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Monday, December 4, 2017

A Tree Lives in Rome: Giuseppe Penone's art installations in the City.

Foglie di Pietra  in Largo Goldoni
Giuseppe Penone's massive tree-like sculptures have dominated Rome's art scene over the past few years, and one is now on permanent public display.

Another view of Foglie di Pietra  in Largo Goldoni
We'd say don't miss it, but it's hard not to.  The large sculpture, entitled Foglie di Pietra ("Leaves of Stone"), occupies a prominent spot on Largo Goldini, along via del Corso in front of the Fendi store there.  It's Fendi, the luxury brand, that paid for the sculpture and its installation.

"Penone, Fogie di Pietra stupiranno Roma" - "Penone, Leaves of Stone will astonish Rome" reads the headline of an article describing the installation of the work and using Penone's verb, "stupire" - to astonish, surprise or make wonder.  The work "rises on high because I'm working on public ground that shouldn't occupy space," said Penone.  The trees, weighing 11 tons, are designed to "provoke a sense of wonder that should make one reflect on the meaning of the work:  the reality that surrounds it, the architecture of the city based on's also a reflection of the material, the marble, and nature.  The Corinthian capital [see top photo - it's the white block] represents historical memory.  I put the block on high to indicate the elevation of man and to make one think about the ruins underground below."

In 2009, Penone's work was the subject of a large exhibition at Villa Medici, the French academy in Rome.  Any time a show occupies the inside space at Villa Medici, including the ancient cistern, and the outside space, it's a great experience.  The tree and stone theme was evident in 2009 as well.

Earlier this year, as part of Fendi's grand opening of its headquarters in the Palazzo della Civilta' Romana (the Fascist era "Square Coliseum," the restoration of which Fendi also financed) in EUR, it sponsored Matrice, an exhibition of Penone's more recent work.  Speaking of this show, Penone said, "The trees appear solid, but if we observe them over time, from their birth, they become fluid and malleable.  A tree is a being that memorizes its own form."  That exhibition closed in July; some photos of it follow.

Penone, born in 1947, is considered part of the Arte Povera movement.  For those non-Italians,the Arte Povera movement was active primarily in the 1960s and 1970s and includes artists such as Jannis Kounellis, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Mario and Marisa Merz.  The movement was marked by the use of "poor" or "impoverished" materials and promoted art free of established conventions.  Some of these principles still inform Penone's work.

Outdoor sculpture in front of the Square Coliseum, EUR
part of the Matrice exhibit (no longer there).

Fendi's entrance to the restored Square Coliseum.

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