The works of twenty-nine international artists from different generations shape the space of Palazzo Ardinghelli, regenerating it symbolically and in terms of media. Afterimage, the exhibition at MAXXI L’Aquila curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi and Alessandro Rabottini, seems to be connected to the recent history of this city in Abruzzo. Several years after the earthquake that seriously damaged the area, there is still scaffolding in the city streets, forcing visitors to sense a visual mnemonic trace from a distant time, one that continues to appear in their field of vision. It is as if the signs of a distant moment have been preserved, with a residual image, and in the exhibition itinerary composed of four narrative nuclei, research ideas have been found to explore this phenomenon – in symbiosis with the architecture of Palazzo Ardinghelli. Afterimage is an English term used to describe the sensation that persists after an original visual stimulus has ceased, i.e. precisely referring to a residual image.
In the intersection of different artists and media, different narrative paths lead to a transition of meaning and the sedimentation of the concept of transformation as in the construction of memory. Visitors find the materiality of painting, sculpture and the language of photography, ending with the immateriality of the digital, which is created on screens and bodies that do not fit into the relationship of physical media, emerging from monitors or painted surfaces. The correlation between the works of different artists is not perceived directly or automatically, but is structured by a central narrative which guides the narrative nuclei, as if each creative element is connected by a single thread in a particular form of interdependence, forming a field of vision that keeps the layered mnemonic dimension active.
The exhibition brings together works by important Italian artists – part of the MAXXI Foundation’s collection – and a number of works by other international figures who have worked specifically on the site, also including other important loans. The exhibition project utilises all parts of the museum space, both the entrance and the interior, starting from Piazza Santa Maria Paganica, where Masso con gli ultimi 5 giorni (Masso with the last 5 days) opens the route. Francesco Arena’s work, specially created for the occasion, conveys a message of transience that, from the physicality of stone to the wear and tear of daily news, is evident in the alternation of days, evidenced by the newspapers embedded in the monolith.
Thus begins a narrative of the everyday mnemonic dimension, with a strong tactile component referring to the first narrative core of Afterimage: Matters and memory. This continues through to the fourth strand, entitled The Inner Architecture, in which Thomas Demand’s visual narrative emerges from the direct relationship with architectural space, aesthetically remodelled. In the building’s central hall, the German artist creates an articulated environmental installation, which covers the space with non-woven wallpaper and with photographic works depicting paper patterns taken from the archive of the fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa – digital images with an abstract value.
Transformation and metamorphosis are provided by the other nucleus, Shifting Image, which moves from the usual analogue instrumentation of the works of the 1970s – by Mario Cresci, Paolo Gioli and Luca Maria Patella – towards an open confrontation with the digital dimension of Massimo Grimaldi’s current work. The immateriality and changing vision of the image are emphasised by the photographic work printed on silk by Elisa Sighicelli, which welcomes visitors as they go up to the main floor of the palace – a characterising element of the variation process.
The disclosed body narrates how the corporeal element is a central, creative and aesthetic subject. This primary element is the semantic trace of conceptual fusions based on the centrality of the human condition, moving between weakness and desire for rebirth. The works of Francis Alÿs and Frida Orupado reveal its strong symbolism. The articulated media structure on which Afterimage is based unites language and vision derived from different identities, distinctively marking the international art scene, conveying images of kaleidoscopic significance.
Afterimage, curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi eandAlessandro Rabottini, Museo MAXXI, L’Aquila,Italy, 02.07. 2022 – 19.03.2023
images: (cover 1) Francesco Arena, «Masso con gli ultimi 5 giorni», 2022. MAXXI L’Aquila Ehibition view. Photo Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI (2) He Xiangyu, «Asian Boy», 2019-2020. Dominque White, «Land, Nation-State, Empire», 2022. MAXXI L’Aquila Exhibition view. Photo Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI (3) Elisa Sighicelli, «SenzaTitolo(5016)». MAXXI L’Aquila Exhibition view. Photo Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI (4) June Crespo, «Untitled (Voy, sí)», 2021. Luca Monterastelli, «Fiume buio», 2022. MAXXI L’Aquila Exhibition view. Photo Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI (5) Dominique White, «Land, Nation-State, Empire», 2022. MAXXI L’Aquila Exhibition view. Photo Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI (6) HE XIANGYU Asian Boy, 2019-2020. MAXXI L’Aquila Exhibition view. Photo Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI