Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Strange Bedfellows -- Aldo Rossi & Emilio Vedova Together in Venice

Theatre and refurbishment of la Pilotta, Parma, 1964-1985
Pen, crayon and coloured pencils on paper, 96.5 x 132 cm. Private collection, courtesy Fondazione Aldo Rossi, Milan
(Venice, Italy) Aldo Rossi (1931-1997) received international recognition in architecture, product design, drawing and theory. Excelling in just one field is enough for most individuals, but Rossi was unique. In 1990, he was the first Italian to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture, an annual award that honors "a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture".

New Yorkers remember Rossi best for designing the Scholastic Press building down in Soho, the Broadway side reflecting a post-modern design, and the Mercer side reflecting a modern or contemporary design to better blend in with its neighbors. Venetians, however, remember him for his floating theater, Teatro del Mondo, that seated 250 people and actually floated on the Venetian lagoon. On a product-design level, many of us have the classic Alessi teapot sitting on the stove, a piece of art for the kitchen designed by Aldo Rossi.

Emilio Vedova (1919-2006) was one of the most important representatives of Italian avant-garde art to emerge from the destruction of World War II. Born into a working-class Venetian family, he taught himself art with a little help from the phantoms of the ancient masters he was surrounded by here in La Serenissima, such as Tintoretto. A strong anti-fascist, he called his work "earthquakes."

Lacerazione cycle ’77/’78 III, single Plurimo/Binario 1977-1978
203 x 140 x 35 cm. Paint on wooden panels (2 forms sliding on rails), metal structure
In the exhibits Aldo Rossi - Teatri (Theaters)  and Emilio Vedova - Lacerazione. (Lacerations) Plurimi / Binari '77/'78 presented by the Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova, both artists are joined together in two different venues on the Zattare, a short walk apart. Rossi is at the Magazzino del Sale, curated by Germano Celant in a layout planned by Gae Aulenti, and Vedova is in the Spazio Vedova, curated by Fabrizio Gazzarri. The site in which the Lacerazione cycle is installed is where the work was actually produced -- the former 16th century boatyard where Vedova created his earthquakes, not far from the Punta della Dogana where Rossi's floating Theater of the World was docked.

Rossi has been described as "a poet who happened to be an architect." He was inspired by "Fascist architecture," or "rationalist architecture" morphing into "neo-rationalist architecture" -- or whatever-you-wanna-call-it. To me -- and I know nearly nothing about architecture, but a tiny bit about stage set -- he took the concept of uniting a city so that human beings would be inspired to live a certain way, like a set designer sets the stage for the action. Now, if you are a Fascist, and you want to control your masses by imposing pseudo-Roman stuff, that is one thing, but if you are really looking at the human beings who live in a certain area, and sincerely want to provide them with structures to enhance and inspire their lives, that is another. Rossi looked at the existing architecture, and attempted to blend it into the future, not force it into the future.

The original Teatro del Mondo was quite an architectural feat, and a large-scale model of Rossi's floating Theater of the World has been reconstructed just for this occasion. The theater was erected during the Theatre Biennale of 1979-1980 out in the shipyards of Fusina, loaded on a barge and tugged to Venice where it was docked next to the Punta della Dogana. It then set off by sea to Dubrovnik in Croatia before it was subsequently dismantled and destroyed.

Rossi believed that architecture sets the stage for life. He described Teatro del Mondo project as "a place where architecture ended and the world of the imagination began." Living, as I do, in Venice, it is easy to feel that the city is one enormous stage set, a rich background in which to meet other colorful characters and experience life, a vibrant setting so different than living in a mechanical city that has cars, or the sterile setting of Any Suburb, Anywhere with the same stores, the same food, the same drinks, the same people.To me, the architecture of a city is another real element added to the theatrical production called the Divine Comedy that we are living here on planet Earth.

Madam Butterfly
For the first time, the exhibition Aldo Rossi Teatri brings together 16 projects by the Milanese architect and designer between the early 1960s and 1997 with almost 120 architectural studies and sketches, models, drawings, and stage items, reflecting Rossi's passion for the theater.

"The theater, in which the architecture serves as a possible background, a setting, a building that can be calculated and transformed into the measurements and concrete materials of an often elusive feeling, has been one of my passions."

Vedova, too, designed for the theater, collaborating with the composer, Luigi Nono. From Wikipedia:

Intolleranza 1960 was Luigi Nono's first work for the opera stage and is a flaming protest against intolerance and oppression and the violation of human dignity. The year in the title refers to the time of the work's origin. It was commissioned for the 1969 Venice Biennale by its director Mario Labroca. The first performance was conducted by Bruno Maderna on 13 April 1961 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. The stage design was by the famous radical painter Emilio Vedova, a friend of Nono's. The premiere was disrupted by neo-fascists, who shouted "Viva la polizia" during the torture scene. Nono's opponents accused him of poisoning Italian music.

Those are two radically different points of view.

Vedova's obituary in The Guardian sums it up well:

Photo: Cat Bauer
The Italian painter Emilio Vedova, who has died aged 87, was a veteran of one of the 20th century's most bitter artistic conflicts - the "battle of styles" in the 1950s between the neo-realists and the pioneers of expressive abstraction. Like many fierce quarrels, this dispute was conducted between former friends, in this case the leftwing intellectuals who had taken part in the Italian resistance during the second world war. Some of them believed that socialist painters should follow the example of Picasso's Guernica and create overtly political, figurative images, preferably on a grand scale; others, including Vedova, argued that revolutionary art had, by its very nature, to be abstract.

This conviction led him, in the 1950s, to fill his pictures with wild patterns of smeared, poured and dripped paint. He became a radical in both politics and technique, truly a Jackson Pollock of the barricades.

The main aim of the Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova is to promote the art and work of Vedova and to highlight his importance in the history of 20th century art. The themes of "painting -- space-- time -- history" were of upmost importance to Vedova.

Although both Rossi and Vedova are no longer with us in body, they were both alive at the same point in time at the tip of the Zattare near the Punta della Dogna, and where the spirit of their work Aldo Rossi Teatri and Emilio Vedova Lacerazione. Plurimi/Binari '77/'78 is located today.


Aldo Rossi
Teatri
Magazzino del Sale, Zattere 266

Emilio Vedova
Lacerazione
Plurimi/Binari  ‘77/‘78
Spazio Vedova, Zattere 50


June 30  – November 25, 2012
10.30-18.00
Closed Tuesdays


Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


1 comment:

  1. Living, as I do, in Venice, it is easy to feel that the city is one enormous stage set, a rich background in which to meet other colorful characters and experience life, a vibrant setting so different than living in a mechanical city that has cars, or the sterile setting of Any Suburb, Anywhere with the same stores, the same food, the same drinks, the same people.To me, the architecture of a city is another real element added to the theatrical production called the Divine Comedy that we are living here on planet Earth.

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