puts whells in Annalisa's wood
Art Gallery "l'Ariete",
February 27th - March 11th
It is more and more difficult
for me to stay away from my artistic interests as "traveler in
art", when to be esthetic operator and its results I interwove
almost as a gamble and Morandi was Morandi, man and bottle, and Burri
was Burri, silence illuminated and icon of the sack. I felt this limit
of mine during the beautiful day spent on the roofs of Trastevere, the
Roman neighborhood where Annalisa Ramondino lives.
Her ready made works in old wood were pointed out to me by Felice Botta,
also a poet of junk art, Master of all those who have intended to reuse
wood as a protagonist, a surface already worked by time that we, descendants,
place on the throne of contemplation, with a feeling between guilt complex
and nostalgia. But as I arrived to the artist - Roman by choice (she
was born in Palma de Majorca, with rooted memory in Naples, even if
her past is horizontal, unlike her sister Fabrizia, a writer, whose
past is vertical) - it was the environment and her character that strongly
interested me: a kind of white and luminous hive of stairs and small
terraces, white doors and mezzanine and again stairs that end in a cubicle
from where no Lautrec could admire inserted between television antennas
and roof tiles, San Peter's cathedral on the left and the monument to
Vittorio Emanuele III on the right, that that seem two collages. Each
corner of the main space, so unitary it becomes a sort of living room,
inhabited, with great discretion, mostly by hundreds of objects from
every Continent placed on shelves and showcases.
I came to study the sculptures recycled from ceilings, boards, planks,
boats, gates. furniture, almost ready to take inventory of the works
of an orthodox "arte povera" artist, beyond Duchamp, relative,
maybe, of a Nevelson from whom she remembered not the metaphysical order
of the attics in the closets, but only the disorder of more than one
epoch, like in a "Dadapolis" (the title her writer sister
gave to her "Neapolitan kaleidoscope"). Instead I found myself in the
presence of a house-exhibition: an almost infinite inventory of hypothesis
of "found" objects from every country, popular and refined,
relics and commercial things, junk of every day use, of rite and taste,
from India to the Third World, from Europe, thoroughly visited by Annalisa,
to China. Accompanied by this bazaar, before Annalisa showed me the
series of her works in a difficult chronology, I came across a pile
of boxes without covers, of various dimensions, but mostly square (whose
internal walls the artist covered with mirrored papers, silver, mother
of pearl, and painted patches of a soft, affectionate palette, almost
as if these boxes could remain empty, that is full of that nothing imagination
knows how to fill, or otherwise contain some of those objects that had
reached the end of their travels in Trastevere, like in the harbor of
Thousand And One Nights.
instead of beginning to see her finished work, we passed the first two
hours traveling under the roofs with things from all over the word,
put into the mother of pearl boxes of Ramondino. Unpredictable person,
she's always the opposite of what you can deduce of her, for example
that she is a collector of things like some travelers with their cameras
hanging from their neck even when they go to bed or to the bathroom,
who shoot continually even without looking, but instead she collects
for a reason, each object has a lasting message; you could think she
relies on the anarchy of a sensitiveness without science, but instead
she is a science professor and taught in that role for ten years; she
is so transparently a friend, she knows how to laugh with such feeling,
that the other half of the good mood that she puts you in, is given
to you by her and she doesn't take yours away when you don't have yours
any more; she looks like a girl escaped from marriage for love of love
and instead, widowed very young, she keeps the idea that marriage is
a youth matter and she has a son who is about to become an architect.
She looks like an only child because her uniqueness denies any sisterhood,
but instead she chose images because her sister chose words; but I think
she's much more allied with her brother, who is an architect and a lover
of ceramics. The extraordinary book "Dadapolis" I found in
the bookshop these days, brought me to be close to the existential emotional
machine of the Ramondino sisters, to Naples as the common denominator,
but for Annalisa, Naples is a place in the world, maybe to depart and
then to return, as if she made it similar to a old Hong Kong neighborhood,
a Neapolitan one or Trastevere, for Fabrizia the thousands and thousands
voices of culture are more and more contributing to rooting her in the
shadow of Vesuvius.
