Opening: Thursday 2 October 2014, 7 p.m.
From 3 October 2014 to 11 January 2015, GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo is hosting an important solo show by Luigi Ontani, one of the most representative artists on the international panorama of the past forty years.
He is a versatile figure who has been present on the art scene since the Sixties. In the early Seventies he began to participate in and then make a name for himself in the contemporary artistic debate with his tableaux vivants: dressed or, rather, disguised performances; living iconographies in which Ontani – transformed and masked – impersonates historical, mythological, literary and popular figures, including Pinocchio, Dante Alighieri, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Caravaggio’s St Paul, Guercino’s St Luke and Michelangelo’s Prigioni.
The exhibition features a selection of photographic works that are the outcome of the artist’s intense research, considered germinal and especially significant within the development of his production.
Ontani chooses photography as the medium best suited for interpreting his work. It is an instrument that documents his artistic performances translated into photographs in different formats to revive a practice that can be traced back to the living interpretations of the medieval gospels, the allegorical triumphs of the Renaissance and the Baroque, as well as true tableaux vivants that were created during the French Revolution by artists of the calibre of Jacques-Louis David and that came back into style in Roman salons in the early twentieth century.
The artist turns to the photographic technique as an opportunity to experiment with multiple possibilities and formulate new variations on the themes and subjects that interest him most, thus embarking on a “transhistorical” journey through myths, masks, nudes, symbols and iconographic representations.
Reinterpreting situations that are historically and/or geographically far away, the artist revives the forms of famous paintings of the past or of ritual, practising a “language of being elsewhere”. At the same time, this shortens the distances between art and life, in which the artist’s body is always the subject, thereby recovering what has been a fundamental theme throughout the history of art, starting from the classical tradition.
The exhibition intends to restore the variety of this production, showing the sequence of performances d’après such as San Sebastiano nel bosco di Calvenzano d'après Guido Reni (1970), Meditazione après de la Tour (1970), DaviDRatto (1974–2008) and Déjeuner surl’ArT (1992), as well as works such as Bacchino (1970), Dante (1972), Pinocchio (1972), Le Ore (1975), Lapsus Lupus (1992), the diptych EvAdamo (1973–2004) and an Indian cycle that also includes a series of works from recent years.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a bilingual catalogue – published by GAMeC Books – with essays by Giacinto Di Pietrantonio (Director of GAMeC) and Laura Cherubini (Curator, critic and professor at the Accademia di Brera).
Luigi Ontani is considered one of the most influential and innovative Italian artists working today.
Since the late 1960s, Ontani has been active across multiple media, beginning with photography, performance and film and continuing through to a very personal use of painting and sculpture. His legendary tableaux-vivants and life-size polychrome ceramic sculptures have broken vigorously with tradition and created an entirely unique vision.
Among Luigi Ontani’s notable recent shows and performances are a retrospective of his early films and videos at Tate Modern (2010), new performances commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery, London (2010) and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2011).
A large retrospective of his work was held at Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2011) and at Kunsthalle Bern (2012).
Other solo shows include: Kunstverein in Frankfurt and Groninger Museum (curated by Jan Hoet in 1996); MoMA PS1 in New York (curated by Carolyn ChristovBakargiev in 2001); Bangkok National Gallery (2002); S.M.A.K. Ghent (2004), MAMbo Bologna (2008), Museo di Capodimonte, Naples (2010).
Ontani was invited to Sydney Biennale (1986); New Delhi Triennial (1991), to Manifesta (2008), and has participated in six editions of the Venice Biennale (1972, 1978, 1984, 1986, 1995, 2003).