Peaks of light: dedicated to mountains the summer of the Carrara Academy of Bergamo

The Carrara Academy's summer is dedicated to the mountains with the project 'Vette di Luce': mountains in nineteenth-century Lombard painting and contemporary photographs by photographer-mountaineer Naoki Ishikawa, plus a number of spin-offs scattered across Bergamo's mountains.

The summer of theCarrara Academy of Bergamo is entirely dedicated to the mountains with a series of projects: the mountain as seen through nineteenth-century painting, the photography of Naoki Ishikawa, and, together, two projects spread throughout the territory, one in the plains and a second at high altitude. The mountain painted, photographed, told, conquered. The Alpine landscape idealized and at the same time lived, dreamed and maintained, harsh and friendly, feared and respected. Vette di Luce (Peaks of Light), this is the title of the exhibition, is a tribute to the Orobian Alps, an exhibition in the Carrara Academy and double exhibition itinerary in various places in the province, on the plains and, a second, at altitude up to 2,300 meters.

Art has always questioned the mountains as a recurring theme , and this continuous confrontation, over the centuries, has never ceased to be, until it found its greatest expressions in the 19th century and in landscape painting, as well as in photography from the 20th century to the present. The Bergamasque landscape and light, one of the themes posed by Bergamo Brescia Italian Capital of Culture, inspired Accademia Carrara for the second exhibition project planned for the summer, thus Vette di Luce was born, from June 23 to September 3, 2023, a path between history and contemporaneity: an exhibition inside the Carrara and on the territory, a double project to create a sort of “diffuse museum” of mountain art and culture.

In the renovated rooms on the second floor, the exhibition takes shape around a dialogue between landscape painting of the nineteenth-century tradition and the photography of Naoki Ishikawa (Tokyo, 1977) together with two works of contemporary art: that of Matteo Rubbi entitled The Dragon’s Lair and the video-audio installation by MASBEDO. There are two paths: the first will feature Naoki Ishikawa’s photographs, again dedicated to the Orobian Alps, exhibited in 5 locations in the area (Fra.Mar in Pedrengo; Malpaga Castle, BGY Milan Bergamo Airport, Belmont Resort in Foppolo, Ethnographic Museum in Schilpario), spin-off exhibitions of the Japanese photographer’s trip to the mountains of Bergamo; the second will feature 17 reproductions of Carrara masterpieces in 17 CAI refuges in the Bergamo province.

The pictorial itinerary, curated by Maria Cristina Rodeschini and Paolo Plebani, features a series of 19th-century paintings from the collection of Accademia Carrara or from some loans granted by Club Alpino Italiano and private collections. Different aspects are investigated in the more than 35 works: Costantino Rosa (1803-1878) describes in a series of small oil paintings the Taleggio Valley, the Brembana Valley, and the Seriana Valley; Andrea Marenzi (1823-1891) recounts on canvas the spectacle of the Serio Waterfalls; Ermenegildo Agazzi (1866-1945) in a monumental work paints perhaps the most famous of Bergamo’s peaks, the Presolana. In addition to Vette di Luce, in the year of Bergamo Brescia Capital of Culture, mountains are the focus of a series of initiatives. From the Fondazione Brescia Musei exhibition, hosted at the Museo di Santa Giulia until June 25, 2023 entitled Vittorio Sella, Martin Chambi, Ansel Adams, Axel Hütte. Light of the Mountains to the documentary The Mountains of Culture, produced by Art Film Kairos in collaboration with Rai Documentari, which chronicles the artistic and cultural heritage of the two cities and territories, premiered on Rai Tre on June 2, 2023. The documerntario is available in its entirety on the RaiPlay platform.

“Artists,” says Maria Cristina Rodeschini, director of the Carrara Academy and co-curator of the exhibition, “have always appreciated high-altitude landscapes, and especially those who were born there or frequented them immediately grasped the magical side of these territories. The Orobian Alps have been frequented by painters who have walked its paths, reached its peaks, observed its natural aspects, with the intention of documenting its beauty and sharing it with others. From the second half of the nineteenth century, with the rise of the taste for landscape, some of the best students of the Carrara Academy of Fine Arts successfully practiced the genre, which for some of them would become a true specialization.”

To update in a contemporary key the mountain’s fascination with artists, Accademia Carrara entrusted a reinterpretation of the Orobian Alps to Naoki Ishikawa. A photographer and mountaineer, Ishikawa has conquered 10 of the 14 existing 8,000 meters on the planet, and his projects, dedicated to Everest, K2, Mount Fuji, and the Arctic Circle, have been exhibited all over the world, and there are more than 40 publications recounting his exploits and images. His presence in Bergamo was strongly desired by the Accademia Carrara, which commissioned the Japanese photographer-mountaineer to carry out a survey in three campaigns between 2022 and 2023, traveling along the Alta Via, with the aim of documenting the landscape in an experiential form, tracing an anthropological and ethnographic profile of these territories. As happened almost 150 years ago to Vittorio Sella (photographer-mountaineer, 1859 - 1943), there is renewed interest with this expedition in a narrative of the human-nature relationship through the changing mountain landscape, from the starting city to the villages and valleys, to the animals, stage by stage, often accompanied by notes and reflections in a series of unpublished images. Ishikawa’s feat is also recounted, in the first person, in a documentary film made by filmmaker Andrea Cossu and exhibited in the exhibition: it is the photographer who takes the viewer through the two campaigns in the Alps and inside his studio in Tokyo, showing the becoming of the work. About 40 of Ishikawa’s photographs are on display in Carrara.

