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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

American Academy Open Studios - Art and Architecture in a Sublime Setting

The dwindling crowd at dusk at the McKim Mead and White building,
The American Academy in Rome
The American Academy in Rome's Open Studios are, for us anyway, a not-to-be-missed event. This year, the "Centennial Festival" on June 5 was no exception.  One cannot see these studios and have unlimited access to the Academy's Fellows except one evening per year, and that evening has just passed, but we think some flavor of the experience and the work is worth writing about, even after the event and perhaps in anticipation of next year.

LaBombard explaining her work on the greening of Rome's land.
The Fellows are strongly concentrated in architecture, including landscape architecture. So that influences what one sees in the studios.  We started at the top of this 3-story building to avoid the crowds - and the event does draw crowds, which seemed to be more Italian this year than in the past.   We were intrigued from the outset by Elizabeth Fain LaBombard's graphs and aerial photos showing the urbanization of Rome, and her efforts to bring more green space to the city and its suburban areas. Since we've walked and hiked in many of these areas, we were drawn to her photos and her work.

Newell's dark space photos
Down the hall, Catie Newell, also an Architecture Fellow, was focused on dark space.  Her photos were fascinating ["Those are the ones you want me to throw away, said Bill."  "Not quite," I replied.], as were her dark, tar-coated - perhaps - objects.

Noordkamp's film on Gibellina, a Sicilian city reconstructed in the 1980s
and perhaps killed by the good intentions of architects and planners of that era.
And on the same floor, Petra Noordkamp [Dutch Affiliated Fellow] drew us in with her film about Gibellina, a city in Sicily destroyed by the 1968 earthquake, reconstructed with buildings by well-know archiects - away from the original city - in the 1980s, and now mostly abandoned.  Our discussion with Petra led to her telling us of another short film she did that explores a church in Gibellina, by the famous architect Ludovico Quaroni.  Petra described his son as "my ex-lover who killed his mother."  We bought the dvd on the spot.

Wine, kids and views - along with the art.
The 3 Preservation and Conservation Fellows are fascinated by some of the same 20th century work as are we. Tom Leslie celebrated with us his love of Pier Luigi Nervi's Palazzetto dello Sport, which we've lauded on the blog.

One of Dobbins' puppet shows.
Reynolds' film of his artist-and-model
Among the visual artists, we particularly enjoyed the puppetry of Hamlett Dobbins that uses Futurist authors' [Marinetti, Depero, etc.] plays, and Reynold Reynolds' short film that riffs off the Durer etching of a man sketching a nude through a grid [ "painting made easy"?].

These are just 6 of the 16 studios we visited.  We also found time for the villa's spectacular views, and the free flowing wine and almonds.

Serving up the wine.

If you are in Rome at the end of May/beginning of June, don't miss next year's AARome's Open Studios.  A footnote - the concept of the Open Studios was begun by our friend Dana Prescott, then the Andrew Heiskell Arts Director at the American Academy in Rome, now Executive Director of Civitella Ranieri Foundation, which hosts fellows in a spectacular castle in Umbria.

To next year...  Dianne
We're always pleased to see Rome the Second Time
on an Academy bookshelf.

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