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Articles by: Ilaria Costa

  • Art & Culture

    Borinquen. The Teaching Artist



    We are stricken by her exotic looks, she resembles like the American actress Halle Berry but she surprises us when she answers our questions in a perfect Italian with a strong roman accent! Her name is Borinquen Gallo, she is an artist born in Rome 33 years ago from an Italian father and a Puerto Rican mother (‘Borinquen’ is infact the original name of Puerto Rico). Her personal history is incredible and at the same time touching: she came to New York in 1988 with her parents at the age of 13. Her parents followed the call of Pope John Paul the II to volunteer as a missionary family and so they left everything behind and we moved from Rome to the South Bronx on a mission of the Catholic Church. The change was remarkable and while at the beginning she was rebellious and nostalgic of her comfortable life in Rome, this was truly a life-changing experience for her.

    She had to quickly learn English and Spanish while she went to high school in the Bronx going through metal detectors daily and had to adjust to a kind of derelict urban surrounding.

    At that point in her life she learned that Art was her true calling. After completing her masters’ degree in art at Cooper Union, she began teaching through “Studio in a school” a non for profit organization that places artists in the public school system. A year later she was hired by the principal and began teaching art full time at PS/IS 268 in Queens, NY. This was a truly amazing experience as she discovered that the children can learn how to draw from observation at a very early age if they are taught that even the most complex subjects can be broken down into simple lines and shapes.

    And now the works by some of her young students have been selected for two prestigious shows in the City: “The Art of Design: Selection from Studio’s Design Education” at Studio in a School Gallery and for the Public School’s annual show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York!

    For Borinquen this is an amazing accomplishment, because-as she put it-“ It was wonderful to see their work framed professionally, their enthusiasm and the fact that they can experience that being an artist today is not a myth or a delusion but a real possibility within their reach”.

     

     

    Tell us your story…how did you arrive to NYC?

    “I came to New York in 1988 with my parents at the age of 13. My parents followed the call of Pope John Paul the II to volunteer as a missionary family and so we left everything behind and we moved from Rome where I was born, to the South Bronx for a mission of the Catholic Church.”

     

    Has it been difficult for you to adjust to the ‘hard life’ in the Bronx?

    “The change was remarkable and while at the beginning I was rebellious and nostalgic of my comfortable life in Rome, this was truly a life-changing experience for me. I quickly learned English and Spanish while I went to high school in the Bronx with metal detectors and had to adjust to a kind of derelict urban surrounding .

     

    How did you become an artist?

    “ My art teacher in high school noticed me and encouraged me to apply to the Saturday Program for High school students at the Cooper Union, where I learned how to draw and put together a portfolio. A year later I applied and got in. I learned that art was truly what I wanted to do. Because of my cultural hybridity ( I am half Italian and half Puerto-Rican) and my relocation to New York I was displaced, and I felt that art helped me recognize and explore deeper layers of identity . I became aware that through the creative process you can transform garbage into art, transcend the limitations of reality and transform the familiar or even the mediocre into the extraordinary. This gave me a sense of continuous challenge as I learned to constantly reconfigure familiar materials and situations into sculptures and as I began to discover all that New York as a cultural capital rich in artistic tradition. In an increasingly globalize society art gave me the tools to think critically about issues both personal and political and provided a vehicle for dialogue…”

     

    How did you make the transition from a carrier as an artist to a career as a teacher?

    “After completing my masters I worked in at the New York historical society department of prints photos and architectural drawings, and for a publishing company reading and cataloguing art and architectural journals, then I got a job for television working as a designer for a home makeover show and finally I began teaching through studio in a school a non profit organization to that places artists in the public school system . A year later I was hired by the principal and began teaching full time art at PS/IS 268. This was a truly amazing experience as I discovered that the children can learn how to draw from observation at a very early age if they are taught that even the most complex subjects can be broken down into simple lines and shapes.”

     

    What are the aspects of your job that you like the most and which are the ones that you dislike the most?

