Archive for the 'Art' Category

Stg. Pepper at Fifty

Stg. Pepper

Great piece from yesterday’s NewsHour on the 50th birthday of the Beatles’ landmark album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. All hail the Mozarts of Pop!


I Am the President


Domenica 22 si chiude la mostra “I Am the President: tra identità e anonimato” alla galleria MAC Maya Arte Contemporanea di Roma, a via di Monserrato, a due passi da Campo de’ Fiori. Ci sono passato ieri e l’ho trovata notevole. Si tratta di sette ritratti a olio di altrettanti volti del potere, “al negativo”, come si vede da quello di Obama riprodotto qui sopra. Oltre al presidente americano, anche Putin, Merkel, Netanyahu, la Regina Elisabetta, Papa Ratzinger e, last and least, il nostro Berlusca. In un gioco di specchi, e sfidando le regole del mercato, l’autore ha mantenuto l’anonimato per tutta la durata dell’evento, ma la sua identità sarà svelata proprio in occasione del finissage di domenica. Per saperne di più, date un’occhiata alla galleria fotografica e leggete il testo critico a cura di Marina Miraglia, e se potete, fateci una scappata.

Non solo canzonette

Non solo canzonette

L’amico Leonardo Campus ha pubblicato un altro libro, sempre di taglio storico-culturale, questa volta sul Festival di Sanremo e l’Italia del dopoguerra, e proprio in coincidenza dell’ultimo festival. Titolo, sottotitolo e casa editrice, come anche il richiamo alla nota introduttiva curata dal maestro Stefano Bollani, sono chiaramente visibili sulla copertina riprodotta qui sopra. Ulteriori informazioni, compresi link a recensioni e interviste varie, si trovano sulla pagina Facebook di Leonardo, che ormai è lanciatissimo – persino Vanity Fair se ne è occupato! Ieri poi il suo precedente lavoro sulla crisi dei missili di Cuba, I sei giorni che sconvolsero il mondo, di cui ho già scritto estesamente in un precedente post, è stato presentato alla Biblioteca del Senato da storici di primo piano, quali Elena Aga Rossi, John Harper e Carlo Pinzani. La registrazione della presentazione è disponibile su RadioradicaleBravo Leonardo!

Avant-Garde Art of Selling

Robert Rauschenberg being congratulated by Italian Minister of Education Luigi Gui at the Venice Biennale, June 21, 1964

It’s been fifty years to this day since Robert Rauschenberg became the first American ever to win the Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale of Arts. And so it was that on June 20, 1964, Pop Art swept the international art scene and changed it for ever. Backed by a clique of art dealers, museum curators, and wealthy collectors, Pop Art had enjoyed swift success in the United States in the previous couple of years, and it was already a transnational phenomenon, with ramifications in the avant-garde movements of other Western countries, including Italy, but it was launched globally, as an all-American brand, thanks to the fundamental support of the United States Information Agency, an arm of Washington’s public diplomacy. The Agency organized the US exhibition at the 1964 Venice Biennale, which was immediately dubbed “the Pop Biennale.” A tribute to the revolutionary esthetics of a generation of young masters as wel as a shrewd business move that would shape the art market for decades to come, Rauschenberg’s exploit was also a landmark event of the cultural Cold War. This war for the hearts and minds of the intelligentsia was fought primarily, though not exclusively, in Western Europe, and it was a not-so-minor aspect of the larger ideological struggle between the West and the Communist Bloc. Amidst covertly-supported military coups and outright armed interventions, most notably in Vietnam at about the same time, the US Government promoted America’s interests also by these quite unconventional means. After pitting Abstract Expressionism against Socialist Realism in the 1950s through such expedients as CIA-secretly-funded exhibitions in Paris, it now sold Pop Art in Venice as the finest representation of democratic freedom of expression in the age of mass consumption.

