With its international exhibitions programme led by the Franco-Italian curator Chiara Parisi, the Villa Medici is well on its way to becoming a firm fixture in the international calendar of major contemporary art exhibitions. Following the experience of grandiose passion in the form of the Elizabeth Peyton, Rodin and Camille Claudel ménage à trois, this time the Villa is showcasing the unexpected juxtaposition of two contemporary female talents. It should be noted that the place itself is powerful enough to transform the offerings into experience. But Tatiana Trouvé (born in 1968, lives in Paris) rejects the burden of the past imposed by the Villa Medici.
So here’s this Franco-Italian curator setting up installations in which wires resemble drawings, shoes can be fashioned from concrete and ropes from bronze. There are trompe l’oeil pieces, objects that aren’t what they appear to be, as well as forms for telling stories within the space, like that of the artworks condemned to remain in boxes and warehouses while vacant plinths and display cases vainly await the arrival of sculptures.
The installations can be interpreted as ghosts; the objects embody people. There’s an old, high-heeled woman’s shoe holding up a whole wall of plexiglass. It’s strong, like a woman would be. Tatiana recalls how during her childhood in Africa with her family, the griots would come and tell the ancient stories of the village. In a different vein, she cites the architect Ugo La Pietra: “To live is to be at home everywhere” to illustrate her new work, consisting of makeshift huts which appear to be precariously unstable but are in fact made of bronze.
What is striking about Tatiana Trouvé’s work is the psychological dimension (although I’m sure she would prefer me to say “narrative dimension”) that she is able to embody via the objects and forms that she showcases.
Katharina Grosse (born in 1961, lives in Berlin), for her part, works with a combination of force and ambivalence. She has a fondness for large-scale installations. She explains how the size of her works is linked to the sense of harmony that results from the scale of the piece within the space.
The other unique aspect to Katharina Grosse is that the pieces she makes are always in between sculpture and painting. She says that colours – always artificial, chemical – are the main tools she works with. And you are indeed plunged into a polychrome experience, to the point of trampling all over it. Because in her huge installation at the Villa Medici you find yourself literally walking on the painting. Trampling art underfoot.
“Figuration, abstraction: it’s not about that”, she adds, since the starting point for this experience is a tree (figuration) that has been painted on (abstraction). While Katharina Grosse was strolling around the grounds of the Villa Medici accompanied by Chiara Parisi she noticed a group of tree trunks.
It was all that remained of one of the beautiful pine trees that line the legendary landscape of the villa’s garden. It had been planted in the nineteenth century by the great painter and master draughtsman, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. A polychrome homage to a bygone giant of art history.
Katharina Grosse, like Tatiana Trouvé, also traces the origins of her work, her desire for an in-between space, back to her childhood. Her parents were interested in theatre and from a young age she would attend Pina Bausch’s shows in the town of Wuppertal, not far from the family home.
Pina’s characters filled the space with their physical movements, which were designed to extend the body. The work itself defied classification; it was in between dance and theatre. She also describes the experience of a lengthy stay in Florence where painting was everywhere, on the walls with the frescoes, on the marble. Painting inhabited the architecture and physically took it over. An immersive experience of the Renaissance.
Fittingly, on leaving the exhibition you can walk up to the Villa Medici’s Renaissance garden. There, the neighbours of the deceased Ingres pine, the last pine trees still living, trace the sky with their majestic forms. Painting is everywhere. At least according to Katharina Grosse.
Until 29 April.