Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Luigi Moretti's ex-GIL: Eagles, and an Occupation



It's just one photo--and not our own--but it tells a story.  The photo is of the entrance to the Casa della GIL (House of the Italian Fascist Youth), a stunning modernist structure designed by Luigi Moretti and constructed between 1933 and 1936.  It is now most often referred to as the ex-GIL.
When I first saw the photo, I assumed it was a period pic, though color photography was in its infancy in the 1930s.  My assumption was that "Rome for the Romani" was, even decades ago, a Fascist slogan.  Moreover, the photo shows large, highly stylized metal eagles above the entrance to the building--one of Mussolini-era Fascism's potent symbols--and Dianne and I, having observed the building for about 20 years, had never seen those eagles. So I assumed they were part of the original structure (which they may have been) and, therefore, that the photo was vintage.

Wrong.  The photo was taken in April, 2017, when the building--the ex-GIL--was briefly occupied by Forza Nuova, a militant, anti-immigrant, homophobic far-right political party founded in 1997. CasaPound, a neo-Fascist organization with affiliates in dozens of Italian cities, including Rome, was also involved in the occupation.


Looking more closely at the photo, the smaller flags say FN and "Forza Nuova."  According to Forza Nuova (and the press), the building's elaborate and expensive reconstruction was completed (except, perhaps for those eagles) in 2015, yet the building remained empty.  The occupation was designed to make that point, and to immediately turn the structure into a shelter for the homeless--unless, of course, they were immigrants, socialists, or gay.
The ex-GIL as it looked in 2012, when it was open briefly for an art exhibition.
Some might object to the re-mounting of the Fascist eagles.  Others would point out that the eagles hardly matter, given the prominence of a Fascist slogan on the facade.

And that's the story.

Bill

The ex-GIL is located in Trastevere, on Largo Ascianghi, between viale di Trastevere and the Tiber River.  It came in at #10 in RST's Top 40.

Monday, September 11, 2017

How Things Change (or Don't): The Garbatella Market


It's said that Rome is Eternal, and that may be true in any number of ways too complex to get into. But having spent time in the city and taken thousands of photographs, often of features of the landscape we had photographed before, we can say with some authority that changes do occur.

The Garbatella Market is an example.  When we first went by in 2009 (or that's when we took the first photos that we still have), the iconic market stairs were in disrepair--as was the rest of the facade-- and covered with political graffiti and an ode to Sancho Panza and Don Quixote.



Two years later, the market had been restored, the stairs repaired, the brick walls cleaned, and the graffiti removed--though a few tags had appeared.  Progress!


In 2017, the stairs had been reborn as a political space--Garbatella is a leftist enclave, and the stairway's bricks, having become impossible to maintain, had been painted yellow.  The 2010 message, about the necessity of struggling against injustice, had been replaced with something similar, but also different:  "In every epoch and in every circumstance, there will always be many reasons to give up the struggle.  But without struggle, one will never have liberty."



Inside the market has changed as well.  It was once a regional city market; then (as late as 2010), it was an empty, derelict space.  Now, on Saturdays, it is a fledgling farmers' and artisans' market.

Maybe Rome--even modern Rome--is, indeed, Eternal.  Everything changes, everything stays the same.

Bill

Monday, September 4, 2017

"Autobiography of the Mother": Silvia Codignola's exhibition, reviewed by Shara Wasserman


Shara Wasserman, right, with Dianne Bennett, 2013
For this review of an ongoing exhibition at the Museo Carlo Bilotti, RST is pleased to welcome as guest blogger Shara Wasserman. Wasserman is an American art historian and curator of contemporary art.  She received her BA in Art History with honors from Temple University and her MA in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. Following a period at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, first as Hilla von Rebay fellow and later as Editorial Assistant, Wasserman relocated to Rome.  She is on the faculty of Temple University Rome, where she serves as Director of Exhibitions.  

The Museo Carlo Bilotti, an exhibition space in the heart of the Villa Borghese in Rome, is hosting a lovely display of a decade of work by Roman artist Silvia Codignola.  Curated by Lea Mattarella,  the show runs through October 22.

Silvia Codignola, in her Rome studio, 2013
Trained as an architect, Codignola moved to the visual arts early in her career, producing a varied body of work that includes drawing, sculpture, paintings and installations.  Her early architectural training is always present and results in a focus on structure and geometry.  Solid, expressionless figures inhabit empty spaces; dark colors and sharp chiaroscuro keep the spectator’s eye on the surface plane; still life objects and figures firmly positioned in their environment hold our attention, almost as if they comprise a stage set.


Mario Sironi, "Landscape with Figures," 1932


Her artistic preferences move from the Italian Early Renaissance, with artists such as Piero della Francesca and Masaccio, to Mario Sironi, the prominent Italian painter of the 1920s and 1930s, whose spare landscapes presage Codignola’s compositions.






Titled Autobiography of the Mother, the works on exhibition were culled from a decade of the artist’s production – 2006-2016 – and in particular from her almost obsessive focus on mothers and children. Two of her paintings are reproduced below.

By including many versions of the same subject, Codignola guides the spectator viewing this exhibition through a variety of aspects and stages of motherhood: from the powerful armless, headless, anonymous pregnant woman, to the lonely sleeping mother rigidly supporting the head of her child, to the absently nursing mother, to the mother reclining with her child, to the distracted mother inserted in an austere beachscape, to the final images of a small arm reaching out of the darkness towards an old man. 

Both a mother – the show is dedicated to her daughter Miranda -- and a daughter, Silvia Codignola infuses the works with a reflection, a kind of chronology, of mother and child. 

As we walk through the show, we think of Silvia the woman, but we also think of Silvia the artist as the link between life and the strong symbolism, especially in Italian art, that woman represents.  She is the life giver, the universal mater, the bearer of the seed and the symbol of fertility; she is wisdom and intellect and war and protection.  In short, she is Mother.

A long-time fan of Silvia’s art, I am always excited to see new work and the new way that she thinks of her previous work.  This exhibition fulfills both.

Shara Wasserman
Director of Exhibitions

Gallery of Art, Temple University Rome