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Monday, June 26, 2023

Sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro and Fendi Put On a Show

Bill in front of the 'opening' piece, Le Battaglie ("The Battles" 1995), which Pomodoro says was inspired by Paolo Uccello's "La Battaglia di San Romano" ("The Battle of San Romano" - first half of 1400s) in Siena. (Hisham Matar's "A Month in Siena" has many incisive pages devoted to this painting.)

A little late to the game, we "discovered" Arnaldo Pomodoro, thanks to a newspaper ad on the opening of a new exhibition of some of his large-scale works at Fendi's gallery at the restored Palazzo della Civilta' Romano in EUR. It's not that we hadn't seen his work before - we have long appreciated the globe/sphere in front of the Farnesina, the Italian "state department" in Rome. His "sphere within a sphere" are all over the world, we now know.

The exhibition at Fendi  - Il Grande Teatro delle Civilta' - "The Great Theater of Civilizations" - is remarkable for its installation of numerous enormous works - on the scale of Richard Serra's (though Pomodoro's are one-sided - one cannot walk in and around them).

The Palazzo (also known as the "Square Coliseum") is itself so imposing that at first we found Pomodoro's works installed outside of it simply too small and squatty.

Case in point, right.  Dianne tries to figure out what it is - against the backdrop of a much more imposing statue from the building's original design. Turns out it's Agamemnon, and the design was for a Greek theater production in 2014 in Siracusa and so, makes sense. It wasn't designed for this place.

Two aspects of the exhibit appealed to us. First, the delight of children grooving to the artwork, as at left.

Second, the excellent and informative flat material that gives shape to Pomodoro's lengthy career. He's about to turn 97 (the English language Wikipedia entry says his active years WERE 1954-2005 - whoops!). These are displayed in bright, large glass cases, slide-out drawers - both vertical and horizontal. We were intrigued by his work in the graphics medium.

And we learned about the placement of his works around the world. Newspaper articles and drawings showed that one of his obelisk-type sculptures had been installed on the Gianicolo, in a highly visible but unlikely spot - the traffic circle on the way up to the Bambino Gesu' Hospital that hosts the large entrances to the bus parking for the hordes visiting St. Peter's and the Vatican (you can also access the Caput Mundi shopping mall Bill wrote about recently from this underground parking venue). Below is the sketch - but it must have been there because there also were photos of it being installed. We missed it "in the flesh."

Left, Dianne checking out one of the drawers with sketches, newspaper articles, graphic works, and explanations. (If only my kitchen drawers worked this well!)

A hand-out at the exhibition shows the location of Pomodoro's works around Rome. We later were on a tour of Palazzo dello Sport (Nervi's ground-breaking building for the 1960 Olympics; Ali - as Cassius Clay - won his gold medal here), which features a Pomodoro obelisk in another once-traffic-circle (named Piazzale Pier Luigi Nervi), now abandoned and rather forlorn.

The photo at right shows the condition of the piazza and statue.

We've heard the complaint (and are tempted ourselves) to view Pomodoro as a "one-trick pony." If you unwrap the obelisk, it looks like the flat pieces. The shapes are similar throughout his work. 

The exhibition at Fendi ends with a newer piece (1996-97, below) that is a complement in white to the introductory Le Battaglie that leads off this post.

To us, it didn't seem to move the needle much in terms of his art. 

The title of the work is Movimento in pieno aria e nel profondo ("Movement in free space and in the depths" - or something like that!).

Close-up at right.

On the other hand, if one looks at his costumes, graphic work, public art - the way it is placed in the world, his vision seems greater.  

We close with some of these other pieces, including our having fun with them - which is a benefit of art as well.

If you can't get to Rome to see Il Grande Teatro delle Civilta' - "The Great Theater of Civilizations" before it closes October 1, the website is comprehensive. It includes all the works, plus a visual tour, plus a map of his works all over the world.

In Italian and English here:


RST with one of the costumes, this one from 1986 for Didone (Dido), one of my favorite tragic heroines. .

There's a relationship between the faux "printer's wheel" outside (Rotativa di Babilonia - Babylon's wheel, 1991) and the graphics-type work inside (Tracce I-VII - Traces 1-7, 1998) (above and below).

A close-up of Il cubo ("The Cube," 1961-62), one of the first works in the show, and one one of us found intriguing - maybe because it had some "white space" in it.

Below is the most recent of Pomodoro's sculptures in the exhibition - Continuum, 2010 - one that seems to highlight made-up hieroglyphics. Pomodoro's large, rectangular pieces remind us of Richard Serra's, but the Italian sculptor's are very much 2-dimensional with bas relief, not the 3-dimensional, run-around-and-through-it of Serra.

The artist with his barbed take on Fendi's Peekaboo bag - on display during the exhibition: 

(Image credit: Carlos & Dario Tettamanzi)

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