Showing in Naples: Lia Rumma and Alfonso Artiaco Gallery

By Giulia Damiani.

Naples takes an active role in the art world today and does so in its own organic way. Galleries are scattered throughout the city centre, often hidden in the courtyards of historic palaces. Away from the buzz of the streets, they offer a space for contemplation and a chance of lingering over artworks; the city’s mythological and ancient surrounds allow art itself to be felt as a permanent practice, a landmark for the local connoisseurs and visitors alike.

In contrast to the big capital cities, the logic of the art market is an invisible hand in the more enticing picture created by the Neapolitan spaces. Although galleries such as Fonti, Lia Rumma and Raucci Santamaria have an international reputation and could be viewed at Frieze Fair last October, it is essential to visit them in Naples to experience the architecture of their buildings and the sparkling conversations within the space.

Between October 2016 and January 2017, Galleria Lia Rumma exhibits work by Victor Burgin in the solo show Dear Urania. This simple curatorial project unveils a multilayered narrative, in which image and text communicate distinctively but alongside each other. The inspiration for the exhibition came from the pamphlet Report on The First Voyage to the Moon by a Woman in the Year of Our Lord 2057, written in 1857 by the astronomer Ernesto Capocci di Belmonte. The artist succeeds in conveying this fascinating text, which anticipated Jules Verne’s famous journeys, as the Press Release mentions.

The pamphlet is a letter written by the protagonist Urania on the moon to her friend Ernestina on the earth. Burgin conceived this show as a response from Ernestina in 2057, merging times, locations, characters and situations. In the first room a series of black and white photographs (Basilica I and Basilica II) evoke Carlo Fratacci’s memorable images of Pompeii from 1864. Burgin’s shots of single columns accompanied by text give a sense of the spatial layout of the original photograph. As ruins make the past visible, Burgin’s photographs can be said to act in a similar way, fixing and highlighting a fading likeness to the world. The artist moves between fiction and archeology, with interventions that generate unprecedented relations with the past more than representing the present.

The small prints from the sketchbook of Ernestina/Victor in the second room don’t help envisaging further the artist’s journey; instead the projection of the eleven-minute silent film Dear Urania entices the visitor back into the plot. Ernestina’s letter addresses discoveries and hopeful thoughts from her intimate environment; the moon as a long-standing refuge for a humanity lost on earth. The image becomes sophisticated when the lunar landscape is subtly suggested by the creased surface of her bed sheets.

Alfonso Artiaco Gallery, situated on one of the most vibrant streets in Naples, shows twelve works by Wolfgang Laib until December 2016. The artist’s distinct activity settles well across the elegant six rooms of the space.

On the floor in the main room his renowned pollen piece is placed in relation to a marble door frame, reinforcing the presence of this structural element. The yellow luminosity of the artwork expands beyond the outline of the door. The pollen, which the artist collects from trees and flowers in his home village in Southern Germany, is beautiful essence as well as a conceptual gesture: it is a ceremonial action through which the artist reminds the viewer of the fragile begging of life, an explosion of colour and of potential to be. The spiritual quality of this artwork can be conveyed through Mircea Eliade’s words on the manifestation of the sacred, for which things ‘acquire their reality, their identity, only to the extent of their participation in a transcendent reality’.

In the opposite room four sculptures made of beeswax resembles small ziggurats. Although less monumental than previous wax works by the artist, these little brown shapes preserve a stronger connection with the original natural element; as these raw materials are what generate and mould Laib’s practice, the artist appears to be not the creator, but a participator in the creation of the world alongside his natural environment.

Closer to the entrance to the gallery, three nearly invisible drawings by the artist condense void and meaning. At first seemingly blank, they reveal lines depending on a specific reflection of the natural light in the room. Big windows overlook the inner courtyard and the baroque buildings of the neighbourhood; impossible to resist a quick peep at the city outside.



Pictures credits:

©Victor Burgin
photocredit Giorgio Benni

Courtesy Galleria Lia Rumma Milano/Napoli

©Wolfgang Laib
veduta parziale della mostra, October 2016
Galleria Alfonso Artiaco, Napoli, photos by Luciano Romano