Art

Keep an Eye out for Slovakian Artist Roman Ondák

Posted in Art on August 30th, 2011 by ndb – Be the first to comment

"Enter the Orbit" (2011) (www.gbagency.fr)I just saw a fascinating two-piece exhibit at the Kunsthaus in Zurich and want to draw attention to Slovakian artist Roman Ondák. “Enter the Orbit” (which closed on August 28, 2011) features two new works about the Sputnik 1 satellite, the first satellite to be launched into orbit on October 4, 1957, by the Soviet Union. The central piece consists of 96 miniature Sputniks—all made of different materials but with the same shape: a sphere with four long “legs”—displayed in a perfect line around the room, giving visitors the impression of orbiting in a circle alongside the Sputnik. The original satellite took 96 minutes to circle the Earth, hence the 96 models, created collaboratively by the artist and by his friends. I found the piece very cool and loved its immediacy and how it drew me right into both the work itself and, in a certain sense, the Earth’s orbit. The Observer calls him “an artist whose beguiling and intelligent ideas have reached an international public that may not remember (if it ever even noticed) his name,” whose art “puts other people first on principle,” and I think this sense of being a participant is what attracted me so much about the Zurich piece—in addition to the fact that it’s not that easy to come up with 96 variations of a such a simple shape.

Check out some of his other works and installations:
Tate
Modern Art Oxford (and other installations)
MoMA PS1 performance exhibition piece from 2009
53. Venice Biennale 2009 piece

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Roman Ondák (born 1966) lives and works in Bratislava, Slovakia. His works have been featured at renowned art institutions such as the MoMA, London’s Tate Modern, and the Venice Biennale. Read more about him here.

Гараж: The Garage Art Space in Moscow

Posted in Art, Travel on May 22nd, 2011 by ndb – Be the first to comment

I just visited my new favorite place in the world: the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow. I’d read a long New Yorker article about its founder, Dasha Zhukova, and I always wanted to visit it. I was not disappointed. A former bus depot, the history and the building itself are as interesting as the exhibits. The structure – I learned – was designed in 1926 to accommodate 104 British buses that had just been purchased. The 8,500-square-meter building was planned so that the buses could enter on one end and exit at the other, without having to reverse. In disuse and on sale, it was acquired by then 27-year old Dasha Zhukova, allegedly with the financial help of her boyfriend and oil billionaire Roman Abramovich, and transformed into a hip gallery, its huge spaces ideal for featuring large works of art. When I visited the Garage last week, there were two exhibits on show: “Alternative Fashion before Glossies. 1985-1995″ (open until June 12), featuring photographs of post-perestroika alternative fashion, and “New York Minute” (open until June 5), featuring works by 50 (!) mostly young New York City artists. The latter is absolutely amazing, fun, clever, interactive, and interesting. If you happen to be in Moscow in the next two weeks, you must see it. If not, I’m sure the center will always have worthwhile shows on display, in addition to a great coffee shop and a rich program that includes free kids workshops on weekends, film series, and more. Kudos to Dasha!

Fernando Botero a Casa Rusca

Posted in Art, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on May 3rd, 2011 by ndb – Be the first to comment

Che bel colpo per il Locarnese poter offrire una mostra di dipinti di uno dei maggiori artisti contemporanei! Nato in Colombia nel 1932, Fernando Botero ha vinto premi internazionali importanti ed è esposto nei più prestigiosi musei mondiali. Forse vi ricordate la sua controversa serie di dipinti intitolata Abu Ghrahib, del 2005, che ha fatto il giro in Europa, fra cui Palazzo Reale a Milano. La mostra locarnese, aperta fino al 10 luglio, si concentra sugli ultimi 15 anni di produzione, offrendo una sessantina (!) di dipinti quasi tutti su grande tela, che occupano numerose stanze di Casa Rusca (fra l’altro, un bel edificio da visitare, per chi non è mai stato). I temi sono quelli delle figure umane – spoporzionate, voluminose e colorate nel tipico stile di Botero – il circo, la reinterpretazione dei grandi classici, la corrida, la natura morta. In ogni dipinto traspaiono il carattere favolistico, i colori e la vitalità tipici dell’arte sudamericana. “L’obiettivo del mio stile – leggiamo in una delle citazioni dell’autore che accompagnano la mostra – è di esaltare i volumi, non solo perché questo amplia l’area in cui posso applicare i colori, ma anche perché trasmette la sensualità, l’esuberanza, la profusione della forma che sto cercando.” La sensualità di Botero è fisica, concreta, tangibile, ma dimostra anche uno spiccato senso dell’umorismo, che mi ha portato spesso a ridere anche di fronte a raffigurazioni tragiche, come il quadro intitolato “Suicidio”. Andate, ne vale veramente la pena!

