Conversation Piece

La Galleria Nazionale

Viale delle Belle Arti 131, Roma


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19 May – 17 September 2017Current exhibition
Tuesday to Sunday 8:30am – 7:30 pm
Opening: Thursday 18 May, 7pm
Entrance: €10 full price, €5 concessions

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Fernanda Fragateiro, Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Juan Muñoz, Joan Hernández Pijuan, Doris Salcedo, Julião Sarmento, Thomas Schütte, Richard Serra, Jana Sterbak, Antoni Tàpies, Ignacio Uriarte, Rachel Whiteread

The “La Caixa” Foundation is an important collection of contemporary art offering various interpretations of art from the past four decades. It is also the throbbing heart of new dialogues and narratives underscoring the meaning and actuality of those very same works. The mission of the collection is to develop a space where research can be carried out and stories created, without overlooking its role in acknowledging, conserving, and representing the art of our time.

Conversation Piece, which is named after the work by Juan Muñoz, is an exhibition that brings together a group of works by artists with different poetic voices. As suggested by the expressive gestures of Muñoz’s three characters, the exhibition is characterized by the strength of its dialogue, as well as by contrast, seduction, and the search for a revelatory meaning. The interaction between the works is in line with the canons of the Minimalist aesthetic, on the one hand, and the threefold relationship between architecture, sculpture, and the human figure, on the other.

Minimalism’s formalist language acquires poetic sensitivity in Agnes Martin’s delicate and subtle horizontal stripes, as well as in the material density of Richard Serra’s black surface. The geometric principle of these paintings is modeled after the spaces of light and the intervals of quietude that are connected to the silver grids of Joan Hernández Pijuan’s monochromatic landscape, and the existential silence evoked by the nakedness of Antoni Tàpies’ white painting.

Donald Judd’s Minimalist sculpture creates a bridge between a later generation of artists who chose to submit Minimalism’s formal paradigm, i.e. “the cube”, to all types of deconstruction and variation, thus reintroducing a sense of the real in art, and meaning that can relate it to society. Rachel Whiteread reW materializes the empty spaces of architecture, thus restoring to art the spaces that are experienced, while Fernanda Fragateiro’s harmonic architectural modules evoke utopias that have directed art towards the social realm.

The works of Thomas Schütte unquestionably move away from the orthodoxy of Minimalism to afford sculpture with new possibilities, with an approximation of imaginary architecture that makes room for fiction, as well as for a reflection on social organis characters, hybrids of people, sacks, and depersonalised faces.

The artist’s presence suggests an idea of human finiteness, of a world that is degenerating, akin to what we see in Julião Sarmento’s 3D reproduction of Degas’ dancers. The Portuguese artist intervenes on that figure, bestowing it with greater realism vis-à-vis forms and eroticism, and yet the avatar of that small sculpture still appears to be artificial. Jana Sterbak instead begins from real action, from the here and now. There is no fiction in either her performance or her themes, although there is undoubtedly a sense of drama, considering the fact that the artist stages the fragility, dangers, and difficulties of human existence.

Lastly, the video made by the Spanish artist Ignacio Uriarte, with a touch of humour, offers a reflection on the dialectics between humans and the machine. Uriarte has made a film about the actor Michael Winslow masterfully imitating the sound of thirty typewriters, an effort that could be interpreted as humankind’s struggle to imitate technology.

In this exhibition the formalistic interpretation of the geometry of Minimalist art disappears thanks to the force of the experience, symbolism, and fiction of the works on display. Indeed, form is important, but the artists exhibited here project form in order to uphold either personal poetics or references to the reality of our world. On the other hand, the games of contrast and similarity between the different artistic ideas showcased in this exhibition allow us to enact multiple interpretations that can undoubtedly generate stories that differ from the ones on view here.

The “La Caixa” Contemporary Art Collection

Conceived in 1985 as a project that was open to contemporary art, it has grown to include about a thousand major international works of art that bring together the memory of art from the past four decades, as well as offering a far reaching vision of art’s ongoing exploration of today’s world.

The collection includes all the areas and techniques used by contemporary artists—from painting to drawing, from sculpture to photography, as well as video, film, sound, and installation. In thirty years’ time this collection has brought together works by famous as well as emerging artists, whose efforts suggest new directions for the art of the future, however. The collection is also based on dialogues between languages that are underpinned by a strong ideological structure, and poetics that are indifferent to all forms of orthodoxy, formalised via the hybridisation of languages and aesthetics in response to the continuous changes taking place in our unpredictable world.

Chronologically speaking, the starting point is the 1980s, when Spanish art first appeared on the international scene. Also included in the collection, however, were the works of international artists who were already well known in the 1960s and 1970s (Joseph Beuys, Mario Merz, Jannis Kounellis, Giovanni Anselmo, Antoni Tàpies, Robert Ryman, Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Richard Long, amongst others). The fundamental mission of the collection when it was first established was to contextualise and conceptually integrate Spanish art within the international art scene. Today this dialogue welcomes artists from around the world, without no restrictions as concerns geography or national identity.

Image Credits 1––10 Courtesy © ”La Caixa” Collection. Contemporary Art
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