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Monday, August 8, 2016

The Vision on Largo Ascianghi: an Inquiry

We happened upon this large and intriguing paste-up one evening while walking in Largo Ascianghi, opposite Nanni Moretti's cinema, near Porta Portese.  The building in the background of the paste-up, well known to followers of Rome's modern architecture, closely resembles one of four modernist post offices built by Mussolini's regime in the 1930s.  This one is located on via Marmorata, not far from the Pyramid, and it's still used, as are the others, as a post office.  The building haunts the scene in a way reminiscent of Giorgio de Chirico's urban 'scapes.  The mural is by RomaBolognaCooperazione, or RoBoCoop.   
The via Marmorata Post Office, Life Magazine, 1940
Curiously, though, the figures in the foreground ride horses rather than drive cars, and they're engaged in tasks that could be described as pre-industrial, including sawing logs with a 2-man hand saw.  At center, four people carry what might be a coffin.  At left, goods are moved by a primitive cart, with thick and possibly wooden wheels, drawn by an ox.  In front/center, the capital from an ancient column suggests that the glories of that period--and, indeed, any interest in it--are in the past.  In the right foreground, a woman rides behind a man on horseback, one dressed in an animal skin tunic of the sort normally identified with cave men.  The number of people in the scene suggest a community, engaged in construction, or reconstruction.

As it turns out, the Ascianghi mural is a redoing of a late-15th-century work (picture below) by Piero di Cosimo, known as an "eccentric" artist.  The workers in the foreground--the same in both works--are engaged in constructing the building in the background. 

What might RoBoCoop have had in mind?  On the one hand, the artist(s) could be suggesting that as much as everything changes, everything stays the same.  Yes, the nature of work changes, but construction goes on, and with some resemblance in the buildings, even though they are some 450 years apart.  Or the RoBoCoop piece could be a comment on the apocalypse, on a post-nuclear world in which humanity has lost all but its most basic skills, a world marked in time by the survival of at least one 20th-century building, a remnant of a pre-nuclear world.

We welcome members' thoughts and ideas.

PS - We realized only later that we met a couple of the RoBoCoop artists during the Open House Roma weekend - another plus for that spectacular event.
And thanks to Jess Stewart for helping us figure out the artists here.

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