Il castello incantato di Verscio

Posted in Art, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on January 8th, 2011 by ndb – Be the first to comment

IMG_3763Forse era la nebbia particolarmente surreale, oppure il CD di musica islandese fuori di testa che suonava in macchina, ma qualcosa di bizzarro doveva capitare questo pomeriggio. E infatti siamo tornati a casa con un grande affare: un divanetto, una poltrona, due vecchie sedie e uno specchio. Abbiamo scoperto un luogo bellissimo, una vecchia villa di fine Ottocento nel cuore di Verscio, piena di oggetti d’arte e di antiquariato: vecchi mobili, sedie, tavoli, una collezione impressionante di oggetti asiatici (soprattutto Buddha), oggetti sacri della nostra tradizione, vecchie sedie numerate da cinema, quadri, specchi, piatti e piattini, lampadari, e poi tutto un altro mondo in giardino: statue di bronzo e marmo, cancelli, ringhiere, fontanelle. E’ come un grande castello incantato, compreso spazzacà.

A gestirlo, da cinque anni, sono due giovani rigattieri (cioè chi compra e rivende oggetti usati): Luca Barblan, ex-disegnatore edile ed educatore, e Siro Turba, restauratore di professione, autodefiniti “due pazzi”. I due hanno iniziato la loro attività una decina d’anni fa vendendo (quasi letteralmente) tazze e tazzine in un garage. Poi il business – con tanta passione e buona volontà – si è ingrandito ed è sorta l’opportunità di comprare la vecchia Villa Ramazzina di Verscio (ma questa sarà la storia per un altro blog posting).

In questi giorni gli affari girano bene e Luca è di buon umore. Lo spazio, inoltre, comincia a diventare stretto, per cui vengono concessi grossi sconti. Anche se non avete intenzione di comprare nulla, vale la pena visitare questo affascinante luogo e scaldarvi davanti al grande camino. E poi chissà, finirete magari con qualche divano antico non previsto, come è capitato a noi.

Il mercato di antichità “I rigattieri” è ancora aperto fino a domenica 16 gennaio. Riaprirà poi ai primi di marzo e mi sono ripromessa di farvi una visita con calma, poiché di storie da raccontare, mi sa, ce ne sono tante.

The Basel Kunstmuseum

Posted in Art, Switzerland on December 19th, 2010 by ndb – Be the first to comment

IMG_9757The Basel Kunstmuseum attracted quite a bit of attention last year thanks to its special exhibition featuring landscape paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. Currently, it is offering another prime exhibit of Andy Warhol paintings and drawings from the early 1960s (open until January 23, 2011). But the museum’s permanent collection is worth a visit as well, if you are in the neighborhood. The collection overall is not fantastic—in fact, a lot of it is rather mediocre—but there are a number of jewels worth seeing, including the following works:
Chagall’s Jew in Green
Emil Nolde’s Gentleman and Lady (Lady with a Fur)
Picasso’s Two Brothers and His Seated Harlequin
Adrian Van Ostade’s Three Drinking and Smoking Farmers in a Tavern
Henri Rousseau’s The Muse Inspiring the Poet
Camille Pissarro’s The Gleaners
Paul Gaugin’s When Are You Getting Married? (brilliant title, by the way)
…and, last but not least, Claude Monet’s Chrysanthemum Bed (in my opinion, more passionate and expressive than his famous lilies).
TIP: the museum is free between 4 and 5 p.m.

Our Lady of Sorrow – SOMEO

Posted in Art, Emigrazione (ticinese e non) in California, Vallemaggia (Ticino) on October 22nd, 2010 by ndb – 1 Comment
(foto Lisa Naimer)

(foto Lisa Naimer)

