I met Antonio Manfredi on the occasion of his one-man show at the Ethnographic Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg in the winter of 1995. I had already realized at the time, during our endless and sometimes heated discussions about the significance of art while we walked in the Nieschi, that his vision of art was global. So I was not at all surprised when I found out about his plan to set up a Museum of Contemporary Art. It is truly an arduous task to give an exhaustive overview of all the works present in this exhibition entitled 100 Artists for a Museum. We are confronted with artists of different ages and backgrounds having different styles and techniques. Yet, it is obvious even after an overall view, how the show clearly reveals the principal characteristic of artistic research in recent years: an open environment, where the response to the absence of clearly dominant trends and the rigid division into sectors is the complex and indefinable phenomenon of widespread pluralism, in which the leading roles of various artists trace highly mobile itineraries that are similar, meet and diverge to create a network of identities and diversities that go beyond geopolitical boundaries and assume planetary dimensions.
From photography to painting and sculpture, and from videos to installations, we become aware that new means of expression are being added to the traditional languages and techniques of the visual arts, such as those made possible by new communications technologies. This relationship is not only one of coexisting while remaining distinct, but also one of osmosis, hybridization and reciprocal contamination. This process is also documented by the photographic work of the young Italian artists, Barbara La Ragione, who alludes to a doleful analysis of the human condition through the hideous deformations of her “portraits”, and Monica Biancardi, who is able to capture moments of suffering and tender sensuality in the stream of everyday existence and deliver them graphically in her photograms; of the American artist Liz Magic Laser, with her female figures traversed by a fluid and mysterious energy; and by Penka Mincheva from Bulgaria whose diptych “…It Sometimes Hurts…” plays effectively on the contrast between the extreme sharpness of the iconic rendering and the ambiguity of the semantic similarities.
But photography is used in a different way by the young German photographer, Ulf Saupe, who transforms his human figures into metamorphic vestiges dynamically crossing indefinite visual fields, and by the American, Lindsey Nobel, who turns photographic data into threadlike nuclei of a disturbing living matter. The Rorschach-type images of the Columbian, Sandra Bermudez, with their flowery symmetries, explore the world of female sensuality in a study that succeeds in balancing formal precision with the unpredictability of fate.
The installation of the Argentinean, Nora Iniesta, uses the enlargement of an old family snapshot to take us into a dimension at midpoint between the accuracy of the documentary evidence and the seduction of a recollection stretched over time. We are led again to the flowing of the temporal dimension by the installation of the Bolivian, Raquel Schwartz, who presents a mantle made with tapes taken from old radio/cassette players, and the one by Ashish Ghosh from India, made with twenty-one transparent plastic tee-shirts screen printed with motifs deriving from Indian history and culture.
In the line of social commitment we have the interactive sculpture called “Swing II” by the Maltese artist, Robert Francis Attard, who presents a series of five swings made with guns. A strong emotional impact is provided by the works of the Italian painters, Fabio Gianpietro, with his mamma/zebra, filled with piety containing notes of Mexican murals in its avowed tendency towards monumentality, and Christian Leperino, with the lacerating and tragic expressionism of his screaming baby, called “Bes/an”; of the Bulgarian, Dimitar Grozdanov, with the sombre rhythm of his plastic and dramatic sequence of steps; of the German, Heiko Hoffman, with a series of four paintings of female figures in which the gestural-expressionist background dissolves into pleasant, soft colours; of the Austrian, Robert Primig, who etches figural fragments of forms into the dazzling light of the background; and of the Bosnian, Kečo Mensud, with his “Grytan Silente”, drawn with an intense energy.
José D’Apice from Brazil presents, with “Immagine e Somiglianza”, a work that reveals an admirable formal construction in the softness of its suffused luminosity. No less sophisticated in the softened prevalence of greys is the work of Emma Wood from England, who exhibits a large collage made with a mixture of media and ink drawings on paper.
A personal elaboration of the informal abstract experience gives rise to the airy spatiality of the Austrian, Armin Guerino; to the luminous and warm emphasis on color of his compatriot, Helmut Morawets; to the mobile set-ups of transparent structures of the Iranian, Nader Khaleghpour; to the paused dance of shapes against a background animated with pale blue shadows by Alan Waters from England; to the orderly composition of patches and spots in a bright red tone by the German, Renate Christin; and to the subtle and mysterious color variations in multiple horizons by the Czech, Jiri Voves.
Pictorial research takes different routes in the work of the Cuban, Rodolfo Llopiz Cisneros, with his exhilarating montage of familiar icons and signs; of the Italian-American Natalie Silva, who renders images explicit in shapes with a more forceful and flowing immediacy; of the Austrian, Franz Josef Berger, who constructs an original image of Naples by juxtaposing fragments in “Per-che”; of the Israeli, Esther Naor, who used rice as a medium in her work with a powerful and elaborate materiality.
