Un presente indicativo (An indicative present) is on show at the National Gallery in Rome. This exhibition is one of the many presents that exist in the world of art, one of the many space-times (tending towards infinity) wrapping itself in the others, concealing and revealing them, and hence the others with it, in a magmatic and serpentine uroboros of uroboros, in the complex, rhizomatic history of art, which is so dominated by various possible art systems but is, by its very nature, fluid and free. In this case, in the exhibition in question, curated by Antonello Tolve, we find ourselves in a very specific space-time, full of bold questions with strong existential contradictions – the 14 artists in the exhibition were all born in Rome in the 1960s. Genius loci and Zeitgeist coordinate the sixty or so works in the exhibition in a heterodox labyrinth, overflowing with different focal points and perceptive flashes in what appears to be a meeting of similar, albeit very different, sensibilities. These sensibilities cover the decades straddling the new millennium, with all its upheavals (from the unimaginable expansion of digital space to the presumed end of History and all that it entailed) in a significant, mature manner, while laying – also – the foundations for the artistic developments of the generations to follow.
Positions and perspectives of contemporary art in Rome is the exhibition’s subtitle and to visit the exhibition is to bounce from one artistic medium to another, from one expressive methodology to another, from one meaning to another. Each of the works represents a world in itself, in a cosmos of questions, often profound and existential, sometimes cryptic, sometimes faux-superficial, sometimes baroque and essential at the same time, with their “chameleon-like, versatile, Babel-like” operating procedures, as the curator points out, which are, after all, the ultimate characteristics of existence.
And so we find ourselves immersed in unexpected yet incredible relationships: Paolo Canevari’s elegant classic works echoing a more or less distant past, political and cultural, in the broadest possible sense; together with Adrian Tranquilli’s enormous model of St. Peter’s made exclusively from Jolly playing cards, giving a material conceptual precariousness, tinged with Pop, to the cultural symbol of spiritual and temporal power.
There are Roberto Pietrosanti’s spheres, rough yet refined, suspended like industrial totems, together with Stanislao Di Giugno’s sculptural bars, metronomies of space with an alienating balance emerging between them, the wall holding them up, and us too.
Gea Casolaro’s sensitive environments, whether deformed mirrors that refer to analogue-digital space, or maps and telescopes that become a cosmos (of references), accepting our bodies in a stable game of parts, can all be found alongside Bruna Esposito’s synaesthetic environments, chaotic and refined, but harsh and tribal at the same time.
Or there is the indiscernible environment composed of glass, light and architectural space, which projects reality directly between transparent filters and complicit angles in Andrea Aquilanti’s perceptive demiurgy, alongside Maurizio Savini’s environment, which is a canine sculpture as concrete as it is alienating and which, by its very nature, needs free space around it to amplify its elements into a dramatic sense of existence.
As far as painting is concerned, we basically find ourselves in the midst of four voices scattered through the rooms: the material and figurative paintings by Andrea Salvino, often reminiscent of elements from popular culture – sometimes in the subject matter, sometimes in a certain type of atmosphere; the neural and, at the same time, cosmic paintings in the large canvases by Alberto Di Fabio; the enigmatic, hypnotic canvases by Gioacchino Pontrelli; and, finally, the organic works by Marco Colazzo, depicting vegetable elements in gloomy intimate atmospheres which, in essence, are characteristic of marshes.
Lastly, photography has to be present in this labyrinth, with Marina Paris’s experimental work embracing the meaning of photography and its supports, and the black and white works of Giuseppe Petroniro, which are profoundly conceptual and always part of something wider: photography that becomes a concept so as to become basic material sculpture.
Each of these artists, as mentioned, opens up a universe of questions, but what they all echo – in a reality as fragmented and extravagant as the one we have experienced in recent years, if we want to summarise – is that the Hegelian fallacy of the rational as real (and vice versa) no longer makes sense even as a hypothesis. All the works in the exhibition, even the most well-balanced and structured, have a noticeable chaotic element but, at the same time, they keep a route open for escape, never sinking into nihilism or challenging the unendurable nature of things, even when the essence of these works is postmodern in nature and status.
Rome is a complex city, and always has been, as is the generation born in the 1960s, bombarded more than any other generation by the evolution in technological power and the fact of having lived half in a bipolar reality and half in an illusorily globalised monopolar world, which is now on the brink of yet another upheaval. Among the infinite presents indicative of art, this space-time has certainly a lot to say to us.
Un presente indicativo. Posizioni e prospettive dell’arte contemporanea a Roma, curated by Antonello Tolve, Galleria Nazionale, Rome, 09.02 – 02.05.2023
Artists: Andrea Aquilanti, Paolo Canevari, Gea Casolaro, Marco Colazzo, Bruna Esposito, Alberto Di Fabio, Stanislao Di Giugno, Marina Paris, Giuseppe Pietroniro, Roberto Pietrosanti, Gioacchino Pontrelli, Andrea Salvino, Maurizio Savini, Adrian Tranquilli.
Images: (cover 1) Adrian Tranquilli, «All is Violent, All is Bright», courtesy Collezione Piero Raruffini, photo Adriano Mura (2) Paolo Canevari, Colonna Barocca, courtesy Studio Stefania Miscetti, photo Adriano Mura (3) Bruna Esposito, «Allegro non troppo», courtesy Studio Stefania Miscetti, Roma, photo Adriano Mura (4) Marina Paris, Archivio di Stato (Sant’Ivo), courtesy Galleria Nazionale, photo Adriano Mura (5) Un Presente Indicativo, installation view, Galleria Nazionale d’arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Roma, photo Adriano Mura