Free to visit and curated by Respi and Viliani.
Fendi inaugurated the exhibition Arnaldo Pomodoro. The Great Theatre of Civilizations in its own headquarters, the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in Rome. The exhibition, curated by Lorenzo Respi and Andrea Viliani in collaboration with Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro, will be free to visit until 1 October 2023.
The Great Theatre of Civilizations
Conceived for both the indoor and outdoor spaces of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in the EUR area – that since 2015 has housed Fendi’s Roman headquarters – the exhibition spans over seventy years of the artist’s experimentation, taking the form of an autobiographical “theatre”, at once real and mental, historical and imaginative, in which are staged approximately thirty works created by Pomodoro between the late 1950s and 2021, together with a series of archival materials – photographs, documents, sketches, drawings, many of them never exhibited before – that evoke the spirit and ambiance of the artist’s studio and archive.
The Great Theatre of Civilizations explores the interconnection, in Pomodoro’s practice, of visual and scenic arts and highlights the relationship between the planning component of the work and its creation. A storyline from which emerge the possible and multiple allusions to those archaic, antique, modern, or even just fantastical “civilisations” to which Pomodoro’s work constantly refers, originating shapes and materials that are at once memory of the past and vision of the future and that reframe our knowledge and our imaginaries, our experience of time and space, of history and myth.
The exhibition itinerary
The exhibition begins at the four external corners of the building where the four sculptures Forme del mito (1983) – Il potere (Agamennone), L’ambizione (Clitennestra), La macchina (Egisto), and La profezia (Cassandra) – are placed. The sculptures are taken from the scenic machines that were created for the series of theatrical performances inspired by Aeschylus’ Orestes by the artist Emilio Isgrò, presented on the ruins of Gibellina’s main square which was later destroyed by the Belice earthquake.
Inserting themselves like a backdrop between the Palazzo, the natural landscape and the surrounding urban community, the four Forme del mito re-draw and give new meaning to the building, transforming the so-called Colosseo Quadrato – one of the architectural symbols of Modernism and Italian Rationalism – into an open, reinterpretable and re-designable work, therefore not defined once and forever.
In the Palazzo delle Civiltà Italiana’s entrance hall appear two costume-works created by the artist for two theatrical shows: Costume di Didone (for Dido, Queen of Carthage by Christopher Marlowe, staged in Gibellina in 1986), and Costume di Creonte (for Oedipus Rex by Igor Stravinsky performed in Siena in 1988). Produced with sculptural materials paired with ephemeral materials such as raffia and fabric, these costumes recall the iconography and dramaturgy of ancient Greece as well as the antique iconographies and traditional techniques of African and Asian works of art, reactivating the tale of the legendary stories of Dido and Oedipus.
Two specular rooms
The exhibition continues in two specular rooms and a connecting room, designed like two acts of a play with an intermezzo. In the main spaces we find two oppositely coloured works staged symmetrically: Le battaglie (1995), in black, and Movimento in piena aria e nel profondo (1996-1997), in white. The first with its angular, sharp and pointy shapes and through the various materials used (tangles of rope, wedges and bolts) evokes The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello, a Renaissance masterpiece. Alongside this are staged two more works that delve deeper into the examination of Pomodoro’s research: the Grande tavola della memoria (1959-1965), a reflection on bas-relief and on the ancient technique of casting using cuttlefish bone, and Il cubo (1961-1962), a piece that coincides with the start of a new experimentation of the elementary forms of Euclidean geometry.
In the second room the work Movimento in piena aria e nel profondo, composed of a double curve referring to the large celestial and terrestrial spaces, depicts the sculptural action as “digging into the complexity of things” that solidifies into the awareness of being able to “bend time and space”. Next to it is a work that gives conceptual circularity to the exhibition, flipping its end over and starting again from its incipit: Continuum (2010), a huge relief entirely filled with the characteristic marks of the artist’s early works, a sort of “outline” that contains the codes and the inventory of all his “writing”.
The exhibition within the exhibition
In these two rooms, like an exhibition within the exhibition, are also presented the design and documentary materials, most of which have never been shown before – artist’s books, sketches, drawings, models, letters, photographs, catalogues, study materials of the most significant projects – set up within display drawers and racks that visitors can open and consult, so as to recall the atmosphere of the artist’s studio and the spirit of his archive.
Connecting the two rooms, like an intermezzo between two theatrical acts, is the Rotativa di Babilonia (1991), placed outside but visible from the Palazzo’s windows, with its circular shape suggesting the idea of cyclical and continuous movement, which takes place both in time and in space. Inside the hallway is exhibited the Tracce (1998) series, composed of twenty-one white, black and rust-coloured calcographic reliefs.
The itinerary concludes on the third-floor arcade with Osso di seppia (2011-2021), symbolic matrix of all the artist’s works, who actually began his sculptural experimentation by carving into cuttlefish bone. That same shape is also present as an emblematic element in the Ingresso nel Labirinto environment, located in the former exhibition space of the artist’s foundation in Milan, where FENDI has had its headquarters since 2013. The exhibition opened to the public on 12 May and will be open until 1 October 2023 every day until 20:00 and there is no ticket charge.