The art of painting of Ahmad Alaa Eddin, from Syria, comes from a different cultural background. He starts with written characters that lead to results of a tender lyricism, in which the soft score of the patterns is combined with a stress on tonality of astonishing luminosity. There are the evocative works of Aghim Muka, whose “Puzzle” assembles icons that are traces of emotions and thoughts on a sort of memory board; of the artist from Benin, Charly d’Almeida, who transforms the surface of the painting into a screen of luminescent apparitions; of the Norwegian, Irmelin Slotefeldt, with a painting in which the landscape opens out into an aerial remoteness; of the Italian Maria Grazia Serina, with her men/insects drawn with very fine entomological detail.
The work of the young Italian artist, Federico Del Vecchio, is post-ecological. The clear, linear style of his icons blends technological mastery with nature, producing an effect that works its way into our perception of realty and alters it. The small but no less effective painting of Celia Washington, from Scotland, is enigmatic. An airplane/bird strikes a half-animal, half-human figure and reminds us of the events of 9/11.
The field of research between sculpture and installations includes the subtle minimalism of the crystal-glass sculpture by Frederica Bastide Duarte from Portugal; the iron-work of the German, Christoph Manke, who lets the grid of a topological outline appear in its compact materiality; and those of the very young Italian artists, Titti Sarpa, with the sculpture “Sitting Doll” that underlines with affectionate discretion the oxymoron of a lucid melancholy, and Cristina Treppo, with the flowing airiness of her cascade of rose flowers.
There is a distinctive rhythmic value in the seven abstract paintings entitled “L’immage di Napoli” by the Austrian, Martina Braun, with their marked horizontal length, and in the four by the German, Mayerle Manfred. The bright painting of the Belgian painter Caroline De Lannoy is fascinating for its calibrated balance between structural rigor and perceptive intensity. The triptych by the Croatian artist Bruno Paladin, who made a vibrant composition crisscrossed with hints of shadows, is especially interesting.
Close attention should also be given to the works of the Italian comic-strip artists, Alberto Ponticelli, with a “painting” that has a diffused and nervous linearity, and Ale Staffa, with an amusingly ironic large strip; and of the Swiss, Giona Bernardi, who paints a sort of social reportage using a personal language with a very realistic style.
And finally, the video-photographic installation of Antonio Manfredi, who, in “Red Vision”, sets up a network of silent cross-references between the images of the diptych close to contradictions and iconic analogies. Manfredi’s work brings video artists into the section, which is very important for the number and the quality of the works. It includes the Italians Massimo Pianese and Ivan Piano with their videos entitled “The Bedroom” and “Red Rain”, the Bosnian Alema Hadžimejlić, with his night and day cycle entitled “Krug”; and the Greeks Fillippos Tsitsopoulos and Yannis Markopoulos respectively with their works entitled “A Drop of Dust Again” and “Liquid and Melted Two”.
I would like to make a few comments about the monumental sculptures made in 2004 on the occasion of the 1° Casoria International Sculpture Symposium that made up the first group of sculptures in the city’s Sculpture Park. “Curve nello Spazio” by the eclectic Neapolitan artist, Renato Barisani, is a splendid trace of light, a shiny sword, an abstract form in concrete space. “Rogo di Luce” by the Spaniard, Fernando Barredo, is a shining totem dedicated to “Crapula”, the god that fights those without gender: a screaming mask, a condemnation of the ideological lies in the history of mankind. “Presente/Futuro” by the Neapolitan sculptor, Luciano Campitelli, is a voyage in the pure form of matter through the rereading of the Futurist experience of our century. “The Shadow of the Ring” of the Slovenian artist Metka Erzar, the ring’s shadow, a sort of meridian, a sign, a natural clock; an introspective study of the interaction between space and light in search of the earth’s energy points.
“The Animals” by the Italian, Enzo Fiore, is an anthropological study of the essentiality of matter that becomes a living form. “Plavi Obljic Icretama” by the Croatian, Vladimir Gaśparić, is an iron and marble arrow pointing to the sky, the study of space and matter: the stone that irradiates its energy into space. “Domani”, is a huge basalt stone from Vesuvius by the German sculptress, Gisella Jackle, a dark and mysterious polished rock; a research into the essence of matter; a lava rock ready to expel its energy. “Rinascita”, the iron sculpture of Kaori Kawakami from Japan, is symbolizing the rebirth of matter, a seed ready to begin its life cycle.
The intriguing installation of Antonio Manfredi entitled “Non È Spiderman! Ovvero Prigioniero della Stupidità”, a conceptual work about the significance of being a human of which the author himself writes: “Like in a nightmare! Prisoner of human stupidity, remaining suspended between reality and fantasy, between past and future, between the sky and the earth”. “Fly to Sky”, the massive iron and wood sculpture by the Bulgarian, Kamen Simov, an insect that arises from the depths of the earth ready to soar into the sky. “West and Cast to Combine”, by the Chinese sculptor Suo Tan, a false archaeological find, a memorial stone crowned with flowers; an extraordinary vision of the Orient through the tattooing of matter. And finally, what perhaps symbolizes in it the entire plan of the city of Casoria: “The Cog”, the large sculpture that all the artists present at the Casoria International Sculpture Symposium decided to make, using an imposing dented wheel for blast furnaces belonging to industrial archaeology that undoubtedly marks the birth of a new era for the city of Casoria.