Homage for his hundredth

Contemporary artists honor director Luchino Visconti

Jessica Goethals
December 14, 2006

In a year that marks not only the 100th anniversary of his birth but also the 30 years that have passed since his death, contemporary Italian artists have come together to acknowledge their great common debt owed to director Luchino Visconti. The respect and admiration held for the renowned filmmaker have been appropriately translated into pictorial, sculptural, and photographic representations of his work in the ‘Homage to Luchino Visconti’ exhibition, recently in-stalled in Florence’s Galleria del Palazzo Coveri after a weeklong showing at Il Palagio di Parte Guelfa.

The exhibition arrives in Florence from Visconti’s own villa, La Colombaia, on the island of Ischia, just off of the shores of Naples. The villa, now a museum, was a place of introspection, in-vention, and imagination for the director, and, through his influence, became a center for artistic and literary discourse. ‘Visconti lived, loved Ischia,’ notes Ciro Prota, President of the Ischia Prospettiva Arte association, which, in partnership with the Fondazione La Colombaia, has sponsored the exhibition. ‘Many try to say, “Visconti is mine,” but it’s really true for Ischia.’ This summer Ischia Prospettiva Arte inaugurated its second annual show, ‘Cinema and Painting in the Centennial Anniversary of Visconti.’ Artists were asked to portray, in the words of Prota, ‘an image, a moment, a fragment’ of a Visconti film. They were given two additional challenges, however: they were to select and represent a specific scene, which itself could only be chosen from one of five designated films: Rocco e I Suoi Fratelli, La Terra Trema, La Caduta degli Dei, Morte a Venezia, and Il Gattopardo.

The result is a spectacular array of visual interpretations of a man who was himself well-known for his heightened attention to visual detail. Paintings by Moreno Bondi, winner of Ischia Prospettiva Arte’s 2006 award, for example, display the influence of La Caduta degli Dei and are striking in their interaction between corporeal, architectural, classical, and almost animalistic figural elements. Pieces by Ciro Palumbo re-represent on canvas the portraiture-like effect Vis-conti captured with film whenever he focused his lens on one of his protagonists.

The artists’ work is accompanied by emblems illustrating Visconti’s vast creative outpouring. One may see, for example, the playbill for the 1955 performance of La Traviata under his direction. Photographs of both scenes from the films as well as of the director himself at work have been selected for the exhibition from the collection of more than 400  held at the Villa La Colombaia museum. Master artist Claudio Bonichi offers an interesting blend of the interpretive and the documentary in his portion of the show, entitled ‘La Casa dei Giochi,’ a provoking gesture toward the centrality of the villa in Visconti’s life. In his collages, Bonichi utilizes objects and pa-pers belonging to the home, such as dried flowers and musical scores, while adding his own brushstroke. In one arresting visual piece he layers magnified photographs of the eyes of those who belonged to Visconti’s circles, while in a separate auditory piece he compiles the sounds that circled Visconti—the playing of a piano, footsteps in a foyer, voices calling out to one an-other. To Bonichi, working with such materials ‘means truly entering into the spirit of Visconti, of his circles, his friends.’

Part of entering into Visconti’s world is recognizing that he was not only a filmmaker but also a musician, a letterato, and a man of society. Artists and organizers alike are quick to testify that his legacy extends far beyond the stylistic and imaginative components of his films; rather, it is embodied in his role as an important and venerable cultural figure. ‘He is esteemed, renowned, loved, even by the unsuspecting,’ praises Bonichi. ‘There are few who can say that they don’t owe a great deal to Visconti.’ Prota echoes such words of tribute: ‘He was a fount of inspiration, a man of refinement, a man of letters, a true signore. In his movements, in his doing, in his be-ing, he was a signore.’

‘Homage to Luchino Visconti’ will be on exhibit at Palazzo Coveri until Dec. 30 before moving on to other showings in Italy and abroad, with possible shows in the United States and France. Artists participating in the exhibit include Marco Abbamondi, Enrico Bacci, Simona Bocchi, Moreno Bondi, Claudio Bonichi, Adriano Buldrini, Angelo Liberati, Ciro Palumbo, and Attilio Sommella.ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The Palazzo Coveri gallery is located at Lungarno Guicciardini 19. The gallery is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00-7:00. For more information, visit:www.galleriadelpalazzo.com. For more information on Ischia Prospettiva Arte, visit: www.ischiaprospettivaarte.org

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