Curated by: Cynthia Penna & Art 1307
Italian Summer by Cynthia Penna
The Lancaster Museum of Art and History (MOAH) celebrates the rich and vibrant history of Italian artistic tradition by showcasing seven contemporary Italian artists in its newest exhibition, Estate Italiana. MOAH will be kicking off this exhibition with a free opening reception on Saturday, August 26, from 4 – 6 p.m., where the public may view the exhibition and meet each artist.
Estate Italiana (Italian Summer) will be on view from Saturday, August 26 through Sunday, October 22. The exhibition is part of a cultural exchange program between the Lancaster Museum and ART1307, an arts institution headquartered in Naples, Italy. The exchange began in 2015 when ART1307 hosted an exhibition originating at MOAH. This summer’s exhibition features a breadth of work including paintings, sculptures, video installations, and murals.
Guest curator Cynthia Penna writes, “There is no doubt that the great and immense history of Italian art hovers like a heavy and complex cloud over artists today.” Like the sons or daughters who live in the shadow of a famous parent, many contemporary Italian artists are crushed under the weight of the legacy of such masters as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or Raphael just to name a few. The artists taking on this challenge in Estate Italiana are Alex Pinna, Antonella Masetti, Carla Viparelli, Carlo Marcucci, Max Coppeta, and Nicola Evangelisti.
Marco Casentini, originally from La Spezia, Italy, will be joining the artists of Estate Italiana with the launch of his own traveling exhibition, Drive In, which will transform MOAH’s main gallery and showcase his vibrant collection of abstract paintings inspired by metropolitan architectural structures. With Drive In, the gallery becomes an immersive installation that envelops the spectator in geometric shapes and colors, created specifically in relation to the gallery itself. In doing so, Casentini aims to develop a complex relationship with the larger space and modify the perception of the viewer. This exhibit will also celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Fiat 500 by wrapping the vehicle in a complementary design, which audiences will be able to visit at the Hunter Alfa Romeo/Fiat showroom at the Lancaster Auto Mall. Drive In will travel to Milan, Italy at the Bocconi Art Gallery of the University Bocconi and finish at the Reggia Reale di Caserta in Caserta, Italy after its launch here in Lancaster.
On Sunday, September 3, at 2 p.m. visiting Italian artists will host a gallery walk-through, where they will speak about their work and artistic processes. Carla Viparelli will host a free artist talk to engage the community in conjunction with Estate Italiana on Sunday, October 8, from 2p.m. in the Museum’s South Gallery. The presentation will include an overview of her experience as a contemporary Italian artist and her current work on display.
Estate Italiana is generously supported by the Lancaster Museum and Public Art Foundation, ART 1307, Best Western – Desert Poppy Inn, Hunter Alfa Romeo/Fiat, Fregoso Outdoor Foundation, Visco Financial Insurance Services, LookUp, and the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles.
Alex Pinna began his artistic practice with a focus on the world of childhood culture, comics and fairy tales. Since those early days, he has created many divergent works, breathing life into a world of essential figures constructed from a variety of materials, including bronze, rope, wood and glass, whose main features are elegance, balance and irony.
In a series of site-specific sculptures created specifically for Estate Italiana, Pinna tackles the theme humanity in moments of action, reflection, meditation and solitude; his aim is not the physical body but the existential condition of man. These genderless bodies, with gigantic limbs attached to slender trunks and shaved heads that give no indication of sex, symbolize the condition of being human, rather than that of having a personality. Slender figures that seem to face efforts that go beyond what a human being can manage, who support enormous walls with their bodies to prevent them from collapsing, who lift the globe or rest on it, sitting in precarious equilibrium—we seem to be dealing with a hero from Greek mythology, a Hercules tackling challenge after challenge. Pinna has recreated a mythological metaphor within a contemporary world. His personalities are merely the heroes of the past.
These themes have also inspired the artist’s “puppet theatres,” made from Moleskine® notebooks turned into pop-outs that reveal different characters and personalities. In these works, Pinna uses an object that travellers have utilized for decades to jot down their experiences, a journal that is personal yet universal, a diary we may all identify with, which tells stories once opened. It is the quintessential theatre. Indeed, what is theatre, from Greek tragedy to comedy, but an uninterrupted telling of a story, of lives and explorations? The Moleskine® becomes at the same time theatre and book, opening to reveal a pop-out scene, a fragment of life, an instant or an eternity, a kind of theatre “set,” of collective and individual life.
Alex Pinna was born in Imperia and attended Brera Fine Arts Academy in Milan, earning a Master of Fine Arts in painting. In 1991, he collaborated with Allan Kaprow, creating the 7 Environments exhibition, which showed at the Mudima gallery in Milan and Naples. He began teaching in 1996 has continuously exhibited in museums and galleries since 1997. Pinna is currently a professof of sculpture at the Cantanzaro Academy of Fine Arts.
In the artists’ universe the viewer may recognize a thread within the Italian tradition that has progressed from the landscapes just visible in the background of de Vinci’s paintings, to the more massive and powerful bodies of Michelangelo, to the intellectual sophistication of the works of Piero della Francesca or Bronzino. Antonella Masetti Lucarella has made the Italian tradition of painting from Humanism to Mannerism her own, rendering it on her canvases. Her color choices further confirm the fact that her works are part of the Italian traditional heritage.
