|Photo via Ravenna24oro.it|
What were all of these people celebrating in the streets of Ravenna, Italy on October 8th. A spectacular tomato harvest? A strategic soccer win? The end of Lent? Actually, it was none of the above.
It was art – contemporary mosaic art – that had thousands swarming in and out of museums, libraries, monuments, studios, galleries and retail shops on Notte d’Oro – the opening night of RavennaMosaico 2011. Several friends referred to it as the “Mosaic Moshpit.”
RavennaMosaico is an extraordinary, biennial event organized by the International Association of Contemporary Mosaicists (AIMC) and the Comune di Ravenna. This delightful town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its Byzantine mosaic treasures, is claiming the right to be seen as the global nexus for contemporary mosaics – and they are doing a great job of it.
There are exhibits, demonstrations, symposiums and lectures on the “state of the art” throughout the city between now and November 20th. While this is only the second time for the festival, it has already garnered international art press notice.
Photo via RavennaMosaico
Just last week, the New York Times and International Herald Tribune carried a review/overview of RavennaMosaico by noted Italian arts and culture commentator Roderick Conway Morris; “An Ancient Craft Gets a Bigger World Stage.” (links below)
On the same day, the Times also referenced a mosaic by Lee Krasner in a review of a new exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. We are seeing a growing momentum for contemporary mosaics as an art form that is very exciting.
Back to the night in question . . . Notte d’Oro was glorious. It was boisterous. It was inspirational. It was claustrophobic. And we were there – on the third leg of the Mosaic Masterpieces Tour. While we saw much, and missed a great deal, too, in this post, we’ll hit on four highlights from our time in Ravenna.
Immersion by CaCO3 at The Arian Baptistry
We are going to be up front and say we are partial to the work of CaCO3, the mosaic triumverate comprised of Pavlos Mavromatidis, Aniko Ferreira da Silva and Guiseppe Donnaloia. The group was selected as one of the eight featured artists in our 2011 Exhibition in Print by Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings. We were excited to see what they had created as the solo installation for the Arian Baptistry, one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ravenna. We were not disappointed.
It’s a towel. A marble towel hanging from an aluminum towel rod.
A little history about the Arian Baptistry: Theodoric the Great commissioned this building in the late 5th Century for the Arians. Now, the Arians had a very different take on the concept of Christ than did the Catholics of Justinian who eventually wrested Ravenna away from Theodoric. Arians believed the son was not fully God or part of the Holy Trinity. They saw him as more human than divine. Which is what makes the mosaic in this baptistry so special. This figure of Christ is pale, almost timid. His genitalia beneath the water is exposed for all to see. The word “vulnerable” comes to mind immediately.
This is the aspect of the mosaic – Jesus, nude, immersed to the waist in the River Jordan – that CaCO3 chose to focus on in designing for this splendid site. From the Artists’ Statement:
We (CaCO3) wanted to insert an element into the site which by its nature would interact with the building in two ways; First, materially through the use of mosaic and second, conceptually through a clear connection between our new element and the narrative and purpose of the baptistry and its ancient mosaics.
Our idea was to place inside the baptistry a towel hanging on a metal structure ready to receive the man Jesus – not so very different than any who was in this building to be baptized – as he emerged from the River Jordan in need of warmth and covering. We imagined a sheet of white linen whose woof is made apparent through the use of small, individual tesserae of white limestone (CaCO3).
Simple. Elegant. Beautiful. Reverant of the spirit, faith and history of the place in which it resides. For us, Immersion was one of those art moments where we looked at what is in front of us, thought “Of course” and were silenced with the perfection of it. So satisfying. Immersion is the only RavennaMosaico installation to be found in a UNESCO World Heritage site. We are certain that the Superintendency for Architectural Heritage and Landscape of Ravenna, who gave permission for CaCO3 to execute the project, must be very pleased with the results.
After Notte de Oro, we were fortunate enough to arrange for a private viewing of Immersion and have CaCO3 on hand to talk about the piece, their inspiration and how they work together. Later, we repaired to a local bar where beer proved to be the perfect antidote to language barriers.
Bibliomosaico: Artistic Books in Mosaic Tiles
Sprinkled throughout the clean, well lit shop were small works created by mosaic artists on the theme of books. Notes from the catalogue:
The BIBLIOMOSAICO exhibition was conceived by Rosetta Berardi in 2009 with the intention of stimulating thought on the form of the book, on the representation of a “book object” which is to be looked at and not read, a book which is not a book but a “book object”, a book which although having lost its content of words has obtained its specific conceptual meaning of an open work. It is not a book which becomes a work of art but a work of art that becomes or recalls a book.
Some of the pieces here were mini-masterworks that clearly referred to the book as object. Examples included the mosaics by Verdiano Marzi (above), Toyoharu Kii and Atsuo Suzumura (below). Like visual flypaper, these mosaics pulled us in for long, lingering studies.
Storria di una Zucchina, 2009 Silvia Naddeo
Photos courtesy George Fishman
Raniero Bittante’s Bubble Gum Italia was composed of three copies of the Italian constitution encrusted with red, white and green smalti adhered with used wads of the stuff accompanied by a video of Italians blowing bubbles.
Tribute to Ilana Shafir at Classense Library
Israeli artist Ilana Shafir is a contemporary mosaic legend. We covered this show, the only solo exhibit at RavennaMosaico 2011, in a MAN post this past September.
Collection of Laura Gavioli
It was nothing short of thrilling to be at the opening of the exhibit to see all of the mosaics – and the artist – in person.
Like the star that she is, Shafir was the center of all on Notte d’Oro, attracting fond wishes and heartfelt gratitude from everyone. Including us.
BRAVO! to AIMC and the Comune di Ravenna for wonderful event. And to the hundreds of artists who contributed the time, the energy and the art that so enriched and inspired all of us – Grazie. Mille grazie.
Enjoy – Nancie
Our sincere thanks to all who contributed photographs to this post. Where not otherwise noted, photos are by the author.
Ravenna Mosaico 2011 website
“An Ancient Craft Gets a Bigger World Stage” New York Times, October 27, 2011
“Hewn, Spun, Joined, Sandwiched, Cemented” A review of Crafting Modernism at the Museum of Art and Design New York Times October 27, 2011
Roderick Conway Morris website
MAR, The Ravenna City Museum website
Helen Bodycomb website
Henry-Noel Aubry website
Julian Modica website
Toyoharu Kii here
Silvia Naddeo website
Ranier Bittante here
Takako Hirai photos
Sonya Louro do Rego website
Luca Barberini website
Previous MAN Posts about the ARTISTS
Ilana Shafir Honored with Solo Exhibition At Ravenna Mosaico 2011 here
Verdiano Marzi: A European Master Teaches in the US here
Luca Barberini: Bernice Steinbaum’s Exhibition in Print Best in Show here
CaCO3: Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings Exhibition in Print here