Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Rome's Worst Public Sculptures: Nominees, Group 1

For some time now, as we've wandered Rome's 'burbs, byways and backwaters, we've been observers of Rome's lesser-known public art objects: the sculptures in the city's mostly outlying parks and piazzas, intended to bring a little history and culture to what tourists would consider the boonies.  Many, though not all, of these sculptures were installed in the 1990s and early 20th century as part of the Cento Piazze (one hundred piazzas) program of former Rome Mayor Francesco Rutelli, a venture we applaud even as we express reservations about some of its artistic achievements.

The Piazza Bologna area is no backwater, though tourists will likely not have found it.  It's on Metro B, the third stop northwest from Termini.  You'll find our first example just a few blocks south of the exit, which is in Piazza Bologna proper, straight south down viale delle Provincie to Piazzale dell Provincie, a bustling place, decidedly unfriendly to pedestrians.  In the center of the Piazzale is nominee #1.  If you manage to reach the sculpture, you'll find that each of the outlying posts represents an Italian city, and the posts are group by province.  Duh!  Bill appreciates the effort to give concrete (pun!) expression to Italy's provincial matrix, and he thinks the whole is more inventive than the monolith fad that inhabits some other piazzas.  Dianne thinks she could design something better in about ten minutes.  Years ago (an expression designed to put the moment in the far away past) Bill did the ugly American routine --while on an evening out with Italian friends, no less)--and climbed the structure.  You can, too.  If you can get there. 

If you're a tourist pussy and Piazza Bologna's too far off the beaten track, we recommend Pietro Consagra's "Giano nel Cuore di Rome," available for viewing at the top of the city's financial district at the end of Largo S. Susanna.  To get there, begin at Piazza della Republica and walk northwest on via Orlando, ignoring the Moses Fountain (which will no doubt be covered for repairs, anyway) on your right and proceeding on for an additional 50 meters or so, to the "Giano."  Unfortunately, even our big print dictionary provides no hint of what a "Giano" might be, though an urban dicitionary site offers this definition: "An interesting gothy type of man.  Usually bigger built, but extravagently [sic] gorgeous.  Often has a warm heart, but can be pushed toward aggression for the things he loves."  You can't make this stuff up.  We definitely sense some gothy thing going on here.  The Zanichelli dictionary offers some help: Giano is Janus, the Roman god who managed the universe by looking forward and backward.  Or, as Dianne commented, "it looks like gumby." 

After Giano anything looks good, and maybe that's why we have a soft spot for the next nominee.  You'll find it south of the Centro, in Largo Bompiani.  You can't get there, but if you could you would follow via Cristoforo Colombo to Piazza dei Navigatori, then walk about two blocks left/southeast to the small park that constitutes the largo.

We don't know who made this sculpture or what it's supposed to represent, but we like it enough to hope it doesn't get too many votes for Rome's worst public sculpture.  It's got nice weight and volume, looks different from different angles, and from more than one perspective seems to have something to say about machinery, perhaps combined with a statement about the Holy Roman artichoke (this view not pictured).  If you stay around, you'll no doubt have other thoughts and may discover who did it.

We're headed to via Ostiense and then Metro A, which is about a mile away, across via Cristoforo Colombo and down via delle Sette Chiese.  About halfway there via delle Sette Chiese emerges into a large, oblong piazza: Largo delle Sette Chiese.  At the far end, in the center of a busy traffic circle, is our next quarry.  You're now in the quartiere of Garbatella, long (and still) a hot-bed of Leftist politics, and so it's fitting that this community's entry in our sculpture contest would be dedicated to the anti-Fascist, anti-German, and predominantly leftist (and Communist) Roman resistance.  Indeed, the 40s-style lettering in the concrete explains that the structure before us was dedicated in 1974 on the "Trentennale (30th anniverary) of the Resistenza Romana."  Despite the community's interest in such matters, the work has not been well cared for; the concrete is in disrepair, and long grass has nearly taken over. 

The sculpture (above left) consists of a bunch of metal spikey things embedded in the concrete, some of them protruding into boxes.  The penetration of the boxes might be said to represent death, or perhaps the containment of hope and aspiration by the forces of evil.  Perhaps the boxes on spikey things stand for people.  It's likely the sculptor had some idea in mind.  Still, it seems to us another over-determined failure from that awkward decade, the 1970s.  Given its treatment, apparently the community thinks so, too.  

More to come in a second installment.  Hold your breath.


Irreverent Italy said...

That metal mill - which I happen to love - is a statement against fascism (don't ask) - you're free to interpret -- but, like you say, it's not bad from every angle.

Instead, and as reported in a similar post of mine, just a few paces further by the Cristoforo Colombo is one of the horrific monstrosities lovingly "donated" by an artist who, privy of talent, found a way to leave his mark on Rome - and unfortunately for our senses, right up and down the Colombo.

You'll see the godawful thing in my post here (which I did not limit myself to Rome, but one of the ugliest in the entire world):

Meanwhile, I'd like to use your photo + link to your post in mine of the day, if that's okay with you!

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

Thanks for the interesting comment, Francesca. Of course you can use the photo. B and D