Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday October 28th—Rome

Thursday 28th
We go to the Columbarium near us here on Tuesday morning. It is a crematorium of sorts, a burial ground in Doria Pamphili Park, where many of the Fellows jog. We turn a corner and they check all our passports—this is a state site—and we cross and enter a fenced in yard. Downstairs, steep ones, we see niches for burial urns and ashes. All the decorative plaster has been stolen—lime for fertilizer one of the scholars suggests —and the urns too are missing. What is left are holes---like a bee cage with a few incised epigraphs on marble. The letters are beautiful: fine, sure, handmade. One of the fellows in book design photographs them all over the city. These are especially lovely. Then the prize—we go to a columbarium still in the park but one discovered in 1984. Thus it is intact!

We go down, very similar but the plaster is still up and the tiles on the floor: it is from a collegio—a community of freed greek slaves from 2000 years ago. The paintings are nearly folk art, with images of life—fruit, birds, a mirror, a garden and then a long series of figures –that work around the smallish room 15 ft high perhaps 15x 10 feet long and wide—to tell the story of court and justice done: the defendant is found guilty, his hand is put in fire (the man becomes a lefty). The floor tiles are marvelous, three different designs in a small space, with the threshold marked---un patterned largely, fragmented, looking like modern post world-war 2 paintings. Very full of feeling and delicacy. This in the Pamphili backyard, a grand villa with formal gardens and a fantastic 6x6’ vase (I will include photo) and lovely shy marble woman. Touching, emotional.

Wednesday is another walk, this time to artist studios downtown, the first few in the neighborhood where our lab is (take the 75 to Colosseum and get out). The galleries are small with quite good work: in the first using men’s shirts and cloth to make landscape paintings, heels to make decayed orchids (?); in the second full of pattern and print, strong graphics and a large variety of materials and processes that are held together to excite the room (this man had just shown in NY). Then we go to Gagosian in Rome—other side of town, large white space with Alexander Calder exhibit. The Calders are glorious—delicate and not, mobile and stabile, humorous and very human. There was also a series of drawings that were beautiful—Miro influenced and reminding me of Picasso’s notebooks from Barcelona—starry starry nights. The opening is tonight. They were nice enough to show us the day before; the director quite generous and walking about on 6inch heeled purple suede boots! I remain amazed by Rome’s women and their foot capabilities.

Later this morning I thought about that white space and how cut off from life it was, how unlike Rome it was. The artificiality of the museum and gallery, the division between the real and aesthetics, the sacral in art. Feeling uncomfortable with these conclusions. Remembering my 10 year old self, un-theorized, sensing that sculpture was more in life than painting sitting in frames on walls. Of course, I love painting but that child perception was not wrong. It is still an issue. How are things seen? How are they sold?

Today, third walk in a week. Almost too much but always interesting. This time down to the papal palace along the via garibaldi. I had just been down this way but without knowing things that made it so much richer. Richard, one of the scholars (and our Byron) led the talk with many interesting facts about our locale, both inside and outside the gates---how this was the site of the French incursion and finally defeat of Garibaldi in 1849. Seeing the arch and the way the path into the pamphili park is a direct route—on which the French army made its way. Learning that our Galileo building was taller and the key building that could see over the wall. Once the French breached its walls, the fight was lost for the Italian army. Walking down the via, the busts are of Garibaldi’s officers and men and were paid for by the families of the revolutionary warriors. Then finally to Anita Garibaldi statue created by the fascists in the 20th c.: she is riding sidesaddle with a pistol raised and a baby at her breast! The style is l9th c. and purposefully; the emotions are meant to raise fascist hopes.

On to St. Peters, not inside but checking out the walls and an early hospital—one for 500 years and then Bernini’s columns---how they form an irregular ellipse to correct the weirdness of st. peter’s façade---built as popes' tore down each others' prior work. On up another set of newly discovered stairs to a well-earned lunch.

This weekend many celebrations: drinks after Friday dinner to celebrate one of the academy’s funders—nice (very wealthy) guy from Cambridge; Saturday Halloween with kids and our adult party—what will I be? And Sunday a dinner at Lo Scarpone. Yes.

In between —work and more work. I must finish the China film! Get more film from Kodak, Italy and present films to Cornell architecture students on Tuesday. buona notte

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