    “Well…I realized that when given the right tools the kids are able to produce incredibly expressive work, and they constantly surprise me as they deepen they conceptual and technical artistic capacities. They constantly surpass my expectations…and I think we have a reached a level after 4 years where we are almost collaborators. When I think of sculpture now I think in terms of installation. So if we are making a sculpture of a buffalo, and I have 25 students, then the sculpture becomes automatically an installation of a heard of buffaloes. I see that when I direct them now is almost a symbiotic process we need each other in order for the artwork to come to exist. This does not happen without mayor challenges mainly the fact that as an artist you sort have to work within the relatively restrictive and regimented time schedule of the public school system, but thanks to Studio in A School and the Collaborative Community Initiative of which my school is now a part of w e are slowing changing the culture of the school as the arts are becoming a central tool for learning.”

     

    How does it feel when you see your students’ art work shown in prestigious art spaces and museums?

    “One of my students work Nibras Choudhury self portrait was included in the PS art 2008 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I am thrilled with the exposure that my students are getting, because I really see that children art has an incredible potency that needs to be recognized and validated. It was wonderful to see their work framed professionally, their enthusiasm and the fact that they can experience that being an artist today is not a myth or a delusion but a real possibility within their reach.”

     

    What do you make of the New York contemporary art scene?

     

    “The New York scene is exciting and while the city is always incredibly competitive is also incredibly inclusive…there are so many opportunities it just takes the energy to look for them and the time to make the artwork ….but there is virtually a market for every type of work…it is just a bit overwhelming to navigate sometimes.”

     

    What scares you in life?

    “What scares me is the dispersion of energy …I am interested in so many things and New York offers so many things that while I constantly try to possess her I find myself never fully able to do so…this tension is what keeps me interested and constantly challenged…what scares me is to settle and never move again…I am beginning to feel that the tension of the movement and the precariousness of the uncertainty of the future provides a state of alertness and allows me to live the present fully…also if a boat has no anchor and keeps moving then the tiding will never drown it, so even if I am not necessarily moving to maintain the elasticity and the willingness to constantly adjust to new situations and a sense that I have not arrived yet…is what keeps me on the edge and this tension produces a creative impulse…that of making the best of the limited tools we have at the moment…teaching makes you really good at this.”

  • Art & Culture

    The Artist's Iron Man: a Life in Sculpture and Film



    I am meeting Vincenzo Amato for an interview in front of his studio on the Lower East Side.

    While I wait for him, I think I have gotten the address wrong. I find myself in front of a splendid building with unusual architecture, with neo-Romanesque arches and columns that could belong to a decaying, deconsecrated church. I hear my name called and there he is: Vincenzo. I immediately recognize the Sicilian actor’s beautiful smile... but on his face I unexpectedly note an expression of veiled reservation, an almost shy reluctance. Vincenzo Amato – known to the public at large as a successful actor for his film roles in Once We Were Strangers, Respiro, and Nuovo Mondo by Emanuele Crialese – is, in fact, a sculptor.

    With typical Sicilian hospitality, he guides me through the building which I soon discover used to be a public elementary school, built in 1890 and abandoned in the 1960s. He tells me how he happened to take ownership of the place during his first few years in New York in 1993. He was fascinated by the magic of the then-crumbling space that reminded him of the ancient bakeries in Palermo. He explains that he chose for his studio the area which was originally the women’s restroom because it was on the ground floor and covered with tiles, and therefore the ideal place for a sculptor who works with heavy materials such as iron.

     

    His artistic journey began in a far away place. Born in Palermo in '66, at 18 years old, he moved to Rome to become a blacksmith, and in '92 he landed in New York where he began his career as an artist in this studio. At first he collaborated with the city of New York in the construction of large iron structures and later, he assisted the Greek sculptor Cryssa and worked on different projects with the American sculptor Norman Campbell. In New York, he is represented by the Earl McGrath Gallery where he has exhibited his work in numerous shows. He was the only young Italian selected for Cairo’s Biennial and in the last few years he has participated in various international art exhibitions. Despite the heterogeneous quality of his art, his sculptures always present a sense of clarity and lightness, behind which there is a hidden dedication and a gravitas that I was also able to pick up in Vincenzo’s personality during our interview: an entirely Sicilian vibrancy coupled with a profound sense of connection to the ancient traditions of his land.

     

    How did you arrive in New York?

