"Blue is one of the most fascinating and most beloved colors." Interview with Anna Orlando

Genoa goes blue this fall, with five exhibitions at the Villa Croce Museum of Contemporary Art, all linked by blue. We talked about them with one of the curators, Anna Orlando.

The multifaceted exhibition Autunno blu a Villa Croce, curated by Anna Orlando and Francesca Serrati, is on viewat the Villa Croce Museum of Contemporary Art in Genoa until January 17, 2021 . Five exhibitions, five exhibition projects, united by one common thread: the color blue. We were told about the project by one of the curators, Anna Orlando. The interview is curated by Ilaria Baratta.

IB. Itwill be a ... colorful autumn in Genoa, but at the same time monochrome, because it is all about the theme of blue. Why was this color chosen?

AO. Blue is one of the most fascinating colors and one of the most beloved by artists.

How did the idea of a multiple exhibition such as Autumn BLUE at Villa Croce come about?

It is an old project that I had and that I took up again when I was asked to take care of the programming at Villa Croce, within a work I am doing for the City of Genoa. I had also already been working on the Bernardo Strozzi exhibition, and in 2019, during a visit to the exhibition, Sgarbi had told me and Councillor Barbara Grosso about his project carried out at the MART in Rovereto, in which he had placed alongside a newly restored altarpiece by Strozzi, the Madonna and Child in Glory and Saints, characterized by the Virgin’s deep blue mantle, a work by Yves Klein. We immediately thought of declining this idea on Genoa. After the health emergency from Covid-19, we had to rethink, like everyone else, the programming, and instead of deleting something, we thought of uniting, making a multiple exhibition, a new form. Five simultaneous exhibition events united by the thread of blue. Among them, one is dedicated to the work of Fulvio Magurno, a photographer artist who has been working in Genoa for many years now, who had presented to us curators, to me and to Francesca Serrati, head curator of the Villa Croce Museum of Contemporary Art, an unpublished work entitled Animulae: a revisitation, through his particular photographic technique that consists of overlapping shots, of the Crucifixes of Anton Maria Maragliano, an eighteenth-century sculptor. This was a perfect unprecedented to be associated with the Klein vs. Strozzi exhibition for two reasons: first, because blue was at the center, as these shots all turn to blue, and then because, again, a revisitation of an artist from the past is accomplished, as Klein does with Nike, a classical subject. We also had to celebrate the centenary of a somewhat forgotten Genoese artist, but very interesting for his declination of abstractionism in the postwar 1960s-1970s: Rocco Borella. So we selected the works in which the artist used blue from those in the Villa Croce collection, which has a very substantial number of them, and from private collectors. In addition there was a fourth combination: returning from a long restoration of almost two years was a Villa Croce work, an installation created by Ben Patterson in 2002 for an exhibition at Villa Croce on the Fluxus movement. Patterson had created the Fluxus Constellation, where the stars are represented by ceiling lights and each, lighting up intermittently, presents a somewhat ironic portrait of Fluxus artists, as ironic as the artists of the movement themselves are, each with their own zodiac sign. The result is a constellation with a midnight-blue background (we set up this installation in an all-night-blue room, flanked by two other site-specific works from the 2002 exhibition: a colorful sign and what remains of a Philip Corner performance, namely a destroyed piano). Finally came an important donation: the City of Genoa received twenty-four works made on denim canvas. It must be premised that there is a major project of the City of Genoa, Genova Jeans, directed by Manuela Arata, which intends to present Genoa as the capital of jeans, since we know that the jeans canvas was born in this very city. The project, which is very large, was supposed to be presented in spring 2020, but instead Covid cause it will be presented in May 2021. This also includes the initiative led by the ArteJeans Association, which selected through a technical scientific committee a number of artists willing to interpret in their own way a 180 x 200 centimeter denim canvas provided by project partner Candiani Denim. During the months of the lockdown, the artists created twenty-four truly entertaining works, because they are all different, each with their own style, their own technique, and their own scope of creativity, ranging from video to painting, neon, like Marco Lodola, to Isgrò with his erasures. ArteJeans has such a consistency that it occupies the largest space, but what interests me is this multiple formula, where five exhibitions do not alternate, as the path is fluid, there are no separate sections, but the visitor goes from one exhibition to the other seamlessly, with very incisive graphics that help make it clear which exhibition one is in.

