Many Angels and few Madonnas exhibited in Pisa.

text by Giovanna Uzzani • photographs by Massimo Pacifico

A critic in the 1800s would have written of the Dutch sculptor Ferdinand Leenhoff’s nude: “useless and éloquant comme une fleur”. One should have just as sensitive a hand to write about a certain Mitoraj, an artist that compared to the outcomes of many out of season formalisms, went in the opposite direction, and, the more he eluded to the suit concreteness of form, the more he received in poetry and dreamy abandonment.

At least that is what is felt by lightly touching the Angels of the Polish sculptor, who died, at age 70, on a crisp morning of the beginning of last October, winged beings that roam in a structured exposition, around the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa. Mitoraj, himself, had, on May 17th, inaugurated the exhibition, the Angels, after having scattered icari and eros, torsos and centurions, gods and heroes, fragments of beauty and gentle transhumance, in the square, along the gallery of the Museo delle Sinopie, in the new exhibition space of the Opera Primaziale Pisana, just set up to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Cathedral.

In a bare dialogue of forms, in the exhibition spaces, looks that are not of this world are encountered, echoes and murmurs that are suspended just a moment before getting lost. It seems like going back to the forms of a modern humanism, that of the pure poetry of Hölderlin, and the existential Platonism, made of freedom and adoration of beauty, visionary momentum, perception of the tragic nature of life process, nostalgia for the irrecoverable aesthetic perfection of Hellas. That well illustrated by Max Klinger with his man in the grass, facing the sea and the sky, in search of the poet, praising beauty, An die Schönheit.

The theatricality of the staging restores the sense of Igor’s research and recalls the teachings and dreams of another great Polish director and artist, Tadeusz Kantor, maestro and guide for the novice sculptor, in the early sixties, at the Art Academy in Krakow, before his trip to Greece and the subsequent falling in love with Pietrasanta.

Symbolist inheritance, vocation for poetry are the shadows and highlights of the exhibition in Pisa that stretch onto the immaculate plasters and overlap, sometimes referring to the outside world. In the silence of the rooms, painted in brick red, or severe anthracite, as in certain romantic paintings, even an Antiquarium unfolds in all its charm containing candid fragments, arranged orderly on the shelves, maims, mysterious ageless artifacts from an imaginary archaeological excavation.

Even more spectacular is the section housed in the Museo delle Sinopie, the building that closes the square to the south, once a hospice for pilgrims. Shortly after the entrance, one is almost embarrassed by the two spectacular off-scale blue resin masks that Mitoraj made in 2002 for the set of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, that stand out dramatically against the Sinopie of Benozzo Gozzoli; and after, in the large rectangular hall of the Pellegrinaio, the sick and the gallery, embarrassment is repeated where angels and masks with closed eyes enter into dialogue with the 14th century sinopie by Taddeo Gaddi, Spinello Aretino and the visionary peaks of the Trionfo della Morte by Buffalmacco.

As in the watercolour by Fussli, in which the artist cries upon the fragment of the gigantic statue of Constantine, Mitoraj appears in front of his mutilated giants. The fantastic object manifests itself as an excess of a real object and the hyperbolic prominence of the faces, hands, feet, offers a transposition of metaphors. The idea of the monumentality of the past seems to be associated with that of his impossible return.

Igor Mitoraj  ANGELI  • May 17th 2014 • April 12th 2015  • piazza del Duomo • Pisa

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