by Marco Di Mauro



The phenomenon of “cold art” that does away with manual work and the artist’s very relationship with the material has caused a fracture in art history, which has until now been perceived as a continuum involving past, present and future. Yet many artists continue to sculpt, paint and model with the warmth of their hands, keeping the knowledge of the old masters alive in the light of a present-day sensibility. This exhibition, “Immaterial Spaces”, aims precisely to demonstrate, through Pindaric connections between modern and contemporary works of art, that the thread of continuity still resists. Contemporary art is represented by Americans Lita Albuquerque, Andy Moses and Laddie John Dill, while the art of the last centuries is represented by the Neapolitans Camillo De Vito, Edoardo Monteforte and Luca Giordano.

The work of Lita Albuquerque is associated with a gouache by Camillo De Vito (who worked in Naples between the late 18th and early 19th century), featuring the Gulf of Naples with erupting Vesuvius. We recognize, in the nocturnal view, the typical elements of the Neapolitan gouache in the manner of Hackert: that restful, analytical style which opts for a classical representation of the landscape, at the same time succeeding, with a skilful modulation of the colours, to express a poetic sensibility. The very eruption of the Vesuvius fails to inspire terror, instead fascinating the fishermen, who continue working in the quiet, without any agitation, in an idealizing atmosphere that cancels the physical effort and struggle for survival. At the same time the vision of the incandescent magma inspires a meditation on the sublime, as perceived by the European culture of the 18th century. Unlike the romantic sublime with its Ossianic catastrophes inspiring anguish and terror, the neoclassical one is above all “the confident step of Apollo who descends, tremendous and serene”, just as the eruption of the Vesuvius appears tremendous and serene.

In the work of Lita Albuquerque, on the contrary, the eruption is an energy that enlivens the world, a flame that burns in every one of us. And our memory runs to Andy Warhol’s Vesuvius series, where the violence of the eruption is no longer a vehicle of death, but an excited representation of the energy and sentiments of the Neapolitan people.

The work of Andy Moses has been associated with an oil by Edoardo Monteforte (Polla 1849 – Naples 1933), depicting a rural landscape. This canvas features a sober composition in brown or reddish shades, which on the one hand bears witness to the verist interest in the rural world shared by 19thcentury art and literature, and on the other expresses the bucolic lyricism that had already been manifested in Naples, in the paintings of Federico Rossano or the Palizzi brothers. These painters had, in their turn, lived in Paris where they had had first-hand experience with the innovative technique of Courbet and the Barbizon school, imbuing the colour, explored in every tonal variation, with a poetic sentiment of nature.

The composition of Monteforte’s canvas is essentially classic: a farm with annexed rural buildings is posed like the line of demarcation between the expanses of the fields, which occupy the lower half, and the celestial mirror, which occupies the upper half.

In the work of Andy Moses, on the contrary, the perception of the landscape is interiorized; the colours are mixed, the shapes diluted, the perspective planes zeroed. All that remains of the natural landscape is a vague sensation, nurtured by the brown and earthy colours that allow themselves to be permeated by the light.

The work of Laddie John Dill, finally, is associated with the Death of Adonis by Luca Giordano (Naples 1634-1705), a fresco painted in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi gallery in Florence. The Neapolitan painter has set the scene in a luxuriant forest, where three nymphs discover the body of Adonis, while Diana is pointing at the wild boar that has killed him. The mythological theme, which hints at the age of imprudence and love, is part of a complex iconographic program, elaborated by the Crusca academician Alessandro Segni, representing the apotheosis of human life. In Giordano’s fresco we re-encounter the typical characters of Baroque painting: the light, the movement, the emphasis, the theatricality and the tendency to dilate the space infinitely. The freshness of the colours, imbued by a Mediterranean light, buries its roots in 16th-century Venetian painting, especially the brilliant compositions of Titian and Veronese, which Giordano had the opportunity to admire during his trip to Venice in 1667.

Also Laddie John Dill intertwines shot surfaces and strips of lights, creating a vivid sense of movement. The artist, keeping in mind Cubist and Cubo-futurist inventions, reduces the multiplicity of reality to a mosaic of luminous splinters, held together by a centripetal force. If we seek for the truth, the essence, the significant, we discover that it is not to be found in the thing as such, but in the movement implied by it.