How do concept and matter fit together? Dora Stiefelmeier’s words during the opening talk of the exhibition “In Ceramics” explain it well: concepts are born in the heads but are not separated from their bodies. Concepts are part of the body’s metabolism and the processuality of the life cycle. And the same is true for ceramics, made as such by a process of conception, first, and then working and firing. That’s the point: processuality.
On 20 July, the round table “Concept and Matter” opened the exhibition “In Ceramics” at the Project Room of the MAXXI L’Aquila Museum, curated by Alessandro Cocchieri: a Chini Museo e Contemporary and Zerynthia Associazione per l’Arte Contemporanea OdV production in collaboration with the No Man’s Land Foundation, the Acerbo Museum of Ceramics in Castelli, and MAXXI L’Aquila. Introduced by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, Alessandro Cocchieri, Felice Levini, Gino Sabatini Odoardi and Mario Pieroni discussed the multiple possibilities of ceramics as a contemporary media. From concept to material, through manipulation to firing: processuality.
A little further on, in the exhibition, the work of the five artists – Alberto Garutti, Felice Levini, Donatella Spaziani, H. H. Lim, Gino Sabatini Odoardi – ideally connects two centres of excellence in ceramic art: the Chini Museo in Borgo San Lorenzo (FI) and the Museo Acerbo delle ceramiche di Castelli di Loreto Aprutino (PE). Both the one in Tuscany and the one in Abruzzo are museums that place contemporary works alongside their historical collections, correlating the knowledge and manual skills of the past with the vision of artists of the present. Thus, if the Chini Museo e Contemporary hosted exhibitions of the same five artists exhibited in L’Aquila from 2019 to 2023, the Acerbo Museum exhibits not only castellan majolica but also a permanent collection, with works by Garutti, Hyber, Levini, Lim, Odoardi and Spaziani.
The space of the MAXXI project room, like a small casket, opens up to an elegant and refined exhibition. Sehnsucht is a 2018 work by Alberto Garutti: the ceramic transposition of a romantic ideal. Two vases that are complementary in form, which, like two lovers, complement each other but whose synergetic force derives from their separation. Almost as if they tend towards union without ever succeeding.
Gli orecchini di Venere, ovvero il Sole e la Luna is a reflection on the cyclical nature of time by Felice Levini, who transfers his vision and reasoning as a painter into the ceramic artefact. Two circular elements, embossed by two hands. One gilded, the other silvery, almost metallic, restoring the strength and delicacy of the star and the satellite.
Donatella Spaziani’s Table is a work from 2023 in which twenty-year-old ceramic pieces are given new life. Ceramics that came out of the kiln wrong, which, following segmentations, unions, and geometric gluing, find new possibilities in the covering of a Franciscan table: and the table becomes a convivial space and a space for discussing new occasions.
H.H. Lim re-proposes everyday objects in ceramic, in this case a rusty gas cylinder. Still Life is a work of hyper-realism: an existing object but with a new consistency, lightness and soul.
Gino Sabatini Odoardi switches from thermoforming to ceramics, both techniques that use heat according, however, to opposite processes. If plastic is worked at high temperatures, ceramic hardens in kilns to become eternal in form. Thus in Untitled, the artist takes up the arguments about seriality and the tavern glass, arguments that recur frequently in his artistic production: but the gesture, the graphic sign and the chromatic intervention break the serial repetition.
“In Ceramics” is an exhibition that seeks to liberate this ancient medium from the status of decorative art, to become a contemporary language. A language made up of processes. Thus, the works on display are the thoughts and concepts of the artists explained through the material and the hands of skilled ceramists.
IN CERAMICA, curated by Alessandro Cocchieri, MAXXI L’AQUILA, 20.07 – 03.09.2023
Alberto Garutti, Felice Levini, Donatella Spaziani, H. H. Lim and Gino Sabatini Odoardi
images: (cover 1) Alberto Garutti, «Sehnsucht», 2018, ceramics, MAXXI L’Aquila, “In Ceramica”, ph: Studio Alberto Garutti (2) Gino Sabatini Odoardi, «Senza titolo», 2023 (1 di 12) ceramic glasses, wood, enamel, MAXXI L’Aquila, “In Ceramica”, ph. Gino Sabatini Odoardi (3) Felice Levini, «La luna, il Sole», 2023, ceramics, gold and silver, MAXXI L’Aquila, “In Ceramica”, ph: Gino di Paolo