Last month, Naples celebrated the opening of a new gallery and five major artists are part of its inaugural exhibition. Thomas Dane Gallery opened up in a newly renovated building on Via Francesco Crispi and the current exhibition entitled Mostra Inaugurale features works by Bruce Conner, Steve McQueen, Catherine Opie, Caragh Thuring, and Kelley Walker. The works on display portray Naples a place where both old and new ideas collide, and where a yearning for life coexists with a looming sense of mortality.
Bruce Conner presents a short film entitled EASTER MORNING, which conveys notions of renewal and rebirth beyond the natural world. The film is an expansion and adaption of his 1966 film EASTER MORNING RAGA. Conner digitized and extended the 8mm footage, manipulating the frame rate to create a dizzying effect of visual transcendence, moving in rhythm to the hypnotic instrumental chant of Terry Riley’s composition In C, 1964. The flares from the camera lens acts as a compositional force driving the movement of the film through close-ups of seemingly unconnected images including plants, a nude woman, a view from a window, an arabesque carpet and a burning candle. When these images are put together, they suggest a dreamy atmosphere.
Steve McQueen also presents a short film. His silent film known as Running Thunder, depicts a horse lying in a meadow, surrounded by grass and is gently awakened by a breeze. A fly circles around and then crawls over the horse’s open eye but the horse doesn’t react. As the film progresses, the horse does not blink its eyes or move its body. The 16mm film, defined by time and motion, is cut short by McQueen’s static motif: a nature morte, or still life. Playing on the contradictory associations of speed and power as suggested in the title, Running Thunder conveys notions of mortality and passage of time, very much like a vanitas painting containing symbols of life and death.
Catherine Opie presents a group of works from the series with which she shot to prominence in the mid-1990s. These include an outstanding sequence of studio portraits which navigate themes of gender and identity through studies of her close friends in the West Coast leather community. The language of Old Master painting is embedded in the portraits Opie has made throughout her career.
The men and women of Opie’s portraits are often marginalized in society. Opie, however, portrays them with a regal dignity through formal compositions and rich monochromatic backgrounds that echo the history of Italian Renaissance and Baroque portraiture, and the grandeur of a refined Naples.
Caragh Thuring unveils two paintings she completed last year entitled Day and Night respectively. These paintings both depict volcanos which are a recurring motif in her work. Although loosely constructed around similar themes, they differ greatly in style and technique. For instance, the two volcanos in Day are set in an open environment with one volcano emitting strong gusts of smoke while the other is on the verge of collapse only emitting a small, thin cloud of smoke. The large, empty spaces of linen grant the piece the serenity and harmony of a 19th Century Japanese print. Night, on the other hand, is more densely composed. Set during a dark cloudy evening are several volcanos with one in the center emitting a fiery and energetic explosion of lava.
Kelley Walker has created a new group of works specifically for this show that feature most of the same subjects and ideas from his other works. Drawing on Naples’ rich art history, Walker looks to the culturally active period following the Irpinia earthquake of 1980, when Lucio Amelio (1931-1994) brought many international contemporary artists to Naples, who, in turn, became in awe of its creative charge. Walker uses as his starting point the iconic exhibition poster of Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys’ joint exhibition at Galleria Lucio Amelio that same year, presenting them side by side with the civic lions of Piazza dei Martiri. Using the image of the lion and Warhol’s hand as a unifying ground, Walker takes it through processes of digital corruptions and manipulations. Walker’s architectural photographic masterpieces are presented in columns that activate the space and create narratives that echo the real-life layering of histories of the city
Thomas Dane Gallery is located in Naples, Italy at 69 Via Francesco Crispi. The gallery is open Tue.-Fri from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. from 12-7 p.m., and Mon. by appointment.
Naples: Mostra inaugurale at Thomas Dane Gallery (Naples)
25 Jan – 24 Mar 2018
Inaugural exhibition: Bruce Conner, Steve McQueen, Catherine Opie, Caragh Thuring, Kelley Walker