26 July 2010


Events of summer 2010 - The monumental sculptures by Paola Epifani,
stage name Rabarama, in Orta San Giulio (Novara)

Wonderful is, we think, the idea coming from Penotti Ubertini Palace’s organizers (with the cooperation of Orta San Giulio and Omegna cities, and with the contribute of Piemonte Region and Lake District) of opening the doors to Art, not only of the Palace that rises in Orta’s downtown, but also of the whole town, in such an unusual and effective way, like it’s happened for three years through the exposition of big sculptures in all the squares and the streets in front of the downtown, and on the lake itself.
At the beginning of the good season, this initiative has made us used to seeing the town of Orta San Giulio full of sculptures, sometimes gigantic, of arcane and mysterious figures, of monumental shapes little familiar but really interactive with the context; their silhouettes stand out, sometimes, on the lake or the ancient houses’ walls in the splendid medieval village, in a definitely suggestive way.
All the various exhibitions to the public, which in the past three warm seasons has shown so much interest, don’t leave any doubt about this operation’s success, since it has had the best returns, both for the attendance to the exhibitions inside the prestigious site of Albertoletti street, and for the flows, definitely growing, to the town itself.
After three years of successful experimentation in this way, we can now draw the best omens for the future, which, we hope, will manage to get the same or a greater success for all the organizational efforts and the courageous choices of artists and exhibitions, which have portrayed the greatest moments of our growing lake tourism; lastly, for the global conception of the initiative and for the scenic and environmental solutions adopted, sometimes really ingenious.
Two years ago, between the artists considered suitable for the operation, Arnaldo Pomodori was called; last year, Mimmo Paladino attended the event, while this year it’s been Paola Epifani’s turn, whose stage name is “Rabarama”.

What can we say about the choices made by the exhibitions’ curators, who have selected these three artists’ names, all internationally popular, but so different from each others in a stylistic and cultural way? What goals have caused this choice, and what impact have they provoked on the village’s touristic public, which has seen them without knowing anything about their existence despite the great adverti
sing given to the initiative? Let’s try to understand, giving an answer to these questions, by expressing our opinion about the works shown in the exhibition, about their setting on Orta’s streets and squares, and about their impact on public.

We have a high regard for Pomodoro and Paladino, got stronger especially after their events in Orta, because of the works’ choice and the perfect harmony, in dimension and meaning, with the spaces used; however, the exhibition by Rabarama hasn’t left us equally satisfied, although it has caused in us a certain interest for the setting (confirming the validity of the original idea). It hasn’t given us particular emotions, leaving us confused about the relation between the works’ look, definitely little serene, and the lively context that characterizes the utilisation of this small town’s urban spaces, especially in its summer touristic version.
We have in fact heard a lot of criticism by visitors, tourists and common passers, who, in front of there figures (essentially always equal to each others beyond the different texture colouring and the posture), have expressed little convinced and ambiguous opinions. Few of them have been able to give a sense to the connection between their presence in that place and the place itself. We see these characters made by Rabarama as always focused on themselves, agonized and agonizing (also for the mysterious and future connotation of their skin, so similar to scary comics characters); they’re sometimes apparently engrossed in circus activities, sometimes in winged triumphal expressions devoid of any sense you would want to attribute to them.

The explanations that their creator has given about the meaning of her works, haven’t looked to us enough and convincing. She explained them during an interview shown to public, at the entrance of an exhibition about lake paintry in the 19th century, in Penotti Ubertini Palace, which hosts some of her other small sculptures. Here the dimension changes, but not the substance, which actually, in the impact with the serene lake and alpine atmospheres between the 19th and the 20th century (of the Exhibition “The Lake, 19th century’s paintry between Piedmont and Lombardy” which hosts them) , it seems to show their insufficient connection to the context.
Personally, I would have seen the monumental Rabarama’s sculptures better at the entrance of an International exhibition about science-fiction cinema, rather than in Orta’s summer. Less grave appears the placement of a feminine figure at the entrance of Villa Crespi’s garden, because of some age connections that could recall one the other!

But there isn’t just a matter of evident clash with the context, in this Rabarama’s project. And it isn’t even a matter of contrasts, which art itself is always a useful carrier of. I believe that is Paola Epifani’s work itself that cannot match history’s complexity and places imbued with history. What’s more, it doesn’t look like you could give any possible evolution to such formal and graphic repetition, which could look devoid of outlets or any possible metamorphosis.

This of Rabarama still remains, though, an experience for Ortissima, made with courage and with all due respect to the original idea we talked about above, which instead has a great future in prospect! In a future, i would favour less sector-based and more extensive choices. In the past three years, Orta has reached really high levels in the relation between these initiatives and urban context. Definitely not risky would be making comparisons with the high levels reached in the past by other italian places, like Burri’s “Cretti” in Gibellina 1968, or Moore at Forte Belvedere, 1972 in Firenze, or Kunellis in 2004 in Sarajevo, or even Koons 2004 in Bilbao, events that have been able to make their way through history, because they were themselves made out of historical depth.

Enrico Mercatali
(dedicato ad Alba F.)
Orta San Giulio, giugno 2010
More photos on the same italian text, at the Home
(photos by Enrico Mercatali - translation from italian by Penelope Mirotti)

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