insights on art, culture, lifestyle, spirituality, travel, music, society and much much more from a jet-setter currently on "furlough"…

Archive for the month “July, 2007”


Exhibition Review :: Milano (IT)
Allegra Ravizza :: ART PROJECT
JOYS; Personale

On virtually every other building in Milan, there is some sort of graffiti scrawled on it – some well-scripted and visually appealing; others, not so much. Some consider it an art form while others call it an act of vandalism. Many argue that its the only way to keep a culture alive, to communicate important messages to the masses. Graffiti may be unconventional and unsolicited, but it does not disqualify it from being a kind of art, a kind of expression. Graffiti in every major citiy of the world is similiar, yet also different; each culture develops its own creativity and skills.

I first came across Allegra Ravizza Art Project during the opening night of their exhibition, entitled JOYS (the pen name of artist Cristian Bovo, Padova, 1974), on 24 May 2007. Due to the amount of people and the delicious bellinis served that night, it wasn’t until weeks later that I went back to get a closer look at the art of this JOYS fellow.

My first reaction to the work of JOYS was how different his work was from the works I’ve seen at other gallery openings of the same genre (meaning, Contemporary Art). It was so refreshing to stand before art that thinks outside the box. To me, this man has taken (Italian) penmanship to the next level, where the forms remain attached together yet one is still able to make out what these letters are supposed to represent. His sculpture represents an eclectic but cool three-dimensional approach to graffiti, better known as “art on the wall” (in the case of this exhibition, since it is mounted on the walls). Bold colors of red, yellow, blue and purple grabbed my attention. These sculptures were far beyond what the human mind could comprehend, and although I did not immediately identify the works as “script”, I did feel that they could jump off the wall at any given time. I felt that his works have overcome the confines of two-dimensional space and because each letter was so precise, geometrical and so perfect, knew that he must have been influenced by mathematics and probably the works of M.C. Escher.

I can see JOYS’ sculptures being used as a means of not only communicating the need to be creative and the survival of a culture, but profound words and phrases with the ability to spread a message across, be it something political, cultural, social or religious. Art that has a purpose, which also has a presence, is much needed in our seemingly nihilistic urban environments.

Colorful pipes, anyone?


Arte Italiana @t its Finest

On Thursday, 13 July 2007, approximately 500+ people raced through the doors of Milan’s Palazzo Reale for the opening of its latest exhibition: Arte Italiana, 1968-2007. On display until mid-November, these paintings, under the ideas of Vittorio Sgarbi and curated by Maurizio Sciaccaluga, re-unites la crème de la crème of what modern/contemporary Italian painting has been known to express in the last half of this century, from 1968 until the more recent experiences.

Some artists represented in this exhibition were the following: Domenico Gnoll, Renato Guttuso, Piero Guccione, Valerio Adami, Gianfranco Ferroni, as well as artists who are not so well-known, such as Adelchi Mantovani, Gustavo Foppiani, Lorenzo Tornabuoni and Giancarlo Vitali. Cultural and aesthetic watersheds are not only political, as 1968 represents the symbol of the landslide of ideologies. It also represents unanimated ideas shared between the beauty found in art and the outpouring of the spirit expressed to the viewers. There was also a side exhibition of Italian architect mastermind Gio Ponti, who designed a myriad of stylish yet functional furniture and urban buildings. Many of his works still stand in Milan today.

Since I did not possess an invitation (and I couldn’t jump in line with somebody else since everyone came as a couple), I had to wait over two hours to see this exhibition. It was a madhouse, to say the least. Everyone was pushing and shoving, cutting in line and yelling just to have first dibs on viewing the exhibition. The three security guards, 2 at the door, one responsible for checking everyone’s invitation (and yes, there were a few frauds!) kept saying: “Piano, piano, piano”, urging everyone to slow down and stop the madness!

Once inside, there was no direct flow, which made it hard for people to make their way around to these exhibits. It was obvious that the Italian Paintings galleries were arranged chronologically while Gio Ponti’s exhibition was arranged by medium (furniture, decorative items, photographic collages/newspaper clippings/press releases/letters, etc.). There were only short paragraphs on the wall, describing the time period and influences of these painters, as well as photographs of Gio Ponti’s architectural successes from all over the world.

Being that this opening took place in one of the greatest fashion centers of the world, it was also interesting to note the kind of people that attended this event and what they wore. The majority of the populations were, of course, middle-aged Caucasian Italians who were extremely well-dressed (as if they were going to the opera or a fancy dinner) in the season’s latest fashions. The ballpark average age was older, probably around 40. A few families came with their children, and judging from the fact that most of these kids had their own cell phone, plus name brand clothing, indicated that this “leisure” event was definitely for the upper-middle class and beyond. A few exceptions included a small group of university art students and young professionals – also mostly Caucasian Italians, sporting the latest trends. As a result of their high status in society and level of education, there were many interesting and in depth conversations going on regarding art criticism and theory as well. Needless to say, Europeans are TONS more educated about the arts than Americans ever will be.

