In 2008 Matt Gross in the New York Times wrote: “Three hundred years ago, wealthy young Englishmen began taking a post-Oxbridge trek through France and Italy in search of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization. With nearly unlimited funds, aristocratic connections and months (or years) to roam, they commissioned paintings, perfected their language skills and mingled with the upper crust of the Continent.”
The British traveler Charles Thompson speaks for many Grand Tourists when in 1744 he describes himself as “being impatiently desirous of viewing a country so famous in history, which once gave laws to the world; which is at present the greatest school of music and painting, contains the noblest productions of statuary and architecture, and abounds with cabinets of rarities, and collections of all kinds of antiquities.”
This aim has been the reason of Reale Academia de España creation in Rome celebrating this year 143 years from its foundation. Under the management of the new director, Maria Angeles Albert De Leon, the artists in residence in 2016 have shown their projects in a group exhibition where you could find, between the others, artworks by Jorge Conde, Alberto Diaz, Inaki Gracenea, Jose Guerrero, Jesus Mandrinan, Clara Montoya, David Munoz, Josep Tornero and Juan Zamora.
“A world-Size House” is the title of Jorge Conde’s project: a really full immersion of the artist in the Roman social-cultural context with archive documentation, interviews, photos, videos. A sociological, anthropological, artistic and architectural investigation on the impact derived from the recuperation and transformation of abandoned buildings and degraded urban areas that recently have been recovered giving them new life as cultural institutions. In other words art and culture can stimulate growth and reactivate declining urban areas.
Really different is the context in which the filmmaker Alberto Diaz has developed his project. Have you heard stories about places and situations in the past? Often these stories are told so often that it seems that us have lived them and in our minds we can imagine those situations. "Lembranza" by Alberto Diaz is a short film suspended between reality and imagination created after the discovery of some Super 8 footage that the artist’s father and his aunt had shot in the 60s and 70s working in the circus. Hence those stories that the artist had always listened to and imagined acquire a real shape.
The starting point of Inaki Gracenea’s project is the archive of Norman Bruce Johnston a sociologist who has studied and written about prison architecture. Many of these plants have a centralized planning and are inspired by Bentham’s Panopticon. These data in Gracenea project are linked to the insurrections happened in Italy in 70s. In this way he created installations with artworks inspired by Panoptical architecture and sentences from social insurrections taking them out of their starting context.
Jose Guerrero has developed his project along the line real/unreal creating photo-montages in which you can find architectural and imaginary stratifications of the city. Even if he has worked on the icons of the space photographed at the same time he has worked to integrate references from different language and artistic disciplines such as painting, sculpture, film, and especially in this case, architecture. The same photo-montages have the role to remember that there is always a different point of view, that each part is a part of a whole, that every story is a part of an universal history.
The context in which Jesús Madriñán has developed his project is the classical portraiture context. However he has worked using a large-format analog camera not to take pictures in a studio with all the amenities required but in complex environments such as nightclubs and dancefloors or after-hours. With his action the noisy and the situation often without control are turned into an atmosphere of calm and serenity. Some images are poetical, some other serious, some others elegiac or imaginative. Also in this case art have the power to change the reality and show a different point of view on it.
Clara Montoya shows a series of 8 pieces speaking of Rome as a continuous mutate, repair and rebuild. The project includes the sculpture-application (for Ipad) connecting the oculus of the Pantheon with the passing of the sky, a series of small sculptures on the wall related to kintsugi and the structure of a haiku. There is also a video-sculpture about Carrara, and three lab-sculptures with a pair each: a block of marble that melts with the acid and a copper piece slowly building itself by electrolysis. Finally a sound-sculpture with real water and a hidden system, so that you can hear only a permanent and unstoppable murmur, always the same and always different.
The filmmaker David Munoz has started his project in Rome reflecting on the fact that this year is an unusual year: The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that is a Roman Catholic period of prayer for remission of sins and universal pardon focusing particularly on God's forgiveness and mercy. An uncommon situation in which people is willing to talk, to listen to, to meet. It can happen everywhere. So in “Veloce Vita” Munoz transforms Vespa scooters in confessionals recording people traveling in the city with their Vespa talking about their lives, memories and dreams.
Josep Tornero in his painting project “Gods, animals and Death” reflects on the Dionysian in the Baroque artistic style. From this point of view we cannot separate aesthetics, ethics, or metaphysics; they remain deeply entangled because to separate any from the others is to diminish each. According to Tornero's search the Dionysian happening in several forms and values: metamorphosis, returns, dreams. All the appearances seem to move, collapse and grow elsewhere. It is the union between life and death. It reveals its regeneration in an another level. It is open like plastic images to interpretations and revisions.
Finally “Montorio” that is Juan Zamora's project. Montorio means mountain of gold, and it takes the name from the Janiculum hill (where is located the Royal Academy of Spain in Rome) due to the golden color of its land. Janiculum comes from the god Janus, primordial deity of inputs and outputs, beginnings and endings. Starting from these ideas Zamora's project wants to sanctify the most humble materials of the territory by collecting indigenous natural elements that refer to the condition of two-headed deity, to carry out a series of works as brief notes on the eternal.