    By chance: in ‘93 I came to this city for my friend’s wedding and I was immediately struck... above all by the iron structures. In Palermo, the city where I was born, I was already working with iron since I was a child, and then at 18, I moved to Rome and I continued working with this material, creating wrought iron furniture. Here in New York I became friends with an American artist – Norman Campbell – and I started to work with him... I then worked with the city of New York to create iron structures.

     

    Iron is without a doubt your favorite material for your sculptures. Where was your passion born?

    I believe that every one of us has an affinity for materials that are complimentary to our very being; I would say that iron is the material that best corresponds to my energy and to my body. Manipulating material is a bit like dancing. You must have the right partner and create a sort of unconscious dialogue between your hands, your being, and the matter that you are molding. Yes, it is exactly like a dance – you have to find the rhythm and the right affinity between your body and your partner, the correct medium… In reality, in my recent work for my show in October at the Earl McGrath Gallery, I experimented for the first time with plywood tables, but the concept is the same. In general I am fascinated by “poor” materials that are considered ugly for this reason. It challenges me to “ennoble” them. I enjoy extracting the beautiful from the ugly. Iron, like plywood, is a material that is used, abused, and often thrown out with the trash. I am passionate about collecting it to pull out the beauty of its compact interior and in this way, give it shape and color.

     

    Where do you draw inspiration for your creations?

    My source of inspiration is that truth from when I looked at things as a child... I draw inspiration from everything that struck me during my infancy until I was seven years old. I try to tap the well of unconscious memories that accumulate during the first years of experience in the world, and I want to capture the same amazement in the face of these things. And then there is discipline… the self-discipline that I try to practice everyday.

     

    What is the relationship between your work and Sicily, where you are from?

    My relationship with Italy is really a relationship of memory… of colors and shapes whose roots are in my childhood. I am convinced that anyone raised in Italy has unconsciously received a very incisive visual education. Having constantly been exposed to artistic masterpieces of incredible beauty, one implicitly receives an education in taste that remains unmatched.

     

    Your artistic career as a sculptor began in New York. What has the city given you that you have then transferred to your sculptures?

    Space, light, and energy.

     

    Are you satisfied with your artistic career?

    To be an artist, for me, is not a career, but a necessity. It is not a right, but a privilege...and a curse at the same time. Being an iron sculptor I have, though, had the fortune of acquiring a dexterity that has allowed me to weld furniture during financially difficult periods.

     

    What do you like least about your work?

    It is very difficult for me to begin a sculpture... I am lazy at the beginning. It requires a lot of energy to find and lift the iron. Starting is always rough: it has to do with physical work and then I am never completely satisfied when I finish it. It is as if, during the entire process, I am only experiencing brief flashes of happiness... In my creative process, 95 per cent is toil and fight, and five per cent is gratification, besides the 30 seconds of self-satisfaction when I finish a sculpture... As an actor, instead, I loathe the long waits of dead time on set.

    How do you reconcile your activities as an actor with those of an artist? Are they in conflict or does one improve the other?

    Well, when I act it is as if I found myself inside one of my compositions; I don’t look at them from the outside like I do when I create a sculpture...but it is me, myself inside the work. I would say that for my personality, the alternation between acting and sculpture is perfect. Every day I come here to the studio and I work on my sculptures in solitude, master of my own space and time. Then the telephone rings and they offer me a part in a film, something interesting, and for a few months I find myself catapulted into the midst of the frenetic reality of a film set with so many people around me... actors, make-up artists, hairdressers, directors, etc... and then once the work is finished, I return to the solitude of my studio. I consider this alternation a real fortune.

     

    Do you have time for a personal life? What do you like to do with your free time?

    Yes, absolutely. At 7pm I close up shop and I go home to eat and I watch many movies, but always at home, in my green neighborhood in Brooklyn. I do not have an active social life, or a film life, or an art life. Whenever I have any free time, I seek out nature… I look for trees and animals.

     

    It is a popular opinion that contemporary art has lost its relationship with the general public. What do you think?

    I am not entirely in agreement… the possibility of dialogue between the public and the visual arts is still there... although we live in an extremely commercial world, in the sense that contemporary art is seen as an investment and is acquired by collectors, not because they like it, but as an investment, as a transaction on the stock exchange.