“It is difficult to determine whether Naoki Ishikawa should be considered a photographer-mountaineer or vice versa,” points out Filippo Maggia, co-curator of the exhibition. “Over the years, he has been asked this question several times, at meetings or presentations of his many books. The answer has always been the same: ”Ever since I was a little boy I dreamed of traveling, and since I was able to do so I have not stopped. My interest in the mountains is relatively recent, but I must admit that since I started climbing I have not wanted to stop. However, I was born as a photographer and today I also tell about the mountains."

As anticipated, two contemporary art works complete the exhibition project inside the Carrara. The video-audio installation Ricordo di un dolore was created in 2020 by MASBEDO, an artistic duo composed of Nicolò Massazza and Iacopo Bedogni, on loan from GAMeC. The silent ascent toward the Presolana, a mountain also portrayed in several 19th-century paintings in the exhibition, of a man carrying a reproduction of Pellizza da Volpedo’s painting, part of the Carrara collection, on his shoulders, tells of the loneliness of a moment of grief and its sublimation, at one with the surrounding landscape. The work by Matteo Rubbi (Seriate, 1980), titled La tana del Drago (The Dragon’s Lair ) was created in 2023 specifically for Vette di Luce, thanks to a commission from Accademia Carrara to acquire the work as part of the collection. It is an imagined and experiential reconstruction of the Orobie Mountains, a journey from memory in which the artist first recreated then photographed mountains, rivers, roads, towns and cities by pointing to the places. The result is intended to resemble a narrative rather than an analytical map. The mountains of Bergamo superimpose the old patterns of representation over the new: Roman villas and city gates are mixed with apartment buildings, warehouses and industries that now characterize the urbanized landscape of both the plains and the valleys. The title recalls the relic of a dragon’s rib displayed, according to tradition, in the church of San Giorgio in Almenno San Salvatore, at the mouth of the Brembana Valley.

The exhibition does not end at the Carrara Academy. In fact, there are five spin-off exhibitions in the area by Naoki Ishikawa, again dedicated to the Orobian Alps. The spin-off exhibitions include several stops, featuring photographs by Naoki Ishikawa, part of the three campaigns created for Accademia Carrara: the headquarters of the Fra.Mar company in Pedrengo (06.07 - 03.09.2023), the Malpaga Castle (13.07 - 24.09.2023), the Belmont Resort in Foppolo (27.07 - 27.08.2023) and the Ethnographic Museum in Schilpario (03.08 - 27.08.2023). In the HelloSky Lounge spaces at BGY Milan Bergamo Airport (07.19 - 08.10.2023) the spin-off exhibition offers, as in the museum, a dialogue between photography and painting with a selection of unpublished images of the Orobie by Naoki Ishikawa in dialogue with 12 paintings by Costantino Rosa (Bergamo, 1803-1878), part of the Carrara collection. An indefatigable traveler, Rosa devoted himself passionately to depicting the Alpine landscape, combining the need for exact topographical documentation of places with a Romantic sensibility for the picturesque and the sublime. A “diffuse museum of the mountains” that from late June to August gives shape to a divulging will that has allowed a contamination of places and languages and brings the public closer to unprecedented stories between nature, history, tradition and art.

Finally, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Bergamo Section, the CAI Association and the Carrara Academy present Più su, in piena bellezza - La Carrara in alta quota, which aims to generate even greater fascination between the wonders of the Orobie and mountain communities. The culture of mountaineering, hiking and sustainable and responsible mountain tourism relate to the history of Italian art climbing at high altitude along the Alta Via delle Orobie, the Sentiero 3 Valli and the network of refuges, garrisons of culture, in a contamination of new narratives. Seventeen CAI refuges host as many reproductions of masterpieces from the Bergamo collection selected from the Museum’s best-known works. In a marriage of art and mountain culture, in addition to the presence of the reproductions of the masterpieces, for the period of the project the names of the individual shelters will be complemented by the name of the guest artist. Thus mountaineers will be welcomed in the Seriana Valley, at 1,410 m, inside the Alpe Corte Moroni refuge or, before tackling the northern face of the Presolana, at the Albani Mantegna refuge at 1,939 m; against the backdrop of the Pizzo del Diavolo di Tenda, in the Brembana Valley at 2,015 m, in the Calvi Raffaello refuge. Other refuges involved: the Baroni Tiziano refuge; the Curò Hayez refuge; the Gherardi Tiepolo refuge; the Marelli Baschenis refuge; the Longo Lotto refuge; the Laghi Gemelli Canaletto refuge; the Benigni Botticelli refuge; the Balicco Pisanello refuge; the Resegone Palma il Vecchio refuge; the Cassinelli Pellizza da Volpedo refuge; the Magnolini Fra’ Galgario refuge; the hostel at the Curò Previati refuge; and the Olmo Perugino refuge. Thanks to the Tagliaferri Bellini refuge, located in the Scalve Valley at an altitude of 2,328 m, Accademia Carrara and CAI Bergamo also carry out the highest altitude project in the year of Bergamo and Brescia Italian Capital of Culture.

Peaks of light: dedicated to mountains the summer of the Carrara Academy of Bergamo
Peaks of light: dedicated to mountains the summer of the Carrara Academy of Bergamo

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