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'in luce' Photographs of Possagno's Gypsotheca by Alessandra Chemollo: 4 December 2021 to 27 March 2022
\'in luce\' Photographs of Possagno’s Gypsotheca by Alessandra Chemollo
'in luce' Photographs of Possagno’s Gypsotheca by Alessandra Chemollo
From 04 December 2021 to 27 March 2022

The Querini Stampalia Foundation’s house-museum possesses a clay model by Antonio Canova that was a draft for a statue of Letizia Ramolino Bonaparte, the mother of Napoleon 1st. It was given to the Foundation’s founder, Count Giovanni Querini, in 1857 by the artist’s half-brother, Giovanni Battista Sartori.

An extensive set of connections is at the core of the latest grouping of figures at the Querini Stampalia in Venice: the artist Antonio Canova, the architect Carlo Scarpa, and the photographer Alessandra Chemollo are brought together in the exhibition ‘in luce’ [in light] – Photographs of Possagno’s Gypsotheca by Alessandra Chemollo, curated by Maddalena Scimemi.

The exhibition is promoted with the Antonio Canova Museum-Gypsotheca, with support from the Bugno Art Gallery, in honour of the bicentenary of Canova’s death in 1822.

It will be on display from 4 December 2021 to 27 March 2022 in the Querini Stampalia’s Scarpa Area.

‘in luce’ comprises fifty photographs from Alessandra Chemollo’s time in Possagno during summer 2016, when she produced the images for the catalogue Carlo Scarpa. La Gipsoteca Canoviana di Possagno, (Mondadori Electa, 2016), containing essays by Gianluca Frediani and Susanna Pasquali.

At the time, the photographer gave this account of her work: ‘there’s a sensation like going onstage – it’s as if we’re being guided by the unspoken directions of a director who seems to have determined our movements among the plaster casts and the play of the light… It’d almost be possible to go ahead with eyes closed if we didn’t need them to take account of the spot: our sensorium is much more ample than supposed, involving hidden ways of sensing that are inexplicably dependable. Our tentative meandering through the space, totally at ease, gives rise to an engrossing pleasure and the sensation that we, like everything else in the space, should not be anywhere but the place in question’.

‘in luce’ exhibits an account of that process, itself part of a wide array of research into the whole of Scarpa’s thirty-year output, resulting in numerous volumes and exhibitions, the sum of which has provided scholars with vital knowledge.

Here is an introduction to the exhibition by Maddalena Scimemi, the curator: ‘there are photographs of the fluid and doorless space inside the Gypsotheca, as was Scarpa’s preference. This collection provides an account of stimuli that the Venetian architect concocted for the most perceptive observers: Chemollo followed Scarpa’s lead in a spirit of exultation, taking the bait of open cuts in the walls, of square-cut stones removed from walls, of the alignment of display cases containing clay drafts, where reflections in the glass have long abounded. She even had the audacity to get up close and personal with the works, or so it seems. In her images, there is a two-dimensional translation of the fascinating power of natural light that Scarpa cultivated by varying the position and the width of skylights, much like a modern sundial: within this seriously devised ‘game’, shadows end up falling in certain places, whereas other areas are marked by extensive rays of light, somehow situating the art in time. That is not all, though. Chemollo astutely gives Canova the lead in the whole experience. In doing so, she responds to the invitation to revisit what Scarpa called ‘pieces of sky’ – the prismatic stained-glass windows in the upper room – by including the delicate interplay of the hands of Cupid and Psyche, or by situating a cube of the blue firmament in relation to the gravitas of the statue of George Washington, switching up the perspective as if the viewer were kneeling at the figure’s feet. Ultimately, one photograph can suffice to capture the spirit of Chemollo’s work, namely the snapshot of a terracotta bust of a young man that Canova probably produced on the basis of the striking features of a Polish prince passing through Rome. The same piece was cherished by Scarpa, who placed it in line with the main entrance to welcome people passing through the small glass door into the gallery’s atrium without necessarily being aware of what was happening. This exemplar of the handful of terracotta works in the Gypsotheca is just one element to be appreciated afresh through today’s photographic exhibition in honour of the bicentenary of Canova’s death in 1822.  

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