     

    An unforgettable moment since you have been in New York?

    There are many... but I would say one is particularly vivid in my mind… when I went over the iron bridges in New Jersey seated on the back of a pick-up truck, on a splendid sunny day in June many years ago… all that iron and that view for me, a life lived in iron, inspired an unforgettable emotion.

     

    Translated by Giulia Prestia, photos by Alessia Bulgari

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Art & Culture

    A Journey in Form Through Lightness, Grace, and Irony


    On Wednesday evening at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, the opening of Florentine artist Paolo Staccioli’s first American solo exhibit took place. The show will run at the Institute until June 30. In line with the new synergistic spirit that the director of the IIC, Renato Miracco, hopes to imprint on the politics of the Institute, the exhibition was organized in collaboration with the American gallery Kiesendahl + Calhoun Fine Arts Ltd. and the Florentine gallery Paradigma. At the same time, several of Staccioli’s bronzes will also be on display in the wonderful sculpture garden LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton.

    In his opening address, the director of the IIC warmly thanked Paolo Staccioli who generously donated one of his famous warrior sculptures to the IIC’s permanent collection.

    The exhibition’s title, “Journey in Form: Luminous Ceramics of Paolo Staccioli,” immediately suggests a metaphorical artistic journey through the joyful, graceful, and ironic shapes in ceramic created by the Florentine artist. Visitors can admire a well-edited selection of ceramic figures of travelers, warriors, horses, busts, and decorated vases. These all demonstrate Staccioli’s extraordinary technical ability, and with a disarming modesty, they declare that he is more craftsman than artist.

     

    Considered to be one of the most talented ceramicists and sculptors in Italy, Staccioli is relatively unknown to the American public, although he has exhibited his work in many institutions all over the world – in Europe, Japan, Brazil, Russia, and China.

    The city of Florence inducted Staccioli into a select group of outstanding artists in 2005-2006 with a monograph exhibit at the Porcelain Museum in the Pitti Palace followed by another exhibit at the Archeological Museum of Fiesole in 2007.

     

    Born in Scandicci, Florence in 1943, Staccioli tells us that he began his artistic career at a very young age and that he is self-taught. At only thirteen years old, he left school to completely dedicate himself to painting but in the 1980’s, he decided to abandon painting in order to make his subjects come to life in ceramic. At this point in his life he began the intense and continuous search to create and mold new figures; although they take on different forms, specific images repeatedly appear in his iconography.

    The figure of a horse, especially a rocking horse, is central to his artistic production and connected to a vivid memory from his childhood. The image, as Staccioli tells us with contagious emotion, emerged from his memory as a child when he happened to see a photograph of his father, sitting on his grandmother’s knee, who was holding a small wooden pony in his hand.

    The artist – then child – looking at the photograph of his father-child, remembers that he was fully aware that his father was about to lose his mother because of the Spanish influenza epidemic that tormented Florence in 1918. The image of the horse was indelibly imprinted in his mind and has remained with him since then. In his creations, the image evokes the contrast between the innocence of childhood and the inevitable experience of loss.

     

    The artist takes us on a journey through his work with the ability of a skilled leader and the freshness of a spirited child. He shows us the subjects that are dearest to him and that represent the dominant theme of the exhibit. He indicates the way in which the warriors, travelers, and more recently, the cardinals, create a perfect osmosis between the pictorial and sculptural surfaces. In his artist bio, he tells us that his first pivotal experiences with ceramics were in bas relief terracotta and the experimentation with glass enamels through the process of heating to reduce oxygen. This technique was later refined in the Faenza workshop under the expert guidance of craftsman Umberto Santandrea.

     

    During our animated chat, sparkling with his strong Tuscan accent, Staccioli confessed that he was inspired by the old masters of the Renaissance and that he has always had a sort of passion/obsession for The Battle of St. Roman by Paolo Uccello. He has remained fond of this work since childhood because of its formal and compositional qualities as well as its expressive energy from the surrealistic tones.

     

    The influence of ancient art in Staccioli’s creations is tangible in its constant connection with tradition, freely reinterpreted through associations and contemporary influences and arriving at truly expressive and original forms. Staccioli builds his fantastic world immersed in a dreamlike space beginning with classical pottery fragments and the Etruscans, his own studies of Leonardo and paintings by the old masters, and are matched with his own personal life experiences.

