Art and the City

A palace is a palace, a work of art is a work of art. A photographer is a photographer, an architect is an architect. Putting these four elements (material and human) together can be very difficult if not impossible. The risk of getting a crazy mayonnaise is very high. Not, if the photographer is Nando Calabrese and the architect is Sergio Attanasio, architectural historian and president of the "Historical Neapolitan Houses" Association. No, if the buildings and the artists were chosen by these two friends, interpreters of a culture all conjugated in Neapolitan, with great sensitivity.And if the choice or suggestion of the building in which to host the work of art, belongs to the architect, the framing, the "cut" of the image is entirely entrusted to the photographer's lens. The exhibition "Art and the city", curated by Antonella Nigro and promoted by the Tempo Libero association with the department municipal culture, set up at the Pan, (open until 12 February, every day, except Tuesdays, from 9.30 to 19.30 and on Sundays until 14.30) is a successful example of the synergy between institutions and cultural associations ; and it is, above all, the beautiful experience of the meeting of two personalities, Attanasio and Calabrese, capable of collaborating by integrating their sensitivities towards Neapolitan architecture and art. The result is a splendid exhibition, not to be missed, which has a double object: the interior of Neapolitan buildings and the work chosen by the artists involved in this ambitious project. The emotional impact of Nando Calabrese's large photographs is remarkable and, at least at first, unsettling in the sense that one must let yourself be carried away by emotion to understand that between the building and the artist's work, always in colour, an ironic dialogue is established between works, distant in time but close in sensitivity. The series of photos, large format, and excellently printed by Vittorio Gargiulo, in fact, in addition to presenting a critical look at the most significant voices of Neapolitan figurative art of recent years, it also aims to be a representation of the history of Neapolitan civil construction, without claiming to select only the "monumentality".

In fact, the buildings photographed - not all of them well-known - also become a lesson in the history of Neapolitan architecture through the centuries. A map of the city, indicating all the buildings photographed, helps, even many Neapolitans, to identify the sites, thus allowing a more careful reading of that artistic civilization that the city has been able to express, over the centuries, through the work of architects known but also of obscure and unknown protagonists of the art of "manufacturing". The chosen photographic set, in fact, has the same importance whether it is the staircase of the most beautiful Neapolitan palaces or whether it reveals the quiet courtyard of Villa dell' Fir tree where the shade of a thick palm invites you to take a pleasant break. And so, distancing myself from everything that surrounds me, I advance, with my eyes captured by the large photos. It is a continuous surprise, from building to building, until I get lost in the subtle game of recognizing the building and its relationship with the work on display. Forgotten or never seen places are rediscovered and it is a reading that can only increase the pride of belonging to a civilization without useless and, let's face it, anachronistic historical claims. In the photos by Nando Calabrese, passing from the dazzling white to black through all the shades of grey, a dialogue is born between the chosen place and the color of the work exhibited. And the choice to film the work with its artist is extremely happy because it removes it from graphic abstractness, humanizing it and making the artist himself the object of the photographic shot. In the end, the relationship that binds the space, the artist, his work and the photographer is the result of a happy empathy first and foremost with the environment in which the action takes place, with the history that that place evokes and also with the more attentive contemporary Neapolitan figurative culture.

It is a game of references between spaces, experienced by the artist with his work, and spaces photographed with love and with a subtle vein of melancholy by Nando Calabrese; a melancholy with which his critical lens underlines the conditions of decay in which many of the buildings find themselves. But, on the part of the sensitive Nando Calabrese, on closer inspection, it is an ironic melancholy, an acceptance of the passing of time. And irony also becomes the key with which almost all the artists have played in this refined and cultured operation. Thus the enchanted and naive gaze of Riccardo Dalisi fixes, with challenge, the spectator, inviting him to observe the object, placed his feet, which will soon move up the long staircase of Palazzo Calabritto. He, Riccardo, believes it; while, with a sly smile, Laura Cristinzio launches her red Ariadne's thread that is only apparently messy because, in reality, that thread that unwinds along the steep staircase of Palazzo Sirignano is also the fishing line thrown towards the spectator to suck him into the magic of the image.Armando De Stefano plays with nostalgia as he is watched by the characters of one of his works which has been fixed for years on the ceiling of the rectorate of the University, Vincenzo Aulitto hangs, almost according to an ancient popular rite, his phantasmagoric canvas on the terrace from the staircase of the Palace Marigliano-Di Capua and Lello Esposito smiles under the enormous head of his San Gennaro whose gaze refers to his other famous work, Pulcinella, the eternal icon of a way of being Neapolitan, almost a secular San Gennaro.

I turn around and am captured by the photograph in which Rosaria Matarese lets herself be enveloped in the vertigo of the elliptical staircase of Palazzo Mannajuolo. I look around; I would like to see them all again, with more attention, but there are many images, too many to remember them all. For now I am content to list all the artists present in the exhibition: Riccardo Dalisi, Lello Esposito, Gianni Pisani, Mario Persico, Armando De Stefano, Rosaria Iazzetta, Ahmad Alaa Eddin, Vincenzo Aulitto, Anna, Luisa and Rosaria Corcione, Mathelda Balatresi, Celesta Bufano, Alessia Cattaneo Della Volta, Marisa Ciardiello, Laura Cristinzio, Gerardo Di Fiore, Francesca Di Martino, Nicca Iovinella, Pietro Loffredo, Rosaria Matarese, Rosa Panaro, Gloria Pastore, Aulo Pedicini, Giuseppe Pirozzi, Tommaso Pirretti, Rezzuti–Scolavino, Sergio Riccio, Mimma Russo, Tony Stefanucci, Ernesto Terlizzi and Marianna Troise. I will return several times to visit it and I am sure that, every time, entering these spaces, I will discover something more about that subtle dialogue between the color of the artistic artefact and the light, in black and white, that invades these photos. Also the catalogue, published by Paparo, written by Sergio Attanasio with the writings of Antonella Nigro, Clorinda Irace and Nino Daniele, for once, is not the usual brochure but an in-depth tool. The music of Mahler and Tchaikovsky comments on the beautiful presentation film of the Exhibition made by Sergio Attanasio and Stefano Sovrani. Outside the Museum, I go out into the noisy night preparing for its Saturday evening ritual.
Francesco Divenuto