Masetti’s women are immersed in their everyday life, there is no banal or empty sentimentalism in them, but pulsating sentiments: they suffer, laugh, participate and fight. These women, to whom a considerable body of the artist’s work is dedicated, are gentle warriors; they sometimes show complicity, but are also self-aware and conscious of their power. The female universe is finally seen and described from within. Masetti’s women have no need to show off, assume attitudes, or play a role. Her women are, and they know; in other words, they are conscious of their existence and interiority.
Antonella Masetti Lucarella is an internationally known painter who has worked in Milan for over 25 years. She has shown her work in solo and group exhibitions in art galleries, museums, cultural centers and art fairs throughout Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, Peru and Japan. In 1991, she received D&D Art Magazine’s III International Prize and in 2000 her sketch, commemorating Rome’s International Symposium on Breast Cancer, was printed and issued as a stamp by Poste Italiane (the Italian General Post Office).
Carla Viparelli is a self-taught figurative artist who graduated in philosophy from the University of Naples. Her paintings have evolved over about 30 years, in the course of which she has experienced with different kinds of figurative art. Viparelli’s artistic research centers principally on nature, its different aspects and its countless transformations, but she also explores social happenings and the contemporary common sentiment.
A consistent part of her work has been dedicated to language and its different means of expression: mainly through images but also sometimes through writing. In many of her works the artist has connected the two modes of expression, creating a kind of vocabulary by images and writings that dialogue among them, with mood that vacillates between serious and facetious.
Carla Viparelli was born in Naples and received both a Bachelor and Master cum laude in Philosophy at the University of Naples, where she completed a thesis in Contemporary Art. Throughout her career, she has received many awards, including: first prize at the International Painting Contest, Borgo San Severino, in 2009, first prize in the Postcards Assissi contest in 2014 and first prize in 100 Cubed—100 Rooms for 100 Artists, at Art Hotel Grand Paradiso in Sorrento. In 2012, she founded and directed Chi cerca, Crea, a workshop in the Municipality of Maratea. She currently lives and works in Naples and Maratea.
Italian born but Californian by choice, Carlo Marcucci embodies the benefits of embracing two cultures which are quite different in many aspects. The fusion of two traditions takes place at the moment when acceptance of what is new and different is assimilated and included among the treasures of a more remote past, without sacrificing either the old nor the new heritage. What makes Marcucci unique is that he succeeds in merging morals, usages and traditions without any reverential fear of altering a particular reality or tradition.
The equilibrium necessary to achieve this takes the form of an innovative and unusual use of materials, in this case from the culinary heritage of the artist’s native country. Spaghetti, which plays an important role in the collective imagination of Italian culture, both in Italy and abroad, is deprived of its original function and used to create works of art. Wheatfields was made primarily from spaghetti, as if to confirm that the blending of customs and traditions is an appanage of the arts. Marcucci succeeds in decontextualizing pasta from its basic, traditional function as food, making it serve as nutrition for the mind and spirit, in an arrangement that is both constructivist and geometric, its elements combining to create a mural of sculpture. The goal is to of alter the intrinsic nature of the object, effecting a transformation meant to instate another function. The works featuring binders utilize a similar process: these stationery items are selected and catalogued by colour and dimension, then reassembled as geometric structures. When hung on the wall, the metal of the binders reflects light, transforming the original material into a work of art.
Carlo Marcucci was born in Florence, Italy to American artist Sallie Whistler Marcucci and Italian journalist Moreno Marcucci. He grew up in downtown Rome, where he attended St. Stephen's International School, located next to the Circus Maximus, before moving to Atlanta, Georgia, to study design at the Atlanta College of Art (now SCAD Atlanta). He worked as a graphic designer and signage expert at Jan Lorenc Design and Wagner/Bruker Design in Atlanta. His first solo exhibition was held at the Ann Jacob Gallery in Atlanta. After moving to Los Angeles in 1990, Marcucci worked at Disney Imagineering in signage and graphic design, for the EuroDisney park in Serris/Coupvray, France. His first California exhibition was held at the Creative Art Center Gallery in Burbank.
Marco Casentini: Drive In
Born in La Spezia, Italy in 1961, Marco Casentini was brought up surrounded by large metropolitan structures. Inspired by urban spaces, Casentini’s work is an abstraction of geometrical architecture. Both chaotic and serene, his work rejects the concept of a compositional center which has always been a historically important approach to traditional Italian and European art; a choice that allows the spectator’s eye to focus on the painting as a whole. As individual paintings they add rhythmic tension to otherwise quiet and relaxing spaces, thereby achieving the ability to evoke emotions through his striking juxtapositions of color and complexity of shape and composition rather than through the use of concrete imagery. His early work was composed from advanced planning, notes and precise drawings. Over time Casentini felt this implementation gave his work an undesirable machine-like quality. In an attempt to breathe intimacy back into his work he stopped planning and began relying on his own intuition and improvisation.