I’m writing this posting in English, as I know at least three English speakers who have wondered about a beautiful dilapidated statue in “the rich people’s cemetery” in Someo that a friend of mine likes to call “Our Lady of Sorrow”. First of all, a word about the cemetery. If you’re travelling up Vallemaggia, make sure you stop to visit the church and cemeteries at the entrance of Someo. The church (Chiesa dei SS. Placido ed Eustachio) dates from the 13th century and has been recently renovated. The exterior painting above the entrance and the apse (the rounded area that hosts the altar) were painted around 1856 by local artist Giacomo Antonio Pedrazzi (1810-1879) from Cerentino. His works are currently on display in Cerentino (until October 31, 2010) and at the Pinacoteca Cantonale Züst in Rancate (until January 9, 2011). Giacomo Antonio Pedrazzi made wide use of a cobalt blue that in our local dialect is widely called “blö Pedrazz”. His story, too, is interesting: apparently he came from a family of masons and painters, and he worked for some years in Northern Italy. In 1854 he emigrated to Australia to seek fortune, like many others from our valley did. In the fall of that same year, four of his oil paintings were exhibited in Melbourne. He left Australia the following year and made a pilgrimage to Rome before returning to Ticino, where he decorated many chapels and churches, in addition to portraying local genteel families.

Back to Our Lady of Sorrow, adjacent to the church are two cemeteries, commonly referred to as “the rich people’s cemetery” and “the poor people’s cemetery”. The “rich people’s cemetery” was built in the 1890s by the families of men who had emigrated to California, bringing back a small fortune. In December of 1891, Antonio Tognazzini—who bequeathed the building that is now an old people’s home to the Municipality of Someo—sent a request to the local authorities to build a second cemetery next to the existing public one. The Municipality rejected the proposal, but Mr. Tognazzini received approval from the Canton and the cemetery was built the following year. Unlike any other cemetery in our region, the tombs in this newer cemetery are sumptuous and monumental, and the families buried here can be traced back to some of the genteel 19th century residences that line the main road into the village.

To open the gate into the “cimitero degli americani”, lift the bottom lever upwards. More or less in front of you, you will see the monument commemorating Virginia Peri, with the beautiful marble statue by Ettore Rossi, father of renowned local sculptor Remo Rossi (1909-1982). The monument reads:

Qui riposa
Virginia Peri nata Righetti
la sua missione compiva amorosamente eroica
quando celere nel viaggio di sua vita
come belva in agguato
la rapiva ai diletti la morte.
Fu suo culto libertà umanità famiglia
sua gioia il sorriso di Erina settenne
e delle sorelline minori Albina e Leontina
suo premio l’amore del marito l’affetto della famiglia
la stima di quanti la conobbero
nata in Point Reyes California il 31.5.1876
morta in Livorno il 14.5.1914.

Virginia Peri was born Righetti (originally from Someo) in Point Reyes, California, in 1876 and died in Livorno, Italy, in 1914 at the age of 38. She left behind a seven-year old daughter, Erina, and two younger sisters, Albina and Leontina. The cemetery hosts several dilapidated statues, but this one has a special haunting beauty to it.

In primavera 2011 verrà presentato l’Archivio dei nomi di luogo di Someo, accompagnato da una mostra fotografica.

Our Lady of Sorrow (foto Mark Lesina)

Our Lady of Sorrow (foto Mark Lesina)


One of the family tombs in "the rich people's cemetery"

Urban Recycling in New York City

Posted in Art, Camera, Travel on October 1st, 2010 by ndb – Be the first to comment
The High Line

The High Line

In a recent trip to New York, I had lots of fun exploring something *NEW* that wasn’t there three years ago. Such place is The High Line, old elevated train tracks on Manhattan’s West Side, recently turned into a park. The place gives you an amazingly different view of Manhattan and its eclectic architecture, mixing old and new, and it is also itself a place of art & design.

The history of the tracks themselves is fascinating: the High Line was originally constructed in the 1930s to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan’s streets—apparently there were so many fatalities that the area was nicknamed “Death Avenue”. The tracks were in use until 1980, when the last train ran carrying a trainload of frozen turkeys (I just had to add that!). Check out the official website for historical pictures (and make sure you start from the end).

The High Line is one mile and a half long and runs from Gansevoort St. in the Meatpacking District to 34th St., between 10th & 11th Ave. Currently, only the first section is open to the public, running from Gansevoort St., right behind Chelsea Market (one of my favorite places in the City!) to 20th St., close to the art galleries part of Chelsea. Section 2, from 20th St. to 30th St., is scheduled to open in 2011.

The architectural concept behind the park is that of “integrated landscape”, combining concrete pathways and steel tracks & railings with native flowers, grass, and shrubs. The park also displays temporary artwork that is somehow connected to the site.

Click here for a detailed map.

The Art of Stone Roofs

Posted in Art, Dialetto, Switzerland, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia), Vallemaggia (Ticino) on May 4th, 2010 by ndb – 1 Comment
Giacomo Gotti, finishing a stone roof in Vallemaggia.

Giacomo Gotti, finishing a stone roof in Vallemaggia.

