Kriegsgipfel

1918, vor bald hundert Jahren, ging der Erste Weltkrieg zu Ende. Der deutsch-italienische Künstler Riccardo Vecchio wanderte durch die Dolomiten und zeichnete die Berge, an denen damals gekämpft und gestorben wurde. Von Mohamed Amjahid

ZEITmagazin Nr. 53/2017 19. Dezember 2017, 17:23 Uhr

IMG_4119.JPG

 

Ob Gabriele D’Annunzio am 9. August 1918, kurz vor Ende des Ersten Weltkrieges, ein Auge für die Schönheit der Dolomiten gehabt hat, weiß man nicht. Auf jeden Fall flog D’Annunzio, italienischer Poet des Fin de Siècle und Propagandist des Militärs, an jenem Tag über sie hinweg, er saß hinter den Piloten einer kleinen Propellermaschine. Zusammen wollten sie von Padua nach Wien – der Hauptstadt des Feindes. An Bord hatte D’Annunzio Tausende grün-weiß-rote Flugblätter: Kriegspropaganda. Doch der Text war nur auf Italienisch zu lesen, sodass die meisten Wiener ihn nicht verstanden. D’Annunzio war das egal, er hatte sowieso nur die eigene, kriegsmüde Bevölkerung im Visier: In der italienischen Presse wurde der Propagandaflug hinterher bejubelt, und fürs Durchhalten versprachen die italienischen Kriegsführer ihrem Volk die Annexion der bis dahin zur Habsburgermonarchie gehörenden Dolomiten. Am Ende haben die Italiener den Gebirgskrieg auf 4000 Meter Höhe gegen Österreich-Ungarn gewonnen. Der Preis: Hunderttausende Menschen starben durch Granatbeschuss oder Kälte.

Der deutsch-italienische Künstler Riccardo Vecchio wanderte im Jahr 2014, hundert Jahre nach Beginn des Ersten Weltkrieges, wochenlang in den Dolomiten. In den folgenden Sommern kehrte er dorthin zurück, studierte Gipfel, Eisformationen und Bergwege, auf denen Maultiere einst Proviant für die Truppen transportierten. Sein Großvater Cesare war mit 18 Jahren in die italienische Armee eingezogen worden, wurde später von Österreichern gefangen genommen, konnte entkommen und floh im Sommer 1917 zu Fuß über die Berge nach Mailand.

"Ich kenne die Dolomiten von Ausflügen in meiner Kindheit. Ich bin dorthin zurückgekehrt, um das aktuelle Unbehagen in Europa zu verstehen", sagt Vecchio, 47, der seit zwanzig Jahren in New York lebt und arbeitet. Auch im Zweiten Weltkrieg wurden die Dolomiten zu einem Schauplatz des Grauens. Mit den schmelzenden Gletschern tauchen nun überall Relikte des Krieges auf, Vecchio fand bei seinen Reisen Einschlagkrater und Überreste von Bomben. "Angesichts des Aufkommens von rechtspopulistischer Rhetorik und Nationalismus überall auf der Welt sind diese Berge Zeugen vergangener Massaker im Namen von Machterhalt und Profit", sagt Vecchio.

In seinem Atelier in New York arbeitet er seit Jahren an den Ölgemälden. Detailversessen versucht Vecchio jeden Hang, jeden Felsen, jeden Gipfel so genau wie möglich nachzuzeichnen. Seine Mission sei es, die Erinnerung an das Grauen vergangener Tage für die Zukunft wachzuhalten, sagt er. Wer weiß zum Beispiel noch, dass am 13. Dezember 1916, an einem einzigen Tag also, Tausende Männer in Lawinen starben? Grenzen zwischen Ländern liegen oft in den Bergen, wo niemand wohnt. Es macht also fast keinen Unterschied, ob die Grenze ein paar Meter weiter hier oder da verläuft. Aber der Nationalismus lässt dafür Unzählige sterben.

Frammenti

The Embassy of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute, with the Pratt Institute and Ivy University, invite you to an exhibit exploring the layered themes of memory, continuity, and remembrance as seen through the lenses of several generations of Italians. Artists Kikki Ghezzi and Riccardo Vecchio invest their works with the physical remnants and records of family memories and historical events.

