DI QUI NON SI PASSA!
Paintings by Riccardo Vecchio
22 February to 29 March 2016
Curated by Lisa A. Banner
In these paintings of the Dolomites, Riccardo Vecchio explores the topography and natural transformation of an infamous World War I battle site. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this ridge of the Alps forming the northeastern Italian border witnessed horrendous conflicts during Word War I. During the War, Di Qui Non Si Passa was an admonition to those approaching: From here you shall not pass. A cast-iron sign at the edge of the Italian territory where the terrain becomes fiercest and most daunting, this sign stands today as a monument, marking a brutal and futile mission of dubious military significance, where lives were lost. In the attempt to cut off the advance off the enemy, trenches and tunnels were dug into glaciers and rocks. Men and animals carried provisions and munitions thousands of feet up into this unsparing terrain. A battle became trench warfare at a complete standstill; unable to advance both Italians and Austrians dug deep tunnels into the rock, and set off tons of dynamite. Resulting explosions made entire peaks implode, burying many alive. Others simply died from exposure.
Vecchio paints the craters that remain from those explosions and the scarred peaks blown up along the mountains 100 years ago, finding starkly elegant forms in ice and rocks. He spent three summers hiking in the Dolomites, painting en plein air and then returning to his studio with oil sketches and notebooks, as well as fragments of rock and mineral that provide inspiration. Thick strokes of grey, mustard, and lavender, daubed onto small canvases, capture the translucence of ancient ice, and trace the ravages of World War I. As the glacier recedes, revealing war relics and geologic structures at these highest altitudes, it also reveals remnants of the detonation of bombs, and the aftereffects of war. Further exploring terrain by creating 3-D models of the topography, Vecchio creates immersive experiences in painting and sculpture.