Galleries exhibiting Casentini’s paintings are often transformed into vibrant and immersive installations that match the colors and patterns of the work on display. Wall paintings are developed in relation to the particular interior space involved and are birthed separately from the work on display. Once together, the paintings are no longer isolated and instead interact harmoniously with each other and the space as a whole. In doing so Casentini is able to develop a complex relationship with the larger space and modify its perception by the viewer. It is virtually impossible for one to separate the paintings from the installation due to being encompassed within a body of shapes and colors that communicate with each other with such intense solidarity. Marco Casentini attended Accademia di Belle Arti and College of Art in Carrara, Italy, resides both in Los Angeles and Milan today and has exhibited internationally with galleries in Italy, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, and Austria, exhibiting over 40 solo shows since 1983.
Max Coppeta is an artist for whom the heritage of traditional kinetic art, developed throughout the last century, rests heavily on his shoulders. This movement is thought to have begun in Europe with the optical experiments of artists such as Vasarely, but the real birth of a specific kinetic art can be attributed to the studies of those influenced by the group of Argentinian artists who moved to Paris in 1958, creating the GRAV movement at the Denise Renè Gallery.
Coppeta’s artistic research centres on a number of fundamental aspects: the countless possible views which a work of art offers the onlooker, the necessary and inevitable participation of the spectator in the enjoyment of the work—which may be defined as a kinetic aspect of the whole—and the distortion of visual perception. The artist’s Synthetic Rains were created by calculating and calibrating the fall of a crystalline liquid onto a glass support, with maniacal precision. The descent of the drop is regulated by a gesture that is a function of the time it takes for the drop to fall, its space and distance from the support, and occasionally the climatic conditions of drying. There are always more than two drops and two glass supports, which are aligned in such a way that the drops of liquid are encompassed by one another visually, with such precision that the onlooker may look through their succession. The resulting view appears distorted, giving the observer an impression of being deformed, through a kind of destabilizing vision. This experience may be defined as a journey within vision. A movement, enacted as the onlooker is placed in front of the work, determines an unreal movement in the piece; the user, relating physically to the art through his or her movement, gets an impression of him or herself that may be defined as a new “discovery” or a new kind of visual perception.
Max Coppeta was born in Sarno; he received a Bachelor’s in art at Accademia di Belle Arti Napoli in Naples, and a Master’s in Interaction Design at Istituto Superiore Design in Torino, Barcelona and Stockholm. He currently lives and works in Bellona.
The central theme of Nicola Evangelisti’s work focuses on visual perception and how the onlooker relates to his works and the effects created by light radiating from them. Trained with traditional materials and techniques, Evangelisti’s practice originates and evolves from a legacy of Italian sculpture. Experimentation led the artist to follow what he describes as “a transcendent path:” using crystals, mirrors, glass, holograms and LEDs, his works gradually dematerialize in time, ultimately becoming pure light in the form of video projections that interact with urban space.
Most of the artist’s work explores the relationship between order and chaos as well as other cosmological theories. Hexagons is conceptually inspired by the theme of sacred geometry. Consisting of a structure made from thirteen reflecting hexagons that in turn form another hexagonal image, the sculpture is based on the principle of self-similarity in universal structures. The work, seen as a whole, superimposes the archetypal image of the flower of life, symbol of birth and creation, which represents a constant in different cultures and beliefs throughout the history of Man. The diagram features the same form as the single mirrored parts, creating a correspondence between detail and the whole, a fractal development which could, in theory, continue in an infinity of scales, thus forming a continuity between microcosm and macrocosm. The lines of electroluminescent wire crossing the hexagons creates a complicated weave, wherein the five Platonic solids can simultaneously be perceived. The “constellation”—inspired by Kepler’s theory of polyhedra in which polyhedral faces are continually extended until they meet again—is formed by intertwining luminescent fibres that create the illusion of a diamond structure, wherein different coexisting regular polygons can be distinguished.
If Evangelisti’s work is wholly contemporary in terms of technological composition, it is rooted in an ancient historic and artistic heritage: Roman mosaics. Hexagons draws inspiration from the modular geometry found in Roman tessellations. The aesthetics of the home have always been a vivid and faithful mirror of culture: if we consider the characteristics of the Roman domus—and especially what is left of such mansions in Pompeii—one of the essential aspects appears to be the way rooms are divided and arranged in space, forming a domestic plan with precise and complex geometries, as Vitruvio described so instructively in his “De Architectura”. The geometric elements used to decorate sumptuous patrician mansions formed symmetrical images which often featured symbols associated with war: swords, daggers, and stylized mythological creatures, testimonials of a civilization that never ceased to transcend itself. This is the peculiar “thirst for power” which, in the role of master of the Roman mansion, took the form of elaborate decorations.
Nicola Evangelisti was born in Bologna, Italy, and graduated with a degree in sculpture from the Bologna Fine Arts Academy. In 2016, his solo show beWARe opened at Area 35 Art Gallery in Milan; analyzing the emotional states induced by violence and mass media propaganda, it explores the social and political themes related to war and terrorism.