The Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome, known as Macro, has had the bright idea of looking at neon art since the 1950s, gathering about 70 works by more than 50 artists including Dan Flavin and Bruce Nauman.
Titled “Neon: The Luminous Material of Art,” the show has a variety of sculptures and installations, as well as several works linked with words (a common association in the neon of bar windows).
Giuseppe Ungaretti’s famous 1917 poem “Mattina” (“Morning”) comprises just the words “M’illumino d’immenso,” which can be translated as “I flood myself with the light of the immense.” They stem from a wartime experience, when Ungaretti saw the sea merge with the sky at daybreak.
The words have become a white neon sign in a 2009 work by artist Alfredo Jaar.
Pier Paolo Calzolari, a member of the Arte Povera movement, uses tobacco leaves, tin pieces and neon words in his 1969 “Non.”
Reminding visitors of the natural world in this neon kingdom, Spencer Finch alludes to how sunlight appears in Rome’s Pantheon through the roof aperture, using five neon spheres in his 2011 “Rome (Pantheon, noon effect).”
Before leaving, stroll along Odile Decq’s floating walkway hanging from the lobby’s roof.
Paola De Pietri
You can almost feel the fresh air and freedom of open spaces as you gaze at Paola De Pietri’s photographs of rural landscapes on the border between Austria and Italy.
Yet the images on view at the Maxxi National Museum of 21st Century Arts reflect darker realities, for they are battle sites from the First World War.
At first glance there are rocky mountain walls, trees, green forests and grassy hills. Take a second look, and you discover relics of trenches, excavated tunnels, exploded bomb craters and shelter ruins.
“In these places, now vacation destinations, it is difficult to identify beneath one’s feet the echo of the battles and the drama. As if the ‘innocence’ of today had removed the violence of history,” De Pietri says.
Framed in wood on a white background, all the photographs are printed the same size, adding to the apparent harmony.
“Paola De Pietri, To Face: Landscape Along Austrian and Italian Front of the First World War” runs through Oct. 17 at Via Guido Reni 4A, Rome; +39-06-322-51-78; http://www.fondazionemaxxi.it/.
Hans Haacke’s amusing installation from 1964, consisting of a blue sail set in motion by a fan beneath it, is probably what most resembles a flying carpet in “Tapis Volants” at the Academy of France’s Villa Medici.
Spanning 600 years, the show brings together different varieties of carpets as well as related films, contemporary-art installations, paintings, embroidery and religious images.
In “Hannoun,” Taysir Batniji assembles hundreds of pencil shavings to produce a decorated-carpet effect. Like Haacke, Zilvinas Kempinas suggests a carpet with a single strand of videotape that appears to be flying thanks to an electric fan.
Also on view is one of Alighiero Boetti’s renowned world maps from 1978 and his “Lavoro Postale, Autodisporsi (Adelina)” in which 14 identical envelopes addressed to the same person and carefully edged in postage stamps are laid out with the symmetry and texture of a handmade quilt.
In this mish-mash of associated objects, don’t miss “Madonna dell’Umilta e quattro angeli” by Benozzo Gozzoli. From 1440, this small gem depicts a beautiful Virgin Mary with a young Jesus, surrounded by four angels. Two of them hold a golden carpet behind her.
“Tapis Volants” runs through Oct. 21 at Viale Trinita dei Monti 1, Rome; +39-06-676-11; http://www.villamedici.it/.
(Lili Rosboch writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are her own.)
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