    The combination of vitality, creativity, and technical curiosity are at the base of the artistic and cultural path that allowed him to discover the expressive potential of ceramics and to give into nature and the malleability of matter. Paralleling his use of traditional forms, he fragments, distorts, studies, molds, cuts, and finally arranges the figures in an intimate space.

     

    These aspects are summarized in the elegant catalog curated by art critic Elisa Gradi, in which one reads: “Staccioli creates an extensive number of figures inspired by the reality that surrounds him. Through the use of his unlimited creative ability, these figures become authentic icons…. In this manner, the travelers become archetypes of a civilization which migrates through an endless journey.... They are real men and women from cities, compelled to wait indefinitely for trains and subways that perpetually run late…motionless, empty, absorbed in the thoughts that help them tolerate the wait.”

     

    At the conclusion of our walk through the exhibit, we spontaneously think of three key words to consider while we admire the ceramics of the Florentine master: lightness, grace, and irony… you will notice immediately that there are none better to exemplify the authenticity of “quality.”

    (Translated by Giulia Prestia)

    Published in Italian by Oggi7 (05/08/2008)

  • L'IIC di New York apre le sue porte al mondo del design


    Nella sede dell'Istituto di Cultura in Park Avenue sabato scorso erano presenti  personalità di spicco del mondo del design italiano, intervenute per inaugurare sia la Fiera del design di New York che per presentare al pubblico americano il nuovo ed innovativo ‘Museo del Design’, recentemente aperto a Milano negli spazi della Triennale.

    Ha aperto la serata il filmato realizzato dalla redazione della trasmissione televisiva Italia Cult in onda suRai Italiache mostra i nuovi spazi del Museo del Design di Milano e della Triennale attraverso una serie di interviste condotte dal giornalista Michele Mezza ai suoi ideatori e direttori.
    Ricorrendo ad una citazione di Vitruvio “un oggetto deve essere bello ed utile”, il Direttore dell’IIC Renato Miracco ha sottolineato la centralità della qualità del ‘made in Italy’ nel campo del design internazionale ed introduce i prestigiosi ospiti presenti, tra i quali la Direttrice del Museo del Design, Silvana Annichiaro, il Direttore della Triennale di Milano, Andrea Cancellato ed il celebre ‘Re del design italiano’, Gaetano Pesce, residente a NY da oltre 30 anni.
     ‘Cos’e’ il design italiano?’ questo il filo conduttore dei vari interventi che si sono susseguiti nel corso della serata. A rispondere per prima è stata Silvana Annicchiaro, direttrice del neo Museo, che spiega come questo interrogativo sia stato la motivazione per identificare l’esigenza e consentire la realizzazione di un Museo dedicato esclusivamente al design ‘made in Italy’.
    Un Museo - chiarisce la direttrice - che ha visto la luce dopo 50 anni di gestazione, un museo che mancava nello scenario dei musei italiani, ma che sarà diverso da quelli tradizionali. Sarà innovativo nella concezione e nella realizzazione. Sarà come un organismo vivente, in costante cambiamento per seguire le mutazioni del design italiano e rappresentarne le sue contraddizioni interne. Ci proponiamo di offrire ai visitatori nuovi punti di vista. Con percorsi ed itinerari differenziati il museo si colloca proprio nell’incrocio multidisciplinare che costituisce l’essenza del design, ovvero: arte, industria e società’.”
    Andrea Cancellato, Direttore della Triennale, nel suo intervento ha proseguito su questa linea di pensiero, sottolineando come “il museo rappresenterà il design italiano attraverso una serie di mostre, eventi e performance rinnovate ogni 12-18 mesi, con nuove istallazioni tecnologiche su temi ogni volta differenti. Questo per distinguerlo da un museo tradizionale che cataloga e storicizza freddamente in ordine cronologico e statico i pezzi di design... ci si propone in tal modo di esaltare l’aspetto ‘emotivo’ di questi spazi, con iniziative che coinvolgono il livello delle emozioni prima ancora di quello dell’intelletto.”
    Su questa nota non poteva mancare l’intervento del maestro Gaetano Pesce. Tutta la sua produzione è caratterizzata infatti dall’ accentuazione delle componenti emotive, a partire dall’uso dei colori vivaci e dalle forme antropomorfe ed evocative, che sono la sua cifra stilistica.
     