In Ghezzi’s work, the importance of her connection to prior generations of strong women in her family is physically manifest in her use of heirloom linens, embroidered by her grandmother, that have been passed down as a dowry in a traditional cassone, and now serve as the literal support for her paintings.  Paintings by Riccardo Vecchio explore the historical past, specifically the events of World War I, where the Italians fought in the Dolomite mountains and the Alps. As the mountains suffer the effects of climate change, they are disgorging their history and souvenirs of the past, to reveal details of the lives of people who were engaged in combat there in 1915 and as World War I unfolded.  Fragments of memory, and fragments of time, the frammenti referred to here, are captured by these two Italian artists to help us understand the longer continuum of life, and reflect the concerns of their generation as culture responds to an increasingly hectic world.

 

LOCATION 
Embassy of Italy
3000 Whitehaven Street NW
Washington, DC 20008

Riccardo Vecchio paints the mountain ranges of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Dolomites and the Alps. These paintings transport us to remote mountain summits that are vividly present in history. Joining a tradition of painting the mountain as a sublime obstacle in nature, Vecchio emphasizes the struggle of man against nature.  J.M.W.Turner depicted the crossing of Carthaginian General Hannibal when he traversed with elephants, and Jacques-Louis David painted where Napoleon crossed the Saint Bernard pass, with rocks inscribed to record previous travelers and triumphs, but Vecchio takes other memories as inspiration.

Vecchio paints many of the infamous World War I battlegrounds high in the Dolomites where the Kingdom of Italy and the Austro Hungarian Empire clashed between 1915 and 1918.  Recent paintings, steeped in those places, are enhanced by satellite imagery and study of topographical maps combined with Vecchio’s oil and pencil sketches made during summer months of hiking and camping in the wilderness to observe and record those locations. Vecchio’s large paintings emphasize another dimension, the universal views of this particular space of conflict in the rocky crags and crests of the mountains.  Reanimating history, and using GoogleEarth, Vecchio creates 3-D printed silicone sand models of the places he has walked, and then transforms the physical knowledge of those places into giant paintings, melding memory of place with his experience of hiking, and with images taken from the satellite, his camera, his models, and paintings made en plein air. Using technological advances to inform his views of the mountain ranges, Vecchio’s resulting large-scale paintings approach the vedute from every angle. Adapting techniques familiar from Venetian paintings like Tintoretto’s Last Supper (1592-1594), a painting on canvas at the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, in Venice, Vecchio paints as if looking down simultaneously from a bird’s eye view, and across landscapes as if gazing from a nearby peak, and as if standing with feet firmly planted on the ground. Vecchio’s technique bridges human experience of the past, present and future, and his landscapes fall into the tradition of gifted late Renaissance painters, whose predella paintings were often devoted to horizontal landscapes, or the Italian landscape paintings of the nineteenth century, who glorified unadorned aspects of physical nature.

Vecchio also emulates the colors of places he experiences, using photographs to enhance memory, and painted sketches to remind of the experience of the colors---like sunshine on snow, or rain on the bald craggy rocks---in the moment he saw them. This technique combines an understanding of a historical moment with the experience of that place seen a hundred years later.  Shattered stripes of light seem to cloak the mountains in Vecchio’s more recent and large-scale paintings, giving a fresh impression of the fragmented landscapes he has traveled.

Kikki Ghezzi is an experiential artist, creating installations and paintings that interpret poignant memories of her childhood in Milan and in the village of Bormio, along with more recent vivid works of universal appeal, exploring the connection through three generations of Italian women. Her work relies upon memory as inspiration, as she shares spiritual and often metaphysical realities. The 24 Ore refer to the contents of a briefcase, designed to hold the day’s essentials. Filled with prints in a variety of colors, the 24 Ore hold literal impressions, in printed form, of the interiors of her family’s home in Italy. In the last of three valises, Ghezzi placed a sealed letter to her parents, a sort of memorial to her family and upbringing, after their deaths.  The spiritual qualities of Ghezzi’s work, both meditative and contemplative, offer the viewer an opportunity to pause and reflect upon their own connections to family and the past, in a quiet way, with the metaphorical embrace of a daily briefcase to hold and contain thoughts of the day. Ghezzi excels in finding the universal voice in the personal.

