Moscow City Government
Moscow City Department of Culture
Russian Academy of Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities
Italian Institute of Culture in Moscow
Curated by: Amnon Barzel
Date: November 28 – December 21, 2008
Venue: Moscow Museum of Modern Art at 9 Tverskoy Boulevard (Zurab Gallery)
Opening: November 27, 19:00
Moscow Museum of Modern Art presents a personal exhibition of Franco Viola, a recognized master of landscape painting. “Rethinking Nature” project will demonstrate Viola’s expressive landscapes that reflect the primordial cosmic forces and the ancient philosophy of the four elements.
Franco Viola was born in the Sicilian town of Gaeta on March 12, 1953. In the early years of his creative career he was engaged mainly in graphic arts. During his frequent walks in the neighbourhood, Franco made sketches of landscape fragments, trying to feel, realize and depict the very essence of nature, mystic as in Goethe’s poetry or in lyrical pieces by Paul Klee.
Viola’s early watercolours and oils already demonstrated his ability to combine the real appearance and the inner spirit of the landscape, endowing it with an inconceivable emotionality. Franco Viola’s artistic education went parallel with his scientific studies in astronomy and cosmonautics. Thus, his painting became holistic, aimed at the analysis of objective reality, and at the same time richer in visual content.
Viola’s creative and conceptual credo, based on the analysis of colour and light modifications in landscape, was formed under the influence of such masters of Northern European Expressionism as Emil Nolde, Ludwig Kirchner, and Edvard Munch. In later works by Viola, the traces of the New York school of abstract expressionism are evident – for example, Barnett Newman’s minimalism, Mark Rothko’s lyrical abstraction and Clyfford Still’s esthetic concept.
In the early 1990s, Franco Viola’s oeuvre was praised by critics and public alike. After his first solo exhibition in Italy (1993), Viola was invited to show his works in Washington. In the same year, his first monograph was published in Paris, followed later by eight more. Personal exhibitions of Franco Viola were also hosted by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Varese (2005) and the Museum of Art and History in Vienna (2006).
Amnon Barzel, curator of “Rethinking Nature” project:
Viola’s works portray an opening and broadening of the horizon, of thoughts, of listening to a world that is changing before our eyes. Viola’s pictorial language originates from the integration of two seemingly contradictory worlds: on one hand, the direct expression of nature, realized in the presence of nature itself, and on the other hand, the scientific experience of the observation and analysis of satellite photographs of our planet,Viola’s tele-landscapes do not contain figures or manmade constructions. But this nature is saturated by the presence of their absence, to the point that the trees appear personified, as if visually mimicking human emotions. They are participants in the human drama, whose sentiments, transformed into gestures, reveal themselves to us as the leading actors. This is a tendency that we know from the Symbolism of Arnold Böcklin at the end of the 19th century, preceding the psychological Expressionism of Edvard Munch.
Viola’s act of painting is the result of a continuous process, following the contemplation of nature and its relation to place, time and ever-changing human and social situations. It is an act of rethinking Nature within the flux of cognitive and emotional domain. It has testified, within the last years, a process leading from the direct analysis of nature, through the languages of Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, toward the possible fusion of a personal painting language.