Milan, Corrado Bonomi's ironic conceptualism on display at the Civic Aquarium

Until Feb. 26, the spaces of the Civic Aquarium in Milan host 'Acque chete,' a solo exhibition by Corrado Bonomi, who investigates the marine world with its inhabitants with reflections on the themes of diversity and sustainability.

On view until Feb. 26 is Acque chete, the solo exhibition by Corrado Bonomi, designed specifically for the exhibition spaces of theCivic Aquarium of Milan. The exhibition, promoted by the Municipality of Milan Culture and theAquarium and Civic Hydrobiological Station, curated by Alberto Fiz, presents 20 works, including paintings, sculptures and installations that have as a unifying element the marine world with its inhabitants and includes a reflection on the themes of diversity and sustainability through the lens of irony, a characteristic trait of the entire artistic investigation that Bonomi has been conducting since the 1980s with wide recognition in national and international circles. As Alberto Fiz states, “in the Aquarium space, a wide selection of works is proposed, tending to retrace the artist’s expressive investigation from 1987 to the present in a poetic and desecrating roundabout that challenges our certainties by winking at myth, literature and art. Bonomi’s still waters hide many pitfalls and surprises.”

To enter the exhibition, the viewer must cross the belly of the whale by walking through the unprecedented site-specific installation created by the artist for the occasion with the cetacean’s vertebrae and ribs made of polystyrene. At the bottom is a candle, arranged on a small table, reminiscent of the many figures swallowed by the cetacean such as Pinocchio or Jonah. But also Baron Münchhausen or the Lead Soldier.

In the same environment appears New Arrivals, a large work of nearly three meters made in 2021 with a model of a sperm whale carrying a multitude of migrants on its back. Through the transfiguration of the rescue myth, the artist is inspired by ancient Polynesian and Hawaiian fables in which the living move on the back of a cetacean. Again, the references are many, and the most explicit citation is to The Navigation of St. Brandan and the whale-island on which, according to legend, the Irish monk landed.

After dealing with the theme of voyage, Bonomi offers Mare nostrum, a highly problematic work where within a wooden curtain, similar to a children’s theater with a sand base and surrounded by bamboo cane hooks one can fish with a magnet the many objects that ended up at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, such as miniatures of the remains of Ustica, the doge’s ring (on Ascension Day it was thrown into the sea as a sign of thanksgiving) or the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, the plane aboard which the famous French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, traveled.

Fishing nets become the metaphorical space where the tins of Mare, the cycle begun in 1987, end up entangled. The artist stages his personal archiving of fish that are painted on circular containers for preserving in oil. What emerges is a continually changing ecosustainable installation where a different aquatic animal appears on each can of tuna, creating a journey among sea creatures in an effective representation of the underwater world.

The ecological components and environmental distortions are also highlighted by Hammerhead Shark from the Ars Topiaria series where natural forms are associated with synthetic materials (shredded and recycled pieces of plastic are used) giving rise to sarcastic hybridizations. On this occasion, on a crock pot filled with expanded clay, a shark appears that seems to spring from an artificial bush.

Another topical work offered at the Aquarium is Arca Virus, a model ofNoah’s Ark inspired by medieval types. Inside are twelve test tubes containing colored liquids simulating the twelve most dangerous pathogens on the planet. Concealed beneath them is the electrical circuitry that allows the LEDs to light up. At the stern is a yellow flag with the health hazard symbol. The work, created in 2009, is a rather startling premonition of the pandemic.

The artist then created another installation for the Aquarium, The Fleet of Art. From the imaginary Bonomi Shipyard come aircraft carriers and submarines made by stacking books, catalogs, encyclopedias (The Masters of Color) and magazines such as Flash Art or Il Giornale dell’Arte. The polemic toward the art system where stacks of paper become construction material making the content completely irrelevant is evident.

Bonomi’s imaginative universe also includes references to Richard Wagner with Vascello fantasma, a boat made of synthetic fiber and cotton that sails poetically upward, and to Fyodor Dostoyevsky with three works dedicated to his famous short story The Crocodile: an extraordinary case where, through a play of mirrors, the viewer experiences the sensation of being swallowed by the crocodile. Literature is also a source of inspiration for some valuable early 1990s accounts belonging to the Treasure Island cycle with the artist evoking Jules Verne, Joseph Conrad and Daniel Defoe. Bonomi paints antique sailing ships and boats on nautical charts proposing his classic tautologies that allow for a syncretistic relationship between the pictorial object and the material.

There are, then, many works that defy the rules of art history with irreverent and paradoxical homages, as is the case with Marcel Duchamp and the little boat of art sailing into the urinal (the title Navigar nel periglioso mar delle avanguardie is rather explanatory) to theMarine Arcimboldo where a multifaceted image made from an assemblage of plastic sea creatures appears, going through The Dream of Claude with a miniature Monet painting over a floating Water Lily leaf reflected on a body of water.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog published by Allemandi with texts by Alberto Fiz, Elisabetta Polezzo, Marianna Cappia and an interview with the artist by Barbara Cottavoz.

For all information, you can visit the official website of the Civic Aquarium of Milan.

Milan, Corrado Bonomi's ironic conceptualism on display at the Civic Aquarium
Milan, Corrado Bonomi's ironic conceptualism on display at the Civic Aquarium

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