Bernardo Strozzi, San Francesco abbracciato al Crocifisso, dettaglio (olio su tela, 95 x 76 cm; Genova, Musei di Strada Nuova - Palazzo Rosso)
Bernardo Strozzi, Saint Francis Embracing the Crucifix, detail (oil on canvas, 95 x 76 cm; Genoa, Musei di Strada Nuova - Palazzo Rosso)

Yves Klein, Nike (collezione privata)
Yves Klein, Nike (private collection)

Rocco Borella, Blu (1962)
Rocco Borella, Blue (1962)

Flavio Magurno, Animulae (2020)
Flavio Magurno, Animulae (2020)

Alberto Biasi, Quel Blu Genova che veste il mondo (2020; intaglio e rilievi su tela jeans Candiani Denim, 120 x 120 x 7 cm)
Alberto Biasi, Quel Blu Genova che veste il mondo (2020; intaglio and relief on Candiani Denim canvas, 120 x 120 x 7 cm)

Emilio Isgrò, Tre caravelle
Emilio Isgrò, Three Caravels

Ben Patterson, Constellation of the first magnitude (2002; tecnica mista, dimensioni variabili)
Ben Patterson, Constellation of the first magnitude (2002; mixed media, dimensions variable)

We mentioned that denim fabric has very ancient origins and has characterized the city of Genoa since ancient times. So I ask you to explain broadly what is thehistory of the cloth of Genoa?

We know that the word jeans comes from the word Genoa, which has been mispronounced over time, just as the word denim comes from the city of Nîmes, France, another early city that commercialized denim. First of all, we have a very important work of art, the first known work of art on denim, namely the Passion cloths preserved in the Diocesan Museum in Genoa and made in Genoa in the first half of the 16th century: thus testifying to the fact that already in ancient times we had this cloth in the city. Denim then had a history that became pop because of its use, but originally it was a work cloth, very durable. It is a very old story that then transformed over time, because the production of denim became pop (we all think in our imagination that it was originally used in America, but it was actually first used in Genoa). Then the fashion theme took over, and that’s why our partner is a fashion operator (Candiani Denim is a jeans manufacturer, it patented stretch denim). The GenovaJeans project is also related to sustainability because Candiani is an operator that works trying to save as much water as possible (in fact, a lot of water is needed to produce jeans).

In addition to the artists of ArteJeans, who each used their own specificity, protagonists of the other exhibitions are different artists linked by a single color: what particular meaning does each chosen artist give to blue?

For Bernardo Strozzi, blue is the color of Paradise (I chose the Saint Francis of the Strada Nuova Museums standing out in prayer against a deep blue background); for a seventeenth-century painter, particularly a religious painter, blue is a mystical, sacred color, it is the color of the Madonna’s mantle, of Paradise. Yves Klein is obsessed with blue, so much so that there is also Klein blue. For him blue has a more philosophical, existential, spiritual connotation. For Fulvio Magurno, it is linked to the theme of spirituality; for Borella, it is one of the most recurrent colors he has declined in his abstract art.

Although the five exhibitions of Autunno BLU define themselves as contemporary, a reference to the ancient has also been conceived (I am thinking of the origins of denim fabric, the dialogue between Bernardo Strozzi and Yves Klein or the reference to Anton Maria Maragliano ’s 18th-century Crucifixes in Fulvio Magurno’s works). What is the relationship in these exhibitions between ancient and contemporary?

I like the crossing. The fact that there are two curators (one ancient art historian and one contemporary art historian) certainly can add something, in the sense that today we need to provide the public with more points of view, because exhibitions should be a stimulus, not just give information or collect data. Exhibitions must be made to stimulate thought, to reflect. We have to have an eye toward visitors, including by offering, as in this multiple exhibition, a very particular, rhythmic, entertaining set-up. However, we must also not just entertain: museums and exhibitions have an important task, which is to increase critical thinking. It is a mission of those who work in art, we must not do one thing for ourselves, we must do one thing for the public. The relationship between ancient and contemporary has always been there. All the really great contemporary artists have looked so much at the ancient: there are those who make it more explicit and obvious and there are those who simply keep it in, as something that is part of their DNA, but you can see very well how much artists have studied and looked at the ancient. Maybe even to deny it, to desecrate it, to criticize it, however, the past is an indispensable starting point. We must always remember that.

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