Claritudo. Light and transparency: Maria Lai, Antonio Trotta and other contemporary artists on display in Milan.

The Basilica of San Celso in Milan is hosting from March 23 to April 14, 2019 the exhibition Claritudo. Light and Transparency.

From March 23 to April 14, 2019, the Basilica of San Celso, Milan, will host the exhibition Claritudo. Light and Transparency, curated by Angela Madesani and Elisabetta Mero. Works by five contemporary artists, such as Satoshi Hirose, Maria Lai, Jacopo Mazzonelli, Elisabeth Scherffig, and Antonio Trotta, will be on view.

Curator Angela Madesani writes in the text accompanying the exhibition, "Claritudo, transparent luminosity is the guiding concept of the exhibition. Light of knowledge, of wisdom, spiritual light, which finds in art a vehicle of transmission. The exhibition was conceived specifically for the place, one of the most important in Milanese Christianity, whose foundation is in the 8th century AD. The present facade was set back from the original during its reconstruction by Luigi Canonica, a well-known Swiss architect and exponent of Neoclassicism. Façade that, nevertheless has some original elements. Details of Romanesque sculpture in which we seem to recognize certain moments of that fantastic Middle Ages so thoroughly studied by Lithuanian art historian Jurgis Baltrusaitis.

St. Celsus is a longitudinal Romanesque basilica with a nave and two aisles in a 1:2 ratio, no transept, with a single semicircular apse, internally punctuated, at the base of the semicatin by a continuous frieze of small arches, in which the works of the 5 artists are placed in dialogue with the space of faith, as the Superintendency’s record explains.

What I Don’t Know is the title of Maria Lai ’s (1919-2013) small book from 1984. It comes three years after Binding to the Mountain, a foundational work for the history of contemporary art, which challenges any form of rhetoric, operating on the concept of transformation, through collective rituality. His embroidered book, with threads becoming tactile matter, sign and color, is an act of humility, it is an awareness of not knowing, an anti-declaration. In a 1993 interview, the artist, speaking about the books, says: “My spaces had expanded and projected further and further into the distance, but there had also arisen, as I have already mentioned, a need for intimacy in the conversation with the user. Thus were born my books, which ask to be ”touched“ as well as looked at and whose threads surface as if from underground places. The uncertainties and tangles express my tension toward other spaces.” Those of the mind and spirit.

By Antonio Trotta (1937) is the great book Philosophy, with the title written in Greek characters, in imperial bardiglio marble. It is a book that does not open and is work itself. For the sculptor, matter is a matter of light. Here the reference is to culture, to the Greekness of which a man from southern Italy like Trotta is a child. The artist likes to quote a thought by Heidegger “that Art establishes the place,” the place of origin of our culture, the acropolis. Here knowledge stands in close dialogue with the sacred place, the place dedicated to the divine. Marco Senaldi in a text on the Italian-Argentine sculptor wrote that writing is a “third way” for him, a path that is evident in the enigmatic work on display.

Change, the “in fieri,” an inescapable condition of life, is a founding moment of Elisabeth Scherffig ’s (1949) research. On the altar, facing each other are two of her sculptures. One is a cast of her head covered in gold. It is the fullness as opposed to the emptiness of the light, transparent silk organza and porcelain head, also made from a cast of her head. On the skull is the sketchy mapping of the blood vessels, where the lifeblood, the thought, which constitutes the uniqueness of the human being, passes through. It is a way of laying bare its processiveness, of revealing it in its mechanisms. A gold cobblestone placed on a slate base refers to the Philosopher’s Stone, an alchemical object, which in tradition is endowed with extraordinary powers, is apt to provide an elixir of long life, make one acquire omniscience and transform vile metals into gold precisely, a symbol of earthly and heavenly glory.

Solo by Jacopo Mazzonelli (1983) is a work about man. The sound of a cello, in its high register, approaching the violin, sounds like weeping. The cellist embraces the instrument and becomes one with it. Through music, the human being is able to reach other atmospheres, with a process of transformation aimed at overcoming our limitations.
Doors, doors, indicates access to new dimensions, including spiritual ones. The door is not just an element of separation, but rather the load-bearing part of a process, dealing with the spiritual and mysterious nature of existence. In Doors, the door is tripartite, and the artist in this regard explains, “The choice to tripartite such an object is not accidental; in fact, it refers to two distinct elements that represent the conceptual core of the operation. On the one hand, music, where three elements - in this case three overlapping musical notes - when ordered according to precise rules of an acoustic nature go to form a chord; on the other hand, alchemy, understood not only as the transformation of raw metal into gold, but as the symbolic inner process of the worker - the alchemist.”

As in Maria Lai so in Satoshi Hirose (1963) is the sacredness of the everyday in the work Star Dust (2000), over nine meters long, which hangs from the ceiling and bends to the ground. It is like a thin stele made of dough, of little blue stars, an homage to Constantin Brancusi’s Infinite Column. On the terracotta floor of the church still stars the color of the sky, a color reminiscent of the lapis lazuli of medieval and Renaissance painting. The paste in its many forms fascinates him, capturing him in its simple complexity. Hirose works a linguistic transformation of materials. A river stone painted with the colors of water is placed in the baptismal font. It is the evocation of its origin, the memory of matter. A transparent glass sphere is placed in a niche with a Romanesque fresco. It manages to channel the space and modify it. The Japanese artist likes to emphasize certain proximities between his Eastern culture and the Western culture that has adopted him; it is his will to find a common matrix of an existential nature that, from time to time, adapts to the different moments, the different junctures in which we find ourselves acting."

Hours: Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Free admission

Image: The work in the exhibition by Elisabeth Scherffig

Claritudo. Light and transparency: Maria Lai, Antonio Trotta and other contemporary artists on display in Milan.
Claritudo. Light and transparency: Maria Lai, Antonio Trotta and other contemporary artists on display in Milan.

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