All in all, despite the lack of vino and other antipasti delights every show opening ought to have (especially in Italy), it was a worthwhile experience that I was happy to have experienced. Next time, I will try to join the VIP list. ☺

Larger than Life… and then SOME!

Julian Schnabel, “Paintings: 1978-2006”
@t Rontanda di Via Besana

“My paintings take up room, they make a stand. People will always react to that. Some people get inspired, others get offended. But, that’s good. I like that.”

— J. Schnabel, on Painting

This is no understatement. Julian Schnabel’s paintings are massive and take up a lot of room. They are huge, larger-than-life and make us ordinary mortal beings pale in comparison within their presence. His subject matter ranges from portraits of both men and women (friends/colleagues of his over the years) to self-portraits, from his take on Oriental geishas to mixed media collages, recycled art and drip paintings. Born to immigrant parents from the Czech Republic, Schnabel grew up in Brownsville, TX for most of his formative years. At first, he struggled in the art world and worked as a short-order cook until his first solo exhibition in 1975, in New York City. This retrospective of his nearly 30 years of making art led him not only to participate in the Venice Biennale, but also to become a major figure in the Neo-expressionism movement in the mid-1980s.

His portraits are abstract, with elongated figures and much influence alluded to Picasso. His paintings show that he was clearly influenced by Pollock; his “found-objects” collages, by Gaudi. Unconventional religious iconography (a male AND a female Jesus?) are also included in his oeuvre. These works come in all shapes and sizes, which forces one to really ponder on what is going on in all of these works. I personally walked around this exhibit for a good hour, searching every quadrum of my brain to figure out how on earth these canvases were created. It was as if I was seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel for the first time. WOW… did Schnabel use a ladder, or did he simply hang them on the wall and run into them with his paintbrush? Or were they laid flat on the ground and painted on, detail by detail?

It is important to state that sometimes: art is not about how beautiful the final product is, but more about the process it took to get there. You either like it or hate it: the choice is up to you. But, in any case, the closer you look, the more you will come appreciate the technique, skill and the amount of effort it took the artist to create these crazy works of massive quantities and sizes… whether or not you favor the subject matter.

After a thorough analysis of Schnabel’s works as a whole, I decided that my favorite technique was the globs of plaster paint over pieces of broken ceramic plates and saucers, used in his portraits, icons and landscapes, to help achieve tangible texture and taking the influence of Chuck Close to the next level. The wide variety of found and natural objects used by Schnabel, such as nestled together tree branches, as well as the incorporation of classical art materials such as pen & ink, conte’ crayon and charcoal — were more than enough to make my head spin in a state of awe.

The Rontanda di Via Besana is obviously the appropriate venue for such an exhibition. The huge, dome-like, former Renaissance basilica facility is extremely accommodating to the massive size of Schnabel’s works, the cool (and AIR-CONDITIONED) gallery space comfortable for its visitors and lots of natural light coming from the open windows above, along with the dim spotlights shining from above, exudes an essence of spirituality onto each work of art. Indeed a monumental location for a monumental exhibition.

holy COW! moooooooo….

MOOOO: Taking during the evening passageitta one cool evening in June, along Corso Vittorio Emmanuale II, aka. one of the major shopping streets in Milan.

Cows, cows, cows… everywhere! I thought this was something only small cities in the United States (ie. Harrisburg, PA) participated in, but lo’ and behold, they are all over the streets of Milan’s gorgeous historic centre. These cows were to be sold to raise money for charity, and were to be exhibited for a mere three months (April – June). Sounds like a great plan, right?

Street art is always a concept to ponder on, as it adds piazzazz to the mundane streets of the city and gives local/up-and-coming artists the chance to express their creativity. Both tourists and locals love taking pictures with it, and most importantly, can be used as a way to spread any kind of message (polticial, religious, social, cultural) to the masses.

Milan’s Cow Parade 2007, however, was far from successful and street art didn’t fare so well in the fashion capital of the world. Both local and national newspapers reported that Milan set a record for the number of cows vandalized, particularly during the night that the AC Milan football club won the European championships (24 May 2007). The poor cows were either burned, thrown into a fountain, vandalized with all sorts of materials or simply stolen.

Alternative ways to raise money for various charities are now being explored, and the cows have been replaced with neon sculptures that ironically do not light up at night. Hmmm… who knows what might happen next. Better luck next time, Milano!

For information, please visit:

ice ice milano?

Appropriate Music: Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice

This ice sculpture was errected around 5 June 2007, in honor of World Environment Day 2007. This was built to raise awareness for environmental issues, and some sort of activist, public art disply took place in all the major European cities during this time.

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