Letter from Rome (II)

All is well here in the Eternal City, even if the weather has been, well, eternally gloomy. Having spent most of my so-called “formative” years in sunny climes, I fear I am ill-prepared for day after day of cloudy skies, rain and chilly temperatures. I find myself yearning for California’s perpetual sunshine and temperate warmth. Alas, I seem destined to live in places with coldĀ  winters and infernally hot summers.

We have been ben occupato with plenty of work, social whirl-a-gigging and the usual run of art shows. Of the latter, by far the most important has been the new Caravaggio exhibition up the street from our digs at the Scuderie. With a mere 27 canvases, it is unquestionably a life-changing event for anyone who loves art. Brilliant, beautiful and deeply moving on as many levels as one has head and heart to experience. I truly cannot remember a time when I was so reluctant to leave a gallery, feeling as if the hours spent hardly began to encompass the treasures that were there present. There is of course something eerily modern in Caravaggio’s flat surfaces redolent with startling, almost abstract, explosions of color and shadow. There were times when I found myself unable to actually graspĀ  — at least on a physical level — that these were works produced over 400 years ago, so contemporary was their affect. We plan on returning several more times before the show closes in the middle of June.

While the Caravaggio show is manifestly the must-see event this season, we also had a pretty swell time touring the vast Fascist-era Ministry of Corporations (1932) designed by Marcello Piancentini and featuring what has to be one of the most extraordinary stained-glass windows I’ve ever seen, this by the great Mario Sironi, as well as a series of eight mind-bogglingly exquisite (and downright WEIRD) tapestries by Ferruccio Ferrazzi. Whilst they purport to depict the various corporations into which the Fascist economy was (dis)organized, they read more like something out of science fiction, think Phillip K. Dick meets Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. My favorite shows veri-colored male figures being born out of some bizarre industrial process akin to steel-making or the manufacture of umbrellas. In a famililar phrase, fun ahoy!

Gagosian’s gallery here is featuring a new installation by Chris Burden which we plan on taking in sometime soon. I haven’t really seen anything he’s done recently, but the word on the street is BIG YAWN and I really can’t pretend to be surprised. Burden was here for a day or so for the opening and submitted himself to one of those horrible public “question and answer” things. I would have liked to have gone just for old time’s sake, but ennui and the bad weather left me feeling that there’s greater pleasure in letting the dead bury the dead.

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