Using the hand-embroidered linens, pillowcases, and sheets handed down to her from her mother and grandmother, Ghezzi brings together the personal and historical threads that literally connect these three generations, and presents these works in fresh fashion to a new contemporary audience.

Lisa A. Banner is Adjunct Associate Professor of Art History at Pratt Institute. She is curator of an ongoing series of contemporary exhibitions at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, in the James B. Duke House [www.bit.ly/IFAdisplay].  As an independent scholar and curator, she has organized exhibitions like “The President’s Face,” highlighting loans from private collections with rare photographs of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and James B. Garfield, at the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library. She is a frequent invited lecturer at places like The Courtauld Institute, The Frick Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Meadows Museum, and elsewhere. In 2014, she curated a contemporary art installation at Prospect 3+ Biennial, New Orleans. Since 2013 she has curated contemporary exhibitions at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU [www.bit.ly/IFAdisplay].  Her latest exhibition, SHIFT: Jongil Ma, Christopher Smith, Corban Walker was on view at the David Owsley Museum of Art. Banner is also a board member of The Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden, and a member of the Research Programming Group at the Frick Art Reference Library. 

IMG_2306.JPG

War x Artifice

War x Artifice, Feb4- March2nd,  Opening Reception Feb6th, 2017, 6-8 pm

SVA Gramercy Gallery,
209 East 23 rd Street.
NY, NY 10010

 

In War x Artifice, Riccardo Vecchio called upon the 100 year anniversary of World War I to explore the relationship between war and the artifice of nation-state building and the creation of borders.
Vecchio focuses this exploration on the unearthly typography and transformation of a stunningly beautiful yet infamously brutal repository of human suffering – the mountain ranges of the Italian dolomites. Between 1915 and 1918, across this 11,000 foot elevated Alpine Ridge, horrific battles waged between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire each in its quest for military and political dominance in Europe. In an attempt to cut off the advance of the enemy, trenches and tunnels were dug into glaciers and rocks where tons of dynamite was exploded. Entire peaks imploded, burying many alive. Others succumbed to gunfire, avalanches and frost. Indeed, with the current rising waves of populist rhetoric and nationalism around the world, these mountains stand as witnesses and spectral presence for Vecchio of the carnage inflicted on man and nature in the pursuit of power and profits. Monuments to human vanity.
On location, it was clear that the starkly elegant forms in ice and rock were not benign natural geologic occurrences, but instead, scarred mountain peaks and craters blown up by relentless bombing almost a century ago. As the glaciers at the highest altitudes continue receding today, new war relics and corpses continue to surface. Up close it is possible to see the stress cracks in the rock, remnants of detonated bombs, and other after-effects of the war. The melting glaciers, revealing a virtual cemetery riddled with gravestones. Back in his studio, Vecchio explores the relationship between technologically advanced tools of visualization, such as Google earth and satellite imagery, and his firsthand experience, in order to depict the landscape as a projection of emotive states.
Using photographs taken on location as reminders of the unearthly spectrum of greys, mustards and lavenders he observed, and literally mapping his steps by creating 3-D silicone and sand models of the exact latitude and longitude of the places he had been, Vecchio creates monumental paintings.
Clearly referencing the Dolomites, but with no known landmarks and a dynamic play with perspective, Vecchio is able to transform the landscape into a magical place where the works take on a character of their own. Weaving together memory of place, with firsthand experience and digital technology, the works become a dynamic exploration of an imagined adventure; emotionally charged, and no less valid than those created on location.

INERTIA

New work by Teresa Lundgren, Jongil Ma, and Riccardo Vecchio
Curated by Lisa A. Banner


2-30 August 2016


Flatiron Project Space
School of Visual Arts
133 W 21st Street
(between 6th and 7th Avenues)

Opening reception: 8 August, 6:00 PM

INERTIA examines artistic interpretations of a property of matter defined by Sir Isaac Newton. Inertia is that property of matter by which it continues in an existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless that state is changed by external force. The exhibition examines facets of INERTIA through video, sculpture, and painting created by Teresa Lundgren (Pratt Institute, MFA 2016, MS History of Art and Design, anticipated 2016), Jongil Ma (SVA BFA 2002) and Riccardo Vecchio (SVA MFA 1996, SVA Faculty in Illustration BFA program).  