    Alla domanda ‘perchè un americano dovrebbe andare a visitare La Triennale di Milano’, Pesce risponde che gli spazi del museo e della Triennale sono prima di tutto ‘spazi di piacere’ dove la cultura è una sorta di comprensione emotiva prima di essere conoscenza.
     
    Secondo il Maestro infatti un oggetto di design deve essere utile, ma deve prima di tutto piacere in modo viscerale. Solo in tal modo ci potrà essere una vera comprensione e quindi una produzione di cultura, che passa prima attraverso i canali dell’emotività e poi in quelli della razionalizzazione intellettuale.
     
    La serata è stata chiusa da Gaetano Pesce con un provocatorio interrogativo sullo stato dell’arte contemporanea e del suo rapporto con il design: “Dato che l’arte contemporanea non riesce più comunicare universalmente ad un pubblico che non sia addetto ai lavori, può il design oggi essere considerato la vera arte che interpreta la nostra contemporaneità?”



     

  • Art & Culture

    Lightness, Fragility, and Musicality – An Interview with Renato Miracco on “I Viaggi di Fausto Melotti”



    “Art is a journey,” wrote the artist, and this exhibit shows that art is a journey made up of small moments described through images and words where the soul of the poet Fausto merges with the artist Melotti.

    The exhibit at the Italian Cultural Institute runs concurrently as the first American retrospective dedicated to Fausto Melotti at the Acquavella Galleries and presents a small group of high quality work: 13 drawings (the visual counterpoint of 13 poems on display), 3 sculptures, and 14 photographs by Ugo Mulas. Mulas, Melotti’s close friend, captures the artist in intimate moments in his studio or at important public events such as the Venice Biennale in 1966.

    The elegant catalog which accompanies the exhibit inaugurates the series I Quaderni dell’Istituto di Cultura Italiano. Published by Charta Art Books, I Quaderni are curated by Director Renato Miracco with the intention of leaving a lasting impression of the many initiatives undertaken by the Institute.

    In front of an attentive audience, the Director opened the evening and introduced the screening of the documentary produced by the Melotti Archives to reveal the sculptor-poet to the American public.

     

    The guests at the event included Signora Castellaneta, wife of Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta, Consul General of New York Francesco Maria Talò, and the late artist’s daughters, Cristina and Marta.

    We interviewed Renato Miracco with much curiosity and interest about his double role as art critic and profound admirer of Melotti’s work, as well as Director of the Institute.

     

    How did the series I Quaderni dell’Istituto Italiano di Cultura come about?

    “At first, from my position as the Director of the IIC, I wanted to maintain continuity with the Institute’s initiatives. I wanted to leave a tangible record of the various exhibits that we curated and hosted in our gallery.

    In the process of restoring the building, we discovered archival material of considerable historical interest. We found, for example, interviews with famous luminaries of Italian literature such as Eco, Ungaretti, and Bassani. Some were recorded, others were transcribed. I Quaderni are divided into two sections: Quaderni Letteratura and Quaderni Arte. The first is dedicated to literature, accompanied by illustrations and a CD where interviews with the greats of literature are recorded.

    Quaderni Arte accompany our internal exhibits currently on display, such as the retrospective on Melotti which is concurrently showing at the Acquavella Galleries.”

     

    The synergy between Italian and American institutions seems like a winning strategy in the politics of promoting Italian culture on American soil. How is the IIC responding in this sense?

    “We have organized many events and we are always promoting events and exhibits currently on display at both Italian and American galleries, museums, and art institutions. This exhibit on Melotti is a direct result of our collaboration with Archivio Melotti and the Acquavella Galleries.

    Another example of this synergy between institutions is represented by the second issue of the Quaderni Arte which will be entirely dedicated to Morandi. In fact on September 15 the Metropolitan Museum of Art will launch an important retrospective on this artist, and at the same time we will exhibit Morandi’s sketches and watercolors at the Institute, while Casa Italiana will show several of his etchings.

