'. Environmentalists, Cracking Art have more recently tried to bring to the public's attention the plight of the Mediterranean dolphin by creating beautiful sculptures out of plastic and inflatable dolphins.

In the current show they contribute a harmonious range of works that overlap in techniques and iconography. Veronese's slatted portraits of famous composers rendered in plastic employ optical illusions similar to those used by Holbein in the Renaissance where the viewer must stand at strange angles to the picture plane in order to clearly see the image.
Sprayed with musical notes, the plastic bars imitate the keys of a piano or the ribs of a xylophone, thus turning the picture into a fictitious musical instrument itself. 

Continuing the portrait theme Kicco has made classical 18th century style portraits, frames and all. The pictures are veneered with clear resin and studded with plastic gemstones. 

Kicco, Saratoga 4 Stagioni, 2000

The most intricate works are produced by Ronda who entraps sheet music, photographic portraits, leaves, flowers and glittering stars into bubbling sheets of resin creating strangely kitsch collages. The theme of nature versus artificiality is thus patently obvious as we stare at the autumn leaves. Apparently the Royal family of Belgium was so impressed by Ronda's technique, they have commissioned their own portraits to be preserved for eternity within resin by the artist. 

Carlo Rizzetti has invented a series of new musical instruments called 'Organic totems'. They take the form of large batons that could either translate as drum bangers, tribal rattles or perhaps space age band leader's batons to twirl? They are made up of bamboo (natural material) and chunky colourful tropical fruit knobs in bright plastics (artificial material). Highly original, Rizzetti's work looks like a kindergarten school project; surprising and amusing.

More colourful plastic explodes off the wall in Alex Angi's sculptures that seem to visualize the abstract notion of loud musical sound. A mangled bouquet of crushed and melted plastic flutes and tubes, these onomatopoeic pieces look like they have literally burst open as the music escaped. 

Renzo Nucara presents the most elegant and perhaps eloquent composition of the group; a wall sculpture polyptych called 'Silent Music" made up of basic geometric shapes. Its singular appeal in this show is that it is not outwardly made of shiny plastic but resembles more the copper coloured and eroded surfaces of ancient bronzes. They could in fact, pass as ancient musical instruments dug up from Italy's Etruscan past or oriental Gongs that sounded for a forgotten dynasty. However they are just saved from archaeological mimicry by the subtle use of phosphorescent media that give them a slightly futuristic glow.

Renzo Nucara, Reperto (from the series Musica del silenzio). 2000

Renzo Nucara, Reperto (from the series Musica del silenzio). 2000

Lastly, the young artist Alessandro Pianca opts for a more poetic approach when he slots photographs into plastic folders of a girl enjoying listening and dancing to music. The plastic photo wallets are part of our everyday vernacular and represent the way material artificiality surrounds us at every level of our modern lives, whilst the carefree girl is the organic living thing of nature that exists and moves within this synthetic environment. Think office girl in skyscraper office, shop girl in giant mall, teenager behind a McDonald's counter or anyone sitting inside an aeroplane. Music here is not seen, or heard - its expression speaks solely through the one who listens.

Alessandro Pianca, Allegro molto e con brio, 2000

Alessandro Pianca Allegro molto e con brio, 2000

From Gilardi, one of the first italian artists who understood the potential of computer software and used it to create interactive works of art, we have for the first time in Florence his well known work already exhibited in Paris, London and New York 'Vitigno danzante' (Dancing Vine) 1989. An electronic tree hung with plastic grapes animated with sounds and lights, activated by a computer program lasting eight minutes. Gilardi attempts to reconcile the new language of high technology and the virtual reality of the internet, with our natural world. The artist intended to rewrite the interconnection between nature and man's artificial imitation of nature in creating this kinetic work that would unite the two and eliminate opposition. However as the entire piece consists of an artificial imitation of nature, theoretically the tree cannot be faithful to this idealistic aim. 

Piero Gilardi, Vitigno danzante, 2000

Piero Gilardi, Vitigno danzante, 1989

Musicarte is an innovative group exhibition that draws together three vastly different artistic personalities and connects them by theme. The galleryist has striven to present more than just art on walls -  Santo Ficara has curated an event which produced new art forms and has allowed for discourse between artists and interaction between the art and the viewer.

11 November - 9 December 2000
Santo Ficara Gallery
via Ghibellina, 164r
50122 Florence ITALY
tel. 055.2340239

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