Jongil Ma (SVA BFA 2002) demonstrates the containment of movement in sculptural constructions, and his paintings in wood, often made from the fragmented pieces of large-scale sculptural structures. His creations reflect interactions and tensions between the disparate pieces, and he uses simple gestures to interpret the effects of outside pressures upon what is contained within. The small red painting in wood, for example, illustrated here, demonstrates his extraordinary sculptural rendition of movement versus stasis.

In his paintings, Riccardo Vecchio (SVA MFA 1996, SVA Faculty in Illustration BFA program) presents aerial visions of cities, ports, and highways in frenetic and constant movement.  Enhanced by compressed views of streets, highways, railroad tracks and buildings, seen from the dizzying perspective of an airplane and simultaneously from the side, as if laid out in an architectural model or on a giant play table, his paintings invite the viewer to traverse urban landscapes composed without people, seemingly composed only of lines, shapes, and blocks of color.

Through video projects Teresa Lundgren directly questions principles of physics, examining stasis and movement, and the application of force versus free will in nature and in life. A former high school teacher, Lundgren’s artistic practice focuses on philosophical and epistemological questions designed to foster critical thinking in the viewer, similar to the aims of the SVA Visual and Critical Studies program.  Her work frequently consists of immersive audio and visual experiences designed to stimulate questioning responses.  Her experiences teaching high school in Dubai inform her constant examination of language, education, and philosophical issues.

The Flatiron Project Space, created and founded by the Visual & Critical Studies department, is located on the ground floor of 133/141 West 21st Street. The gallery invites VCS students, along with other departments at SVA, to realize curatorial projects that highlight our rapidly expanding visual culture. Shows are held monthly and include video, performance, painting and sculptural projects.

For more information, visit vcs.sva.edu

 

 

Di Qui Non Si Passa!

"From here you shall not pass!" selected paintings from the series "DI QUI NON SI PASSA!" (From Here You Shall Not Pass) are on view by appointment in the display cases in the Great Hall at the Duke House in Manhattan. Till March 29th 2016

http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/fineart/research/displaycases.htm

For the past 2 years I have been working in the Italian Dolomites (Trentino and Veneto) on a series of works studying the topography and natural transformation of infamous World War 1 battle sites.
Ruins and urban rubble have been a reoccurring theme in my work for some time. I have always found a ruin created by man through warfare or urban neglect bizarrely intriguing. Eerie and romantic, these sites often have historical significance, and feel as if at any moment they could be at the tipping point from destruction to reconstruction. Maybe this is what I find so alluring, and what draws me to them. At current and former urban battle sites charred and disfigured by detonations and fires, the remaining ruins expose structural elements and intimat interiors. Missing roofs and walls bring stage light to dark rooms and a glimpse into rows of neighboring homes, where it’s possible to begin to imagine the lives of those who came before. Historically, during reconstruction some ruins have been preserved serving as warning memorials and political monuments. Left untouched, nature does its best to heal its marred skin, but all too often visible scars remain. Where former battle grounds are more accessible, for example on the French Belgian World War 1 border, Gettysburg or Waterloo, the fields are meticulously manicured and memorialized with museums cemeteries, and perhaps even a gruesomegift shop. In fact, today it is hard to believe they were the sites of such apocalyptic warfare. The words “battle” and “field, a seeming oxymoron. I chose one of the most implacable of these landscapes to begin my current series of works because of this stark contradiction.
Between 1915-1918, one of the most suggestive landscapes in Europe, The Dolomites on the Italian-Austrian borders, were the stage to some of the most horrendous conflicts of Word War 1. But, today you have to hike up high above the idyllic alpine ski and pastoral tracking tourism infrastructure to discover the scared battle fields. From a distance, it is even difficult to distinguish the natural geologic rock formations from the manmade gaps and rock slides caused by the detonations used during war time. But, upon closer inspection, the stress cracks in the rock, the deterioration of the stone, as well as the abnormal convex crater shapes, become visible and are clearly the after effects of war. Shredded metal from shell casings can still be found everywhere. Even today as the glaciers recede, they uncover corpses and intact telegraph and munitions barracks frozen in time. When enemy fire was not the cause of death, the steep terrain, freezing temperatures and avalanches where the largest cause of casualties. Trenches were dug into glaciers and rocks. Provisions, machinery, artillery and munitions were all carried by men and donkeys up thousands of feet into this savage and unsparing climate, that culminated into trench warfare that came to a complete stand still. A brutal and futile mission, fueled by manaical patrotism, with little to no military significance. In this landscape, deep tunnels were dug for shelter and storage. The narrow paths in such high altitude put opposing trenches only a few feet from each other. In order for one side to gain territory, or the highest amount of enemy casualties, tunnels were carved underneath enemy lines to create large chambers, and then filled with explosives. Sometimes thirty thousand kilograms of explosives. More than once, these detonations would manage to blow an entire mountain peak off, and the resulting shockwave would force the collapse or detonation of an adjacent mine chamber, burying hundreds of soldiers alive, those who were still digging or rigging fuses.
The knowledge of what took place in this setting, that in fact you are climbing up what is essentially a breathtakingly beautiful graveyard, was not lost on me. Evident is also the artifice of a state border and how muchblood had to be shed to draw it on a map. Even the physical limitations of having to travel with very little material and provisions, coupled with the difficult weather conditions, only made me feel more empathetic to those foot soldiers, affecting my depiction and interpretation of the sites in a way that I could never have imagined by sitting in my warm and comfortable studio in NY. Back in NY, I am continuing to work on larger versions of the numerous small paintings and drawings I had created on site.
I visited these sites in childhood, and now, at the 100th anniversary of the WW1, coupled with the current discontent in Europe, all came together to inspire me to walk those same paths again on borderlines that have been untouched, at least on paper, since World War II.

