Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gods, Guns and Butterfly Wings

It is often the unexpected that gives delight and proves "worth the detour" as Michelin so nicely puts it. The main entrance to the Palazzo delle Esposizioni has been turned into a replica of the steps of a temple in the mysterious city of Teotihuacan and the La città degli Dei exhibition advertised throughout the city. Arranged in collaboration with the Mexican government it is the major attraction of three exhibits at the Palazzo celebrating two major events in the history of Mexico: the 200th anniversary of the fight of Independence and the 100th of the beginning of the Revolution.

Città is indeed a major display of archaeological items from the once great city-state that existed 45 kms north of what is now Mexico City. Many of the items come from the famous Museo Nacional de Antropologia as well other Mexican and International collections. However I found it less of interest than the two exhibits that surrounded it. If I sound a little jaded it is just that I have climbed the Pyramid of the Moon and walked the Avenue of the Dead on at least 14 occasions and spent many hours at the Museo Nacional during our time in the DF. Not that there were not new wonders to see or remarkable items to become reacquainted with but more that familiarity had perhaps dulled my sense of awe at what was a beautifully displayed group of artifacts. As an interesting little side bar: most of the display cabinets were mounted on boxes of sandy earth much like what you find yourself walking in on a visit to the actual site. A clever touch on the part of the exhibition designers.

One of the iconic photographs of the Mexican Revolution - Soldaderas aboard a train - they served as camp followers (nursing, feeding, providing sexual companionship) but would also engage in battle when required.

The second floor houses what I found to be the more interesting of the two major exhibitions: Mexico: Immagini di una Rivoluzione*. 179 black and white photographs trace the ten bloody years (1910-1920) of the Revolution. Though some of the photos are posed there are a goodly number of scenes on the actual battlefields which are remarkable considering the equipment of the time. Most of the key players of the Revolution - Diaz, Zapata, Madero, Pancho Villa (left) - are captured on gelatin and glass plate but so are the ordinary players in the conflict. Many of the photos are brutal - mangled bodies, the moment of execution, hospital wards, hanged corpses held up by their captors for the camera - others are almost laughable such as a group of society ladies posing with rifles and a Revolutionary commander. But all of them reveal aspects of the conflict and the struggle to forge a new Mexico. And kudos to John Mraz (Universidad Autónoma di Puebla) and his curatorial team for their well thought-out theme-sections and explanations placing the photos in both their social, technical and historical context.

The third exhibit came as a happy surprise. Our friend Joe, who is a big fan of modern art, mentioned it but I, having been exposed to quite a few tedious examples during our time in Poland, tend to be wary of "installations". Carlos Amorales: Remix is the Mexican artist's first show in Italy and is made up of five pieces based on his use of what he calls an Archivo líquido - or an archive of digital photos he has taken, downloaded or scanned. He works with this archive to create drawings, slides, videos, collages, paintings, sculptures and installations. Often his work appears only as enormous groupings of black silhouettes on white grounds. Sometimes they can seem threatening, at others joyful or again just perplexing. The five installations overlap and it is can be difficult to see where one begins and the other ends.

Drifting Star is a gigantic mobile of 751 black Plexiglas fragments suspended in the central exhibition area. Wandering amongst them is a rather dazzling experience - a bit like being lost in a euphoric moment in Star Wars.
And dazzling would be the word for this swam of butterflies in Black Cloud. Amorales has created 25,000 paper silhouettes of 30 different types of butterflies that swarm over walls and ceilings. I swear you can almost hear the flapping of their wings - I was reminded of the yearly Butterfly Migration from Canada and the U.S. to Michoacan and Mexico states.

Again an unexpected delight and like the Photography exhibit definitely more than "worth the detour".

And a more than satisfactory way to break up the gallery strolling was the great buffet lunch - gods before, guns and butterflies after - at the Palazzo's Colonna Restaurant. An excellent choice of dishes, a good selection of wines and attentive service by a young and friendly staff. The price for the buffet or the daily menu is reasonable and the vaulted glass setting isn't too shabby either.

*For some reason this exhibit ends on January 9th while the rest are in place until the end of February??? Strano, as we say, molto strano!

05 gennaio - San Telesforo
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1 comment:

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

you've exposed me to more art and objects of art than anyone I know.
thank you