Clowns, Trees, and Time: Ugo Rondinone in Rome
Rondinone has installed casts of trees that are as old as the markets themselves, providing a suggestive artwork which is linked to his own traditional background.
During my teens, I visited some areas of Southern Italy and I was fascinated by secular olive trees. They were huge, majestic, and captivating. Finding five casts of those trees inside the Markets of Trajan, in Rome, has been a strange and suggestive experience. These casts are part of an artistic project by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone (b. 1964), called Golden Days + Silver Nights (2015).
The five trees represent the silver night. They are only part of the twelve casts of olive trees which represent different phases of the moon. The peculiar setting, the Markets of Trajan, creates a strong contrast between the modern installation and the ancient ruins. However, Rondinone has installed casts of trees that are as old as the markets themselves, providing a suggestive artwork which is linked to his own traditional background (he was born in Switzerland, but his family is from Basilicata) and to be moving for whoever knows the origin of the trees.
The Silver Nights part of the exhibit has not been as successful as the Golden Days, an installation inside the MACRO Testaccio, Rome. To understand and feel all the intentions of the artist, the visitor must move from one setting to another, which is in part fascinating, but not always convenient, since the Markets of Trajan and MACRO Testaccio are not very close to each other.
If Silver Nights shows a long span of time (about a month, considering all the phases of the moon represented by the trees) and a connection with the past, Golden Days focuses on everyday actions. Ugo Rondinone has paced forty-five clowns performing natural activities, such as sleeping and breathing, in a very colorful setting. Each detail is important in this part of the exhibition. Each clown has different clothes, occupies a different position, and is placed in areas with different wall colors, which range from blue to red and from green to pink. Although all the clowns perform tedious and repetitive actions, the atmosphere is of enjoyment, due to the colors and to little details, such as the fake windows and clocks on the walls or a pairs of shoes. Moreover, on the second floor, Rondinone grouped various children drawing rainbows.
I have really appreciated this exhibit. It shows a truly positive attitude towards daily life. Although the stillness of the figure may represent boredom, I felt so involved and amused to think that Ugo Rondinone delights in daily life, without forgetting some little contrasts, especially in Silver Nights. However, more entertaining details and a better display of the art work have brought me to a final decision: I prefer the second part of the exhibit, which I believe is far more enjoyable, also for someone who is not a contemporary art lover. Anyway, I suggest a walk down Via dei Fori Imperiali and a top by the Markets of Trajan to see the olive trees installation. For nostalgic people, I assure you that will be a nice experience.
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