The Eco-Ludic Machinery

Luciana's Merry-Go-Round (b&w)

Kids like it. True, there are few exceptions: the ones who, for some reason, are afraid of kinetic force, of too many people around them, or something else that can’t be named. But most kids two to eight year-old – those who can safely take a ride on it – definitely seem to like, in fact love, Luciana’s extraordinary merry-go-‘round, one of the most precious “small things” that I have ever seen in Rome. Environmentally friendly in every single detail, including its beautifully crafted rubber horses (made from used tires), it is propelled, through a customized bicycle, by the tight muscles of athletic Luciana, and it is literally animated by her spontaneous playfulness. Hence, it is an “eco-ludic machinery:” the combination of an indeed remarkable non-electrical, non-fossil-fueled amusement machine – from what I know, the only one of its kind at least in continental Italy; there’s another, by the same maker, in Sardinia – and the no less unique performance by this utterly Roman woman, who entertains her little customers with games, tricks, and down-to-heart yet exquisitely light jokes worthy of a character from a Fellini or a Pasolini movie, and who does all of that while pedaling on. As they circle around, the kids look at her as if hypnotized, and so do many of their parents!

Luciana's Merry-Go-Round (color)

Luciana Basta, 38, born and raised in Rome, is a History graduate from La Sapienza University, whose so far rather unsteady career has taken an unexpected turn. She was formerly a restorer of classic and vintage furniture and, briefly, even a construction worker – a newsworthy one for that matter: she was once the subject of a feature story on the daily Il Messaggero, as the only female in the city to climb up building scaffolds for work (!). An amateur painter with a high school degree in art, she also collaborated in the making of scenography at the Cinecittà studios for the 2005 BBC-HBO co-produced historical drama television series Rome. And now, though (fortunately) she might not be fully aware of that, she has truly become an artist, as far as I can tell…

Luciana Basta

Luciana is also a small entrepreneur, though, in typical Italian fashion, she’s had some difficulty, to run her atypical business squarely within the law, since she started it over a year ago. The problem is that sweet spots for traveling spectacles in Rome’s central areas, where money is to be made, have all long been assigned by the city government. It is, of course, an apparent oxymoron, since one would assume that these things move around and that there must be at least some opportunity to get into the business at some point somehow. But in this circumstance, as in so many others in the eternally decadent Eternal City, personal connections obviously trump market competition. So, after attempting for quite some time to get a permit, struggling with the bureaucracy while sympathetic local police officers regularly turned a blind eye on the whole thing, good Luciana decided, a couple of weeks ago, to contact directly the newly-elected mayor, Ignazio Marino, a passionate cyclist, who has stirred controversy for planning the closing to traffic of Via dei Fori Imperiali, the super-central four-lane avenue between the Forum and the Coliseum. She first tried to reach the mayor via fax and then, the very same day, fortuitously met him on a sidewalk a few blocks away from his office at the Capitol. Cornered by the fiery Luciana, he committed to help, and as a result, her merry-go-‘round is currently the subject of an expressly customized pilot project by the city government. Hurrah!

Ignazio Marino

We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, you can visit the Eco-Ludic Machinery, as I chose to name it, at the tiny but gracious Parco degli Scipioni, located just off Porta Latina, along the Aurelian Walls. It’s totally worth it, for adults too. Ask the kids! You can also read more about it and her on La Repubblica and (again) Il Messaggero. Finally, thanks to Raffaele Tavano for the beautiful black-and-white picture of Luciana at work.

The Banality of Evil

Yesterday, I heard of the terrorist attack in Kabul that made six victims among Italian troops and also killed fifteen bystanders. This morning, I read newspaper articles on the incident and very few of them mentioned the countless other victims, many of them civilian, that the war in Afghanistan has made. Tonight, I watched Terminator Salvation, which Warner Bros released last May, just when US drones were making “mistakes” in that devastated country. I was then reminded of the title of a famous book by Hannah Arendt. Those Hollywood movies serve one main purpose, that is, to banalize war, making it acceptable to our senses. And as we get used to the spectacle of violence, we are less likely to feel rage and therefore question the causes of the real violence that we hear about everyday on the news.

And what about Terminator Salvation, the videogame?

And of course the toys…

Chocolate Pentagon

A delicious chocolate Pentagon for just $10,99! You can find it on sale at Costco, in Arlington, Virginia, just a couple of blocks from the actual thing… yummy!




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