Signum Foundation Palazzo Donà,
Campo San Polo 2177
55th International Art Exhibition
la Biennale di Venezia
1 June – 24 November 2013
Iconostasis refers to a wall of icons separating the nave from the sanctuary in an orthodox church. The wooden structure represents a bas-relief of an architectural structure with different side entrances and a main entrance, which give entrance to a subjective and invisible space, which can only be mentally accessed. In this way the spectator is invited to reflection after taking a seat on the bench placed in front of the bas-relief, which also take part of the installation.
The melancholy of the empty place in the work of Renato Nicolodi
The Ruinensucht, as the Germans so aptly call it, is ingrained in (post) modern man. We like to wander around in historical sites that incarnate the promise of authenticity and faded glory. This excessively romantic quest betrays our struggle with the classical values that have been lost through the ages, throughout the western modernization process. One need not be a cultural pessimist to realise how material relics preserve the things that pass. Which leads us straight to the central theme that underlies the work of Renato Nicolodi: the res cogitans that is present in the things themselves. Let us now patiently investigate this statement.
Can or must we seek to link the work of Nicolodi to his illustrious contemporaries? Without necessarily wanting to add to his work through such connotations, this might nevertheless prove to be a meaningful exercise. Nicolodi's installations are, to a certain degree, in line with a number of aspects of contemporary art, yet they also seem, at the same time, to radically distinguish themselves. Anish Kapoor is fascinated by the dialectic between fullness and emptiness. In his early work, stone volumes envelop mysterious voids. With her architectural creations, Rachel Whiteread successfully turns walls and openings inside out. The artist couple Anne and Patrick Poirier deconstruct the archaeology of the ancient world in a highly poetic manner. Kirkeby’s brick-laid sculptures reflect the structure of the earth. Christo made his name by stripping iconic buildings of their historical symbolism, and emphasizing the aesthetics of their individual design language.
Every one of these aspects equally informs the work of Nicolodi: the play of emptiness and fullness, the reversibility of volumes, the archaeological references and aesthetics as such. But this list does not provide a full understanding of the idiom of Nicolodi's art.
In the artistic concept of this artist, that which is considered substantial in architecture, becomes subject to an implosion. In architecture, functionality and artistic freedom are supposed to go hand in hand. In the minds of the great architects (Palladio, Le Corbusier, Kahn ...), this concept remains an actual, living dogma. The visual arts have little to do with usefulness, practicality and social integration. In other words: artistic freedom can therefore not be restricted, dictated, defined or contained by utilitarian thinking. Many contemporary architects, however, rightfully wonders whether these two ideals do not clash rather than complement each other. Nevertheless, the work of Nicolodi brings us to this point: the wet dream of the architect realised in a work of art. Architecture that is stripped of all functionality, no longer functioning as architecture. In this way, architecture - as a medium - in the work of Nicolodi, acquires a utopian character that is rather reminiscent of the visionary projects of Ledoux or Boullée in the Age of Enlightenment.
(Joannes Késenne, part of a text, commissioned by FLACC, Workplace for Visual Artists, for their yearbook 2012)