    In this way, we want to become part of the American scene through a two-fold approach; we not only direct our initiatives toward the Italian community in a self-reflective way, but towards the American public on the whole. For example, architecture from the Venice Biennale will be presented at the Whitney Museum with related events organized at the IIC.

    My stance is to partner with those who go beyond Italy. For this reason, all of our events are held in English. In this way, we expose ourselves to criticism because we are not using our native language for the presentations. For me it is a necessary choice, one that reflects the market. I am convinced that my role as Director is to broaden the audience for our events!”

     

    Melotti’s work is included in prestigious collections and museums throughout Europe. How is the artist’s work received on the American market?

    The story of Melotti’s critical acclaim and the market for his work is incredibile... and unpredictable at the same time.

    He is very well known in Spain, France, Italy, and I would say in all of Europe. Europeans are passionate admirers of his sculptures, but unfortunately Americans have not had the opportunity to appreciate his extraordinary talent. He is an artist who has contributed to great innovations in mid-century modern art in Italy, with an artistic language that is both universal and highly personal at the same time.

    Thanks to the generosity of the Archivio Melotti, we are finally able to share the importance of this marvelous artist’s work with the American public.

    More than 20 prestigious European museums do in fact have works by Melotti in their collections, but in America they are only at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

    His work is gradually entering into other relevant American collections. There is so much to discover... especially after this retrospective and the subsequent article that was published in the New York Times, which has finally recognized Melotti’s greatness, giving him the visibility that he deserves.”

     

    What are the aspects of Fausto Melotti’s work that immediately stand out for you?

    “I am moved by lightness with which Melotti expresses himself. The lightness, the fragility, the musicality with which the artist depicts emotions strikes me... in a word, the poetic nature of his work hits me. It is as if the artist is excited by immediate perceptions, and he renders them in the pure lines of his sculpture. I am fascinated by his inclination towards the irrational, the poetic, the fantastic.... They are frequently mediated by geometric and architectural figures where color and light play a fundamental role.”

     

    The show at the Institute includes snapshots by Mulas, a close friend of Melotti, and with a few simple details Melotti the artist as well as the man is revealed…

    “Yes, it is a magical yet silent dialogue between two great representatives of art…every snapshot becomes a personal conversation between the two men. With a delicate sensibility, Mulas shows the man before the artist and captures the creative intention... precisely before it is expressed and translated into sculpture. In this conversation of ‘silent gazes’ there prevails a sincere feeling of humanity, a sense of respect and mutual admiration.”

     

    Art is a kind of breath of the soul,” is a passage from your essay in the Quaderno on Melotti.

    “Melotti’s art is a form of inspiration. It provokes in us the viewers, as it does in the artist himself, a sort of ‘creative bewilderment.’ This is also true of all of contemporary art. As a viewer in front of a work that you don’t seem to understand at first…it is because the work does not speak to you on a rational level... comprehension does not go through rational channels but the emotion of the work nevertheless arrives at you…but it arrives from another direction... it strikes you in the navel. The intellectual approach is only one level, while a work of art speaks to the heart. There are other levels of understanding that are respected and nurtured.”

     

    As an art critic, what is your method of writing and your approach to works of art?

    “It is not aesthetic writing, it is not theoretical, and it is not even a type of social criticism of art.... I don’t have a real method. In the process of writing I close my eyes and try to capture the proto-rational, that which precedes comprehension. I write with my eyes closed, I do not pause at each word, but I put myself in direct contact with the work, and I then verbalize and translate it into words.

    Today most people read very little, but it is still necessary to deliver the message... it is necessary ‘to enchant’ people. In my role as an art critic I have to be a little bit like the ‘pied piper.’”

     

    What do you hope that a visitor would say as he or she is leaving an exhibit that you curated?

    “I would be pleased if a visitor leaving the show would say: ‘I have uncovered a part of myself that I did not know existed; I dreamt with my eyes open; I will look at reality through a new set of eyes that I did not have before. I left the show with a spring breeze in my heart.’”

