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Contemporary Fresco

Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò

New York. SEPTEMBER 2015

(double click on a thumb to enlarge it)

The Transformative Power of Artist Ruggiero

Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò opened its new season this September with the original exhibit
“The Transformative Power of Art”, by Fabrizio Ruggiero. The artist spoke at La Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ last Monday. Together with the director Stefano Albertini and Idanna Pucci, writer, producer and traveler, the artistic themes and culture used by Fabrizio Ruggiero in the production of his portraits on a grand scale, achieved with the painting technique of “fresco”, were analyzed.

Huge portraits and abstract paintings adorn the corridor of Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò: they are what Fabrizio Ruggiero refers to as ‘effigies’, the representation of specific person people. “The Transformative power of Art” is a series of huge portraits and paintings that were first exhibited at the United Nations in June 2015. 


Edgar Morin (France)

Fresco with mortar, pigments 
on wooden panel.
Cm. 160 x 130 x 5 
Philosopher and sociologist, he is recognized as one of the most important planetary thinkers of our time. Having been profoundly affected by the waves of ambivalence and human barbarism of the European experience of the 20th century, he created a large body of work focused on the complex tapestry of reality, in which all disciplines of knowledge are interwoven and connected.  His vision of “complexity” observes the singular and places it within the whole. It exemplifies his life-long concern of developing a method that can meet the challenge of our complex world and reform thinking so that fundamental global problems can be confronted. His seminal opus - the six volumes of The Method (1977-2004)—has been translated worldwide.    

Founder of the Paris-based International Center for Complex Thought, he has received honorary doctorates from thirty different universities in subjects ranging from sociology to political science and psychology.  He holds a UNESCO Itinerant Chair. His vision can be summed up in his words, “the treasure of human unity is human diversity and the treasure of human diversity is human unity”.

Gong Li (China)

Fresco with mortar, pigments 
on wooden panel.
Cm. 160 x 130 x 5 

With her haunting beauty and iron-willed film presence, Gong Li is credited with helping to bring Chinese cinema to the world. Through her strong female roles—Raise the Red Lantern, Memoirs of a Geisha, Ju Dou, etc.—she has challenged an obstinate male dominated society, showing that tenacious women are a vital part of China’s future. 

For well over ten years she has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The cause of ending hunger is close to her heart and she tirelessly travels to the field to meet farmers benefiting from FAO’s work. Recently, she also collaborated with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as a Global Environmental Ambassador in the global campaign to reduce carbon monoxide emissions abusive to the environment.

Joan Baez (USA)

Fresco with mortar, pigments 
on wooden panel.
Cm. 160 x 130 x 5 

Joan Baez remains a groundbreaking musical force whose influence is legendary-- marching on the front line with Martin Luther King Jr., inspiring Vaclav Havel in his fight for a Czech Republic, singing on the first Amnesty International tour and standing alongside Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday. She brought the Free Speech Movement into the spotlight, organized resistance to the war in Vietnam, then forty years later saluted the Dixie Chicks for their courage to protest America’s war in Iraq. 

In the summer of 1959, her eighteen-year old nightingale voice mesmerized the audience for the first time at the Newport Folk festival. A few years later, she introduced Bob Dylan to the world. TIME magazine crowned her "Queen of the Folk Singers." Her haunting arrangements of traditional English and Scottish ballads of longing and regret, mixed with an eclectic blend of Bahamian, Yiddish, and Mexican tunes set the tone for many of the first-person narratives and dialogues she selected that highlighted authenticity over sentimentality, envisioning the freedom struggles she later would join.

In 2010, she received the prestigious Order of Arts and Letters from Spain in recognition of “a trajectory governed by the artistic and personal commitment in favor of individual rights and civil and political liberties.” In May 2015, she was awarded the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award.

Joseph Beuys (Germany)

Fresco with mortar, pigments 
on wooden panel.
Cm. 160 x 130 x 5 

Joseph Beuys  was a German Fluxus, happening and performance artist as well as a sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist and pedagogue of art.
His extensive work is grounded in concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy. It culminates in his extended definition of art and the idea of social sculpture as a gesamtkunstwerk, for which he claimed a creative, participatory role in shaping society and politics. His career was characterized by passionate, even acrimonious public debate. He is now regarded as one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century.

Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan)

Fresco with mortar, pigments 
on wooden panel.
Cm. 160 x 130 x 5 

She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate in history, having received it at only 16 years old in 2013. As soon as she could write at 11 years old, she started an anonymous blog expressing her preoccupation about the Taliban’s increasing control of her native Swat valley, where they prevented girls from going to school. Her popular activism brought a death warrant against her that ended in an attempt on her life.  She was severely wounded but miraculously survived only to return to activism with increased determination. 