Giacomo Gotti is originally from Bergamo, Italy, and has been working for a construction company in Ticino for 40 years and is a true master of the art of building stone roofs. He and his colleague from Ragusa, Angelo Dibartolo, just finished building a 70 square meter stone roof in Vallemaggia. As they were laying down the last pieces of rock, I asked them about the process and secrets of building a stone roof. “First, you have to order the stone slabs or piode. The steeper the roof, the less deep the slabs need to be. Usually stone roofs have an inclination of 70-80%, otherwise the slabs are too deep and the roof becomes too heavy and expensive. Then, the front side of the piode needs to be shaved off so that the water will run off them and not enter the roof. We call this sbarbare, which literally means ‘to shave’, and it is done by hand.”

Once the stones have been prepared, they are laid on the roof starting from the bottom layer, also called gronda. The slabs of this first layer are wider than the rest (about 60 cm). The second layer, called terza, is different from all the others in that the stone slabs are rounded, almost in an oval shape. “This is done mainly for esthetic reasons,” says Mr. Dibartolo. “It’s actually the old way of building roofs and nowadays not everyone does this anymore.” After that, the layers continue regularly. “Every other layer,” adds Mr. Gotti, “the stones are set on a piece of larch, which gives the roof its slant. In dialect we call this tampiara. Larch is used because it does not swell or withdraw when it gets wet.” The stone slabs set on the tampiara are deeper than the stones of the layer on top of that. The last stone of each layer, at the two ends of the roof, is called cimosa. The cimosa is worked on three sides: on two sides it’s shaved, so the water runs away from the roof, and on third side it’s rounded for aesthetic reasons. The very last layer, at the top, is called colmo and is once again made of wider slabs (about 60 cm). This layer is shaved on two sides, in opposite directions. “At the very end,” says Mr. Gotti, “we add a line of cement between the colmo and the layer of stones beneath it, to seal off the roof. This is the only cement we use.”

Building a stone roof is very labor intensive, especially without the aid of a crane. “I take a lot of satisfaction from building stone roofs because they are eternal,” says Mr. Gotti, “but the work is much easier with the aid of a crane. I’ve built many roofs up on the mountains, where I’ve had to carry every stone up the roof on my shoulders. That’s really hard work!” Mr. Gotti first learned to build stone roofs when he was 15, by helping his older co-workers, who taught him this ancient art. “The most important thing,” he says, “is to be patient and precise—not to hurry. If a stone moves even slightly, take the time to stabilize it with a chip.” Several factors influence the time it takes to build a stone roof, such as the presence of a crane and the quality of the stone slabs. Some slabs can even be recycled from the original roof, if they are still in good shape, although in most cases only 15-20% of the original roof can be re-used. “It took us about two weeks to build the last roof we did, but the stones didn’t need much work, except shaving, and we also had a crane.” One square meter of finished roof weighs about 500 kilos and costs about 700 francs (800 including insulation).

All of the stone roofs in Ticino are made from granite. The support structure of the roof, instead, is made from wood, with a steel ridge beam at the top. “In the past,” says Mr. Gotti, “they entire support structure was in wood—even the rafters were held together with wooden nails, which in dialect we call paricc.” Stone roofs are expensive and labor-intensive, but as Mr. Gotti says, they are eternal. If well made, a stone roof can last hundreds of years, requiring little to no maintenance.

Traditional wood roof structure, held together with wooden nails (<i>paricc</i>).

Traditional wood roof structure, held together with wooden nails (paricc).

A new structure, with a steel ridge beam.

A new structure, with a steel ridge beam.


The stone slabs (<i>piode</i>) fresh from the quarry.

The stone slabs (piode) fresh from the quarry.

Giacomo Gotti setting the second layer (<i>terza</i>) of slabs, which are slightly rounded, the old-fashioned way.

Giacomo Gotti setting the second layer (terza) of slabs, which are slightly rounded, the old-fashioned way.


In this example, you can clearly see the rounded second layer of stones.

In this example, you can clearly see the rounded second layer of stones.


The slabs are "shaved" (<i>sbarbare</i>), layered, and stabilized with chips.
Every other layer of stones is set on a piece of larch (<i>tampiara</i>).

Every other layer of stones is set on a piece of larch (tampiara).


The <i>cimosa</i>, shaved on two sides to prevent the water from running down the side of the building or into the roof, and rounded on one side for aesthetic reasons.

The cimosa, shaved on two sides to prevent the water from running down the side of the building or into the roof, and rounded on one side for aesthetic reasons.


