UNTIL 24 APRIL at the Carlo Bilotti Museum
I bumped into Marta Czok's works of art in 2011, almost by chance, while visiting the exhibition Icon&Idols at the Macro Testaccio di Roma, with a friend of mine.
Her paintings impressed me so much that I started following the artist at her exhibitions and at her art gallery in Castel Gandolfo, the Spazio Ingranaggi d’Arte.
It was the perfection, incisiveness, and harmony of her sign that impressed me most, together with the bitter irony of the subjects portrayed. The fact of the matter is that Marta Czok's paintings are so damn beautiful.
The topic currently developed by Marta Czok deals with Rome, namely Mother Rome. The works recall the history of this city, focussing on the present, which is not that rosy, I would say. The exhibition is named after the homonimous 2.4 meter-high totem painting, composed of joint canvases where today's reality -- made of protests and demonstrations, tourists, careless inhabitants, and rich courtiers -- is portrayed in the upper level. Underneath, however, into the underground cellar (once an awesome place), the classical and monumental Rome sits alone, abandoned and literally walked on by a present that does not recognise her importance, anymore.
The paintings are various and different, even if a leitmotiv made of chromatic nuances and mixed acrylic and graphite technique.
The "Churches” polyptic, one of my favourite pictures, is a large ensemble (around 3x1 meter) where the shapes of Roman churches are portrayed with classical vestiges, columns, renaissance or baroque facades, doms, and porticos melt together, thus resulting in vague and ethereal figures, like ghosts of the past. Here, grey is dominant, interrupted only by a dark red rectangle.
The grey and/or dark red background are present in most of the works on display and integrate the drawn figures, almost all in black and white (graphite). Grey is the colour of bad weather, sadness, and heaviness: a threatening cloud that envelops the subjects of these pieces. The dark red recalls the colour of blood, but also the sunset or -- as pointed out by Diana Alessandrini, curator of the exhibition -- “tramonto non di un solo giorno ma di un’intera epoca” ("sunset not for a single day, but for an entire era"), referring to the past glory of Rome. Alessandrini is right when she says that "Marta Czok's art touches and leaves a trace", a trace that is remarkable, indeed.
As regards the style, Marta Czok "rows against the mainstream. She is so detached from contemporary research on the use of materials and innovative artistic language, and points right at the retrieval of traditional techniques“. With reference to the content, I would say that she may be considered as a modern Aristophanes, who uses images instead of words. In her paintings, Marta Czok dares to unveil the distortions and injustice of the modern society and spares no one, included the high prelates sharing out an attractive chocolate cake in the painting Temptation, the only one where gold replaces grey and red.
I found very interesting also the painting Virgin faces, a work of 2010 composed of two parts: the one on the left, with 18 sections in three rows, each containing a Virgin face portrayed according to the ancient artistic tradition; and the one on the right, completely dark grey, that seems to swallow Mary's faces, like a black (or grey) hole.
The exhibition is set inside the former orangery of Villa Borghese, converted into a museum in order to accommodate the contemporary art collection that the Italian-American entrepreneur Carlo Bilotti and his wife Tina decided to donate to the city of Rome. If you intend to visit Marta Czok's exhibit, do not forget to spend some of your time enjoying the permanent collection of Museo Bilotti.
The Bilotti collection includes 18 De Chirico's paintings tracing the painter's life and some sculptures shown outdoor, as well as a few portraits of Bilotti family that were painted by
international artists like Andy Warhol, Mimmo Rotella, and Larry Rivers (indeed, Bilotti was extremely fond of this latter).
I also suggest watching the video showing the life of the Italian-American collectionist and his wife Tina, between passion for art and personal tragedies.
CARLO BILOTTI MUSEUM
Viale Fiorello La Guardia - 00197 Roma
Tuesday-Friday 10 am-4 pm
Saturday-Sunday 10 am-7 pm
Free entrance (last admission 1/2 hour before closing time)
Easily accessible by tube (Line A - Flaminio) or by bus.