     

    (Translated by Giulia Prestia)

    Italian version published in "Oggi 7" (05/18/2008)

     

     

  • Art & Culture

    Being an Albanian Immigrant in Italy: "Amidst Great Friendships and Great Prejudices"


    This new interview in our series on young Italian artists that live in or gravitate around the New York contemporary art scene is with Adrian Paci. Born in Albania, he has been an Italian citizen since 1997.

    Last week two of his individual exhibits opened at the same time: one at the Smith-Stewart Gallery on the Lower East Side, and the other at the Peter Blum Gallery in Chelsea. He is also featured in the collective show “Senso Unico” at P.S. 1 MoMA with 8 other young Italian artists. These shows are the sign of the international acknowledgment that he has achieved non only on the European circuit, but on the other side of the ocean as well.


    His artistic production, comprised of a vast range of different artistic mediums – from video installations, to photography, to painting, to sculpture – is profoundly influenced by his own experiences and his life as an ‘immigrant”. Born in 1969 in Skhoder, Albania, he lives and works mostly in Italy, out of his studio in Milan.


    After his formal training as a painter at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana, his artistic practice changed forever after his decision to move to Italy, leaving behind his homeland to begin a new life in Milan.


    For Adrian Paci life and art are inevitably entwined and inseparable and they constantly inform one another; it is the theme of immigration that is the common threat links the various works in the three New York exhibits.


    Adrian is a direct type, answering questions about immigration and art in a straightforward way, often terse, leaving aside any ‘artist’ jargon to get directly to the point and deconstruct trite clichés and prepared answers. He tells us that he lived his condition as an Albanian immigrant in Italy ‘amidst great friendships and great prejudices’.

    A question that you must hear a million times: what are the reasons why you moved to Italy in ’97 leaving behind your homeland, Albania?


    “Wanting to explore the world, the complete isolation of communist Albania, the desire to leave the past behind, the dream of Italian well-being, the anarchy of ’97, the love for Piero Della Francesca, Leonardo, Fellini, the lack of electrical power, pizza and spaghetti…I can keep on going, but I’d rather stop here, because I think these examples convey the great push that spurred me.”


    How did you live first hand as an Albanian immigrant in Italy?


     ‘Amidst great friendships and great prejudices’.


    When did you decide/realize you were an artist?


    “I always knew…, …all joking aside, when I was young I would draw and paint and then my dad started bringing home books and I began to myself with the classics of art at a young age; then the high school for the arts, the academy. I don’t remember a single time in my life when I thought of doing something else.”

    Your personal experiences influence all of your work from the videos to the photographs, sculpture, etc… in what way does your personal experience as an immigrant influence your work?


    “One can be a victim of their personal story or can choose to use it. I have chosen to avail my self of it, and when I say avail myself I don’t mean to just describe it, but something more. There is always a change in quality that has to happen between the life experience and it’s transformation into language. “


    In light of recent events, what do you think of the current immigration situation in Italy? What should the Italian government do to deal with this issue more effectively?



    "Oh please, don’t ask me to give advice to the Italian government!…

    All I know is that immigrants are indispensable in every nation, if only because they are the ones that push us to put the concept of nation up for debate.”

    How much of ‘Albanian’ is there in your work and how much of ‘Italian’? How do you think that Italy has influenced your artistic imagination and how much of your homeland is mirrored in your work?



    “Well actually I hope that there’s also some ‘Indian’ in my work!…I mean…, I think that art should speak to everyone!

    Certainly Italy has influenced my work in a definitive way. From Leonardo to Pasolini, from ancient Rome to the Law ‘Bossi-Fini’, it even rhymes.”

    Do you see substantial differences between immigration in the US and in Italy?



    “Tragically migrations all look alike, even if there are unique situations. The Albanian migration arrived in Italy with the energy of an explosion caused by the pressure felt after 50 years of isolation imposed by the communist regime. This brought about a mix of enormous energy but also violence.2

    What is the message of your work?


    “In a lesson given by Agamben in Venice I took note that ‘ the function of thought is to make life livable’. There, I hope that my work contributes to ‘making life livable’.”

    What do you want to be said about your work?



    "That they open possibilities,…that they contribute to ‘making life livable’.

    Did your family support your life choices?



    “Very much.”

    Future projects?



    “Keep going.”