10 September 2019

Nanda Vigo. Light Project

This is a hugely important exhibition because it is the first retrospective devoted to the artist, a tremendously important figure on the European scene, by an Italian museum. The exhibition is particularly engaging because of its basic ingredient, the light that outshines itself, pushing beyond its own immateriality and carrying visitors far away in space and in time.

Sponsored by the Municipality of Milan | Culture, Palazzo Reale, in partnership with the Nanda Vigo Archives and curated by Marco Meneguzzo, the exhibition contains eighty or so works, including designs, sculpture and installations and illustrates Nanda Vigo’s developmental journey from her earliest works in the late Fifties (she was born in 1936) to more recent ones. The exhibition forms part of Palazzo Reale’s summer programme, devoted to the masters of Italian art from the Post War period onwards, exploring their bond with the city of Milan, where they lived, created and developed as artists.

Nanda Vigo was born in Milan, although she left soon after, graduating in architecture from the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne before moving to an internship at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Arizona and then on to a large architectural practice in San Francisco, before returning to Milan. The city was enjoying huge artistic fervour and urban development during the Sixties, which reflected her innovative and constantly evolving approach.

It was here, in the shadow of the then cutting edge Velasca and Pirelli towers, that her career as an artist took off, inspired by light and suffused with the new vocabularies so brilliantly articulated by artists such as Lucio Fontana and architects like Gio Ponti (she went on to forge a powerful artistic sodality with them both). Utterly in tune with the spirit of ZERO, a transnational group of German, Dutch, French, Belgian, Swiss and Italian artists, of which she was a part, Nanda Vigo began to produce her Chronotypes, the artistic concretisation of her constant research into light, transparency and immateriality. Variously-shaped metal frames enclose sheets of transparent industrial glass – their stand-out look characterised by the simple pattern imprinted on them by the foundry – sometimes lit with neon, through which the light penetrates and becomes visible, a metaphor for lightness and mutation. Soon these works began to take the form of actual spaces (some created in collaboration with Lucio Fontana) and mirrors tilted and cut so as to reflect a hitherto undreamt-of vision of reality, while she went on with her design and architectural work (she famously collaborated with Gio Ponti on the Casa Sotto la Foglia in Malo in 1965 and the creation of the Museo Remo Brindisi at Lido di Spina in 1967).

The artist-architect has worked incessantly throughout her career, from the Chronotypes – her intellectual experiments – to her Seventies “pyramids” and her postmodern Eighties period to today’s Deep Space, the romantic evocations, and a return to seductive neon, bright and diffused lighting, simple and dynamic shapes. What they all have in common is the transformation of an everyday material – reinforced architectural glass - into a symbolic object. As the curator explains: “Glass is a solid that is permeable by light alone. Light these days is the element that unifies space and time, ‘crono’ and ‘topo,’ which cease to be opposing factors … and are channelled into an even more original unit, which is light.”

The focal point of the exhibition is the fascinating 2017 Global Chronotopic Experience. A large space - 400x400x300 cm – illustrates Nanda Vigo’s quintessential way of harnessing art – an existential condition that paves the way for transcendental experiences, going beyond ordinary materiality in order to physically perceive – as far as possible – a higher reality, a universal attunement through contemplation, dematerialisation and communion with “everything.”

Fiat lux!

Nanda Vigo. Light Project

Palazzo Reale
12 Piazza Duomo, Milan
Runs until 29th September
Free entry

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