Angelo Dibartolo laying down one of the last rows.

Angelo Dibartolo laying down one of the last rows.


One side of the <i>colmo</i>, where the only cement is used.

One side of the colmo, where the only cement is used.

For those of you who read Italian, here is a technical description of traditional roof building techniques and materials in North-Western Italy: “Il peso della tradizione”.

VideoArte e politica

Posted in Art, Film on November 24th, 2009 by ndb – Be the first to comment

IMG_0291Su questo blog non voglio fare politica, ma parlando di arte, di letteratura, di cinema, a volte non si può non fare politica. Settimana scorsa ho cenato con un amico ticinese e mio marito americano in un ristorante indiano di Basilea. In questo minestrone di culture ed esperienze abbiamo parlato dell’iniziativa popolare contro la costruzione di minareti, in votazione il fine settimana prossimo. Sebbene il mio amico fosse affascinato e stimolato dalla cultura e dalla cucina del locale in cui ci trovavamo, e nonostante si tratti di una persona razionale, ragionevole e istruita, durante tutta la discussione ha dimostrato una vaga paura, menzionando di continuo una minaccia sicura sebbene mai articolata in modo concreto. Sono uscita sconfitta e ho pensato a un video della giovane regista e montatrice svizzera Caterina Mona, intitolato schrei!, cioè urla! Il video di 30 secondi era stato realizzato nel 2005 in occasione di un’altra iniziativa basata sulla paura: il referendum popolare contro l’adesione allo spazio di Schengen. Ve lo ripropongo qui di seguito, su gentile concessione dell’autrice, come spunto di riflessione sulla manipolazione dell’opinione pubblica durante le campagne elettorali e il ruolo dell’arte nell’esporre questo modo di fare politica.

Guada il video: schrei! (urla!) di Caterina Mona
(Se non funziona, prova qui.)

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Caterina Mona è cresciuta a Zurigo da genitori ticinesi. Si è diplomata alla scuola di cinema dell’INSAS, a Bruxelles, e ha curato il montaggio di lungometraggi come Max Frisch, Citoyen di Matthias von Gunten e Ricordare Anna di Walo Derber. Vive a Zurigo e cucina il miglior curry che io abbia mai assaggiato.

Linda Salerno, da New York al Ticino

Posted in Art, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on October 27th, 2009 by ndb – 1 Comment
Linda Salerno,

La prima volta che ho conosciuto Linda Salerno è stato a New York. Io mi ero trasferita da poco nella mela e Linda Salerno e suo marito stavano vendendo la loro casa nell’East Village per trasferirsi definitivamente in Ticino, dove avevano già da anni una casa a Someo, in Vallemaggia. Qualche anno dopo ho incontrato di nuovo Linda al vernissage della sua mostra Le Moniteur de la Mode al PS122 Gallery di New York. Linda aveva lavorato su stampe di una rivista parigina di moda dell’800, integrando le stampe con la sua pittura. I colori erano incredibili – rosso, viola, turchese, oro – e i quadri sprizzavano gioia, vita, e femminilità. La mostra inaugurata sabato a Magliaso nello spazio di Officinaarte, intitolata Who are you? images from the black mirror series 2009, è molto diversa dalle opere precedenti di Linda Salerno. Si tratta di 12 stampe fotografiche e 3 disegni su carta trasparente, quasi senza colore ma con una gamma molto vasta di non-colori, come nella foto sopra. L’artista combina la fotografia (non manipolata digitalmente!) con la pittura. I temi sono quelli che le interessano da sempre: la danza, la moda, la natura, la fotografia e la pittura. Questa nuova serie presenta la stessa incredibile delicatezza, ma – a differenza del passato – si intuisce una profonda tristezza, altrettanto carica e potente a livello emotivo e artistico, ma profondamente triste. Le opere esposte a Magliaso fino al 22 novembre sono la testimonianza di una persona che sta facendo un lungo viaggio, e che da lontano torna per darci uno squarcio del luogo in cui si trova.

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Linda Salerno è nata a York, nel Pennsylvannia, nel 1950 da emigranti calabresi. Dopo gli studi al Moore College of Art di Philadelphia si trasferisce a New York, nel quartiere di Soho, allora il cuore della vita artistica della città. Espone soprattutto a New York, ma anche in altri centri culturali come Chicago e Milano. Nel 2008 prende parte alla mostra Women Only alla galleria Arte Moderna Amman di Locarno. Questa è la sua prima mostra personale in Ticino, dove vive dal 2002.

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