A Little Crumb - La Michetta

The MICHETTA originated during the Austrian occupation of Milan, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire reigned in Lombardy, after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.  As is the case, the occupiers, in this instance the Austrians, brought with them new foods which the Milanese adapted, and then transformed to make their own. One of these delicacies was a bread with the evocative name of “Kaisersemmel”, or "Emperor’s sandwich”, which was a sandwich weighing 50 to 90 grams in what was a traditional rose form. To spite the occupying Emperor and his Habsburg troops who guarded the city, the Milanese renamed the bread with the diminutive of “micca", "mica", or “Michetta" which originally meant “crumb”.

But, the primary transformation that took place and made it what it is to this day,  had to do with the “architecture" of the bread. In the humid climate of Milan, the Kaisersemmel didn’t retain the freshness it had in the much drier climate of Vienna, where it would stay fresh and fragrant till evening. In Milan, the dough quickly absorbed the ever present humid air, making the bread stale and gummy very quickly. The intuition of the master bakers in Milan was to figure out a way to hollow out the bread, in effect emptying it, which immediately lightened it, and enabled it to maintain its crisp outer shell, ensuring a longer lasting and more fragrant and digestible bread.

My personal fascination with the Michetta has much more to do with nostalgia for my youth, and for a Milan that no longer exists for the most part. I don’t think you would be wrong if you said that the Michetta is the equivalent of a bagel for the native NY’er, in that it became essentially synonymous with the locale. In Milan, during the years I was growing up, most bakeries had few choices when it came to your everyday bread. So, the Michetta was paired with everything from Nutella (which was still relatively unknown outside of Italy), to your classic salami and Mortadella lunch time fare. These sandwiches became a scrumptious daily ritual in all school cafeterias and bars (bars in the Italian sense, that is to say, more like a café here).

In terms of shape, even though all Michette look slightly different, the general form is quite distinct and recognizable to anyone who grew up around them. They all have a distinguished oval octagonal form with a puck like growth coming out of the top, similar to the way the top of a bowl of stiffly beaten eggs look when you pull the egg beaters out of the bowl. And, as I mentioned above, the crust is very light and thin, and on the inside it is mostly hollow with pockets of moist, fragrant, and chewy wonderfulness. So, for the history, for the wistfulness for a youth gone, and most importantly, for the rush of feelings I get when I take that first bite, I love them and I decided to paint them.