She spoke at the UN headquarters in 2013 and called for worldwide access to education and TIME magazine featured her as one of “The 100 Most Influencial People in the World.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the global inspiration that Malala symbolized as "a brave and gentle advocate of peace who through the simple act of going to school became a global teacher.”

Maya Angelou (USA)

Fresco with mortar, pigments 
on wooden panel.
Cm. 160 x 130 x 5 

Author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer, this multi-talented courageous artist published seven autobiographies, books of essays and poetry, and was credited with a list of movies and plays spanning over fifty years.  

Born in St. Louis, she won a scholarship for dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School before dropping out to become that city’s first African-American female cable-car conductor. A few weeks after her high school graduation, she gave birth to a son. As a journalist, she covered Egypt and Ghana during the time of Africa’s independence from colonialism. In the Civil Rights movement, she worked with both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

With her publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she personally reflected on her first-hand experience with racism, single parenting, overcoming poverty, seeking higher education, and participating in the civil rights struggle.  Mirroring the American landscape in her life journey, she became a respected spokesperson for African Americans across the country.

Writing with eloquence and detail, this extraordinary lady recorded her own history, as a legacy for future generations to understand the larger African American experience. With over fifty honorary doctorate degrees, she became an important influential voice in our time.

Sebastiao Salgado (Brazil)

Fresco with mortar, pigments 
on wooden panel.
Cm. 160 x 130 x 5 

For the last 40 years, this grand master of photography has travelled across continents, documenting the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity, and witnessing some of the major events of our recent history - international conflicts, starvation, and exodus.  His brilliant and piercingly dramatic images are among the most iconic of the late 20th century and beyond. In close collaboration with his wife, Lélia Wanick, he produced The Other Americas, Sahel, Workers, Migrations and Genesis. These books are mammoth collections of images that have been viewed by millions around the world.
He then turned his focus to the planet’s natural beauty, launching the Genesis project as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature. By then, Sebastiao and Léila had already started to plant the first of 500,000 trees which have now transformed dry land back into lush Atlantic forest in a small part of Brazil. Their Instituto Terra has turned this resurrected “garden of Eden” into a nature reserve. 

The remarkable arc of his artistic legacy-ranging from starvation and death to grandiose landscapes of pulsating flora and fauna and human communities that still live in harmony with their ancestral traditions and cultures—found expression in the academy-award nominated documentary, Salt of the Earth, by Wim Wenders.

In 2001, he was appointed Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF, and in 2012, Sebastiao and Lélia received recognition from UNESCO for their relentless work with Instituto Terra.


 Stefano Albertini, Fabrizio Ruggiero and Idanna Pucci


The Transformative Power of Art in ciew at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò


Now, until the end of October, it will be possible to admire them at La Casa Italiana. The artist,born and raised in Naples, was always fascinated by the nature of the places where he grew up. After graduating in architecture he began to travel and work in the fields of art and design: India, Africa and Asia.

These travels influenced his creativity and moved his attention to people that have affected the world on a humanitarian and social level, and they became his inspiration: musicians, poets, writers, Nobel peace prize winners.

People that have been, and some continue to be, pillars in the global development. For example, among some familiar faces, we find: Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan), Sebastião Salgado (Brazil), Miriam Makeba (South Africa), Gong Li (China), Joan Baez (USA), Joseph Beuys (Germany) and Maya Angelou (USA).

The distinctiveness of these works is centered on the use of painting materials like sand, lime and natural pigments, and the return of an old technique, “Fresco”, where the painting is executed on wet lime plastered wall, in fact still ‘fresco’ (which in Italian means fresh), that gives the work itself opacity rather than lucidity. “Technology” the artist says “helps my way of making art, it wouldn’t be otherwise possible for me to work this way”.

With regards to the huge abstract pictures, we can’t miss the parallelism with the maestro of contemporary art Alberto Burri, who breaks the rules by using burlap and lime for his works. The art of Fabrizio Ruggiero is therefore 'defined' between two apparently distant worlds: precisely, that of the ancient technique of the fresco and that of most contemporary ties to the master Burri.

The focus of this exhibition is not just on abstract art and on the paintings themselves, but also on portraying what the concept of painting is today. Ruggiero wants to direct the attention of the spectators to the meaning of contemporary painting, a blend of social values, artistic skills and technological tools.

M. T. (September 17, 2015)