Art recounts wars: from Picasso to Dalì, the collective exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli
Until November 19 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Turin more than 140 works by 39 artists are collected together: the common thread is conflicts, up to the Ukraine of our days. "The saddest exhibition you've ever made, but certainly the most necessary", says the curator
Art can distract us and carry us away. Think of Matisse who, in the middle of the First World War, painted marvels or more recently of Olafur Eliasson, who with two exhibitions – In your time in Florence, at Palazzo Strozzi, and with Trembling Horizons at the Castello di Rivoli (again in progress) – managed to bring optimism and give confidence to the visitor that he can immerse himself in other worlds especially when there is pain.
The same can and must lead to a catharsis in the most Aristotelian sense of the term, or rather to the purification of those who attend the representation of a tragedy from their own passions. Dramatic art was for Eliasson an imitator of reality and thus reproducing serious, bloody or mournful facts, he believed that it was possible to sublimate them into a feeling of pity and terror together, somehow remedying the anxieties of everyday life.
You need to understand this before deciding to go and see (we recommend it), Artists at warthe new exhibition hosted right at Castello di Rivoli/Museum of Contemporary Art until November 19 next, "the saddest exhibition I've ever done in my life, but certainly the most necessary", he explains to Il Foglio Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of the museum and curator of the same with Marianna Vecellio. “A sign warns the visitor that this exhibition may offend his sensibility, but it is also an invitation to surpass him and face it to get only the best out of it”, she adds. “There are more than 140 works created by 39 artists of the present and of the past who have found themselves or who are still at war. Everyone has elaborated and expressed it in his own way and what came out of it is an exhibition that takes its cue from Disasters of war Of Francisco José de Goya y Lucenteshowever, looking at such a dramatic event from a cultural perspective capable of including art and philosophy, going beyond its purely political and economic explanation".
It is no coincidence, therefore, if among the symbols of the same there is The Shelter II by the Ukrainian Nikita Kadan, a work created ad hoc for the Castello di Rivoli inspired by images he found on the internet or taken that document the war. As the title suggests, this is a real life-size retreat divided into two floors.
NIKITA KADAN - The Shelter, 2015 _Photo Sahir Uğur Eren_Courtesy the artist
What immediately strikes you is the first floor where you will notice a wall made up of piles of crammed books, "no longer symbols of a culture made to be read, but tools necessary to defend oneself from possible attacks or to protect oneself from the explosion of glass after a bomb", the director points out along the way. The black of the lower floor of the large installation is very reminiscent of Kapoor's works, a set of all the colors that make sense precisely because they are together. It looks like a wall, but in reality, up close you will discover that that space is open, it is a real room where from afar you can see the cast of a hand (that of the artist) which is a request for help. A sort of underground tomb with that bronze casting coming out of the wall that deliberately recalls one of the many photos that documented, months ago, the massacre that took place in Buča, a few kilometers from Kiev. In this as in all of Kadan's works, the architecture and history are always a device to reveal the presence and legacy of the Soviet Union in Ukrainian culture.
NIKITA KADAN - Gostomel. From artist's visual diary, 2023
“Compared to death – continues Christov-Bakargiev – war has a clear contrast between the extreme rationality and calculation of the soldiers/generals involved and its total unpredictability. War is a moment in which death is daily life and life in wartime is precisely this interval between life and death, infinitely dilated, a concept well expressed in Kadan's work which takes on the tragedy of our history transforming itself into an environment dominated by solitude and silence, melancholy and the incapacity to act”.
“You get used to everything”, wrote Paul Éluard (1895-1952) in a poem contained in the collection solidarity, a touching volume denouncing Francisco Franco's victory in Spain whose sales proceeds were destined to support the republican fighters of the Spanish Civil War. In room 36 of the Castle, protected by a display case, you will find it open in the two pages dedicated to poetry November 1936, the first poem of a political nature by the French writer, composed in the aftermath of the bloody battle of Madrid. Still in the same case, bound with a red cover, there is Au rendezvous allemanda collection of poems which also houses La Victoire de Guernica, which he composed a few weeks after the bombing of the Basque town. It derives from Guernica and its famous and homonymous painting, the Head of a woman made by Pablo Picasso in 1942.
PABLO PICASSO - Head of a woman, 1942
It hangs on the wall next to the case and that tortured and divided face recalls Dora Maar, but also many other female figures present in Guernica, the most direct and most incisive way for an artist like him to denounce the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and the conduct of General Francisco Franco. Not far away, there is Composition with tourthe manner for a surrealist like Salvador Dali (1904-1989) to render on canvas the disasters of that war and of autarkic Spain during the Second World War.
SALVADOR DALÍ - Composition with tour, 1943
The blue star that you can admire in the center of the painting – a sketch for one of the curtains he made for his choreographer friend known as La Argentinite (the dancer and choreographer Encarnacion Lopez Julvez) at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, depicts the sign of the coffee, but also alludes to the Jewish star. The background music will still remain within you when you admire the two works by Ettore Ximenes, Fabio Mauri, photos by Elizabeth (Lee) Miller, the Jellyfish by Bracha I. Ettinger or the works of the Vietnamese Dinh Q.Le. Two of those Alberto Burripure abstract material art of a former doctor who, during his imprisonment in the POW (Prisoners of War) camp in Hereford, Texas, decided to abandon that profession forever (clearly visible, in reality, from the cuts and assemblages made in his works) to devote himself to art.
Alberto Burri - Texas, 1945
Personal stories and different historical realities are intertwined in the video Nocturnes by Albanian artist Anri Sala, while with the film The Ballad of Special Ops codyIraqi-American Michael Rakowitz investigates the contradictions of the wars in Iraq.
ANRI SALA - Nocturnes, 1999
Last, but certainly not least, the six huge canvases made by the Afghan Rahraw Omarzadfounder of the CCAA (of the National Center for Contemporary Art in Kabul and of a school designed to give access to art education to women), her direct testimony and reaction to the recent wars in Afghanistan accompanied by the video New Scenario, shot during the months of residence at the Castello di Rivoli inside an air-raid shelter in Turin. Every tiger needs a horserecites the title of another of his works and if it is true that conflict is the father of all things (Heraclitus), it is equally true that Being reveals itself to philosophical thought as war in the contrast between the finiteness of death and the 'limitless incommensurability of existence.