By Center for Italian Modern Art
Clemente Marconi and Ann Kuttner work on the art of Mediterranean antiquity, and its own issues of reception and retrospection. For this CIMA program, they conduct a dialogue about how Marini positioned his statuary practice in relation to what he would have known as very old – including Greek, Roman and Etruscan remains – in ways that were complementary to how he positioned that work relative to his contemporaries’ production. Such rapprochement with antiquity was claimed often by Marini, who even called himself ‘an Etruscan.’ They will weigh those claims against telling divergence from the classical record, on the one hand, and on the other explore resonances Marini never voiced explicitly but which the works themselves suggest.
In keeping with CIMA exhibition, one topic will be Marini’s female nudes, from miniature to monumental, from swollen lumpy torsos as of women aged by childbearing to exaggeratedly taut bodies, from mannered primitivism to the Neoclassical. (And do they echo the sacrality of so many ancient prototypes?) How these multiples of what Marini named the nymph ‘Pomona’ lived in the studio and in his own mind as seriated things, as here at CIMA, suggests the great galleries of Roman replica statuary Marini must have known. His cropping of limbs and head expresses that cult of the fragment that is so much a part of the appeal of archaeological traces to modernist sensibilities. Such aspects inform how Marini’s images both praised and caged the feminine. Just like their ancient prototypes, these statues often represented the increase of the earth, and pitted artifice against nature; that can’t help but have had political resonance. Marini explicitly attributed political messages to his seriated horsemen, as protests against modern threats of technologically enabled mass violence. For the female nudes, too, and their promise of auspicious fertility, which Marini spoke of, politics are in question. We ourselves, at a time of what many think a human undoing of Nature, might meditate what Marini’s engagement with Ovid’s fruit-bringing nymph could speak to in our age. And for all Marini’s retrospectives, the attempted Fascist appropriation of Etrusco-Roman antiquity, to adorn revived Italian greatness, has to have inflected Marini’s understanding of what it meant for him to stubbornly claim, reclaim, or turn his back on Italian classicisms of many kinds.
Ann Kuttner is Associate Professor in the Dept. of History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, active in the Graduate Groups in Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World and in Ancient History. Author of Dynasty and Empire in the Age of Augustus: The Case of the Boscoreale Cups (1995, Univ. of California Press), co-editor with Alina Payne of Antiquity and Its Interpreters (2000, Cambridge Univ. Press), she teaches and publishes broadly on arts of the Hellenistic, Roman and Late Antique world, not least those of Italy. That includes special interests in sculpture, political art and domestic display, and in retrospective images, cross-cultural interaction, and the post-antique reception of the ‘Classical.’ Recent essays include, for instance, ‘(Re)presenting Romanitas at Sir John Soane’s House and Villa,’ in K. von Stackelberg and E. Macaulay-Lewis eds., Housing the New Romans: Architectural Reception and Classical Style in the Modern World (2017), and ‘A Tortured Image: The Biography of Lucullus’ Dying Hercules,’ in CIS: California Italian Studies Journal 6.1, 2016.
Clemente Marconi is the James R. McCredie Professor in the History of Greek Art and Archaeology and University Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts–NYU, and Professore Ordinario di Archeologia Classica in the Dipartimento di Beni Culturali e Ambientali of the Università degli Studi di Milano. The director of the Institute of Fine Arts–NYU and Università degli Studi di Milano archaeological mission on the acropolis of Selinunte, he is the author of Temple Decoration and Cultural Identity in the Archaic Greek World (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Art and Architecture (Oxford University Press, 2014).