Ex-volto. Sculptures by Paolo Delle Monache at the Barracco Museum
Presso la cinquecentesca Farnesina ai Baullari, 25 sculture del giovane artista Paolo Delle Monache si affiancano alle antiche opere di arte mediterranea della collezione del Museo Barracco.
Founded by Giovanni Barracco, a sophisticated collector from Calabria on the cusp of the 20th century, the purpose of this museum has always been to “to use purchased, ancient sculptures as the cornerstone of a small museum” and with this new exhibition, which ties in perfectly with that objective, it will now play host to the works of a contemporary artist too.
There is nothing new about the subject of the 25 sculptures being displayed: images of man and his surroundings. As such, the ex-volto and extra-luoghi - detached faces and pieces of places - seem perfectly at home amongst the Museum’s collection of ancient sculptures that represent all styles of Mediterranean Art: Syrian, Egyptian, Cypriot, Phoenician, Etruscan, Greek and of course Roman.
They seem to be able to communicate effortlessly on exactly the same wavelength. Delle Monache’s unsettling yet fascinating fragments of the human body reflect that the sculptured remnants of ancient masterpieces collected by Barracco are unique specimens that have been handed down to us from past civilisations..
The exhibition is being sponsored by Rome City Council and the Copernico Studio in Milan, with Nicola Loi as co-ordinator.
Many of the works on display feature the human face - Rêverie, (the deep state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep as defined by Gaston Bacherland) Cherubino che medita, Cherubino che osserva, (Cherubin meditating / observing) and Aurora (the Goddess of Dawn). There is an assortment of faces, leaning on arms, surrounded by hands or punctured spaces and it is the intensity of their respective gazes, reflective rather than direct and the potency of their thoughts and dreams that make them stand out. They are serious faces, sometimes set one on top of another, “I make a pile of faces that are like boxes, but instead of fitting inside each other, they are fitted to each other at the cheek or the neck,” explains the author, “meditating, or even asleep”.
Italiana e 100% made in Italy is one of the sculptor’s latest configurations. “For some time now, the outline of Italy has formed the basis or the foundation for a few of my sculptures. It is a shape that appeals to me in that it is the outline of a fertile land that is the breeding ground for other shapes and findings and circumscribes an area that has been built on, razed, rebuilt, bequeathed and lived in since time immemorial. It is a place where digging, or exploring, can lead to new discoveries so it is not unlike an atelier - a studio or workshop - a peninsular atelier”.
An Italian peninsula where the past, with its characteristic monuments, some centuries-old, of a religious nature or with facades like some pierced colossus that are as mysterious as the faces hidden behind the apertures in these works.. “Memories of the past are the Ariadne’s thread that I follow as I string my ideas together,” says Paolo Delle Monache as he describes his work. It is a thread that starts with the Etruscans and on to the art of the early Renaissance, providing themes that are reflected in the architectural elements that surround the faces or the pieces of places that he sculpts. It is a timelessness that brings the past to mind, and not just the distant past either; mind games that lead from Arturo Martini’s La Pisana through to the metaphysical constructions by Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà.
These are works that take the nourishment they need from the formal study of the classic arts to grow and become something completely different, something personal. The assortment of circumscribed faces and the architectural elements so often overlaid by Paolo Delle Monache in his work create figures that are non-existent, multiple forms that give rise to all sorts of different interpretations. They evoke the past and yet they are utterly contemporary at the same time. Bronze is the artist’s material of choice because it is a “material that is self-supporting and can cope with any balancing or warping problems” leaving the enigmatic and arcane nature of his works intact. “Luckily the “why” of what I do is still not completely clear to me, but I can say that trying to bring life to different forms is something wonderful”.
Paolo Delle Monache’s predilection for fragments that are re-worked according to a subjective vision that celebrates tradition provides the perfect link between this exhibition and the Barracco Museum’s other works. They too are just a part of a missing whole; the row of heads that are part of the permanent collection (as in the room dedicated to Classic Greece) find themselves alongside an analogous search for the perfect piece also capable of evoking a more complex universe. “Faces, hands and architecture are all elements that can be used to create a particular impression, they grow, like a flower, ever upwards”.
Despite being part of the “dream” category, the bronze polychromes of the ex-volti and extra luoghi exhibits stand in perfect symphony with the sculptures of the past. They reflect its origins but the piece itself also represents new modern visions, “because,” as Baracco himself once wrote, “sculpture, more than any other art form, requires that the artist should possess great powers of abstraction”.