It is only a few years that Annalisa Ramondino has devoted herself to
the cult of the image with the exclusive fervor of an ancient girl of
Pompei to the Eleusinian Mysteries and, as I'll say later on, this passion
of hers shows itself as series of artworks that have their own physiognomy
of style that also takes from different moments of the course of visual
history on the edge of Dada and beyond. This of the "theater of
things", - we almost put on together in ours first meeting, as
if we wanted to give reciprocal comprehension and conclude that criticism
is a creative matter and also bearer of a message of ideas of the most
silent of gestures, - it is a moment that I would place in the pop cultural
thread, where things are recognizable, out of their context of usage
and purpose, like, as I said, in Dada, but in these ones Annalisa Ramondino
circulates more than the civilization of consumption, I would say the
civilization of traveling, and in the travels that mirror of nostalgia,
of loss, in which the object-trouvé assumes the value of memory, of
discovery, when it doesn't have a value of relic, of useless and lost
In each of these boxes post up to the walls of the gallery in a habitat
prepared for the performance of one or more objects: the little statue
of the Madonna and the bottle in which is inserted a tin flower, the
wind up green bird and the weight made of stone of a loom, chrysalis
of toys, silver profiled figurines, pearls, beads, cups, amulets, feathers,
lachrymatories, daggers. Here, the object-trouvé operation is to be
understood to the letter in the meaning that even if it can appear in
some cases as a mysterious object, fragment of a more complex and fungible,
it is found in its natural state and as such placed in the showcase,
like an eye that opens at the end of a journey.
We enjoy, In this period of the young art of Annalisa Ramondino, not
only the joyful fever of the gathering but also that of contemplation,
given not only to herself and to those who stare with her, friends and
unknown people, but the pleasure of contemplating us that the sculptures
have, a sort of reciprocal pleasure.
The beauty and the magic in this stylistic period, in my opinion more
"classical" than the others I will talk about later on, consist
in the fact that each sculpture can be recounted, because it has a story;
and without doubt, like any image of a thing or an object of art all
you can tell with words adds penitence to prestige; but here it happens
that the objects in theater don't need a name and an address, as they
are so emblematic of a journey: that journey Annalisa Ramondino began
weaving life with art, the found things, full of love and rapture, with
her need for awareness and reflection, the fruit of a thousand meetings,
with the tenderness of returning, the obliviousness of the perpetual
running around the world, with the limpid, poetic recognition of maturity.
A friend who renovated his country house, gave her the planks removed
from the ceilings, these are the material for her "white"
shapes. The artist seizes one, touches it affectionately and informs
me about its provenance: "this is an old door…" And showing
another one: "This is a piece of beach cabin… these are frames".
From the remains she takes away the object, the object is cut, it is
void inside, it is placed with its regular facets, on the outside a
sort of veneer of decades, some times of half centuries, in the inside
a sort of hidden sound box . She doesn't add colors, if it's the case,
she removes some. Seen closely as handwork (as they are and with the
collaboration of skilled woodworkers) you become aware of the finely
workmanship of these objects, sometimes with overlapped layers of papers,
originally pasted to the ceilings to be painted.
Towers with squared or cusped tops, that have a surface marked by time
in such a "spontaneous" and incontrovertible way and so truthful
and so rich with symbolic meaning, that no informal painter would be
able to imitate it. You could conclude that these blind skyscrapers
or curbstones without road, or, as we will see, memorial stones, are
happenings due to bad weather or to the hands of vandals. They are,
instead poetic constructions for found objects, from relics, from materials
whose complexion and tint cross the night of times.
This is a prototype which repeating itself in various heights and dimensions
in the assemblage, as house, tower, creates archaic, medieval towns,
cities, towered acropolis. And according to the choice of shapes and
the disposition the artist gives them, from houses they became ensigns
of defunct. disciplined in brief space in ascent, yes, like that of
the skyscrapers, but with another immobility, another silence. Can it
be that the sculptor wants to tell us, playing very seriously with all
these experienced woods, that it isn't so difficult to be dead?
One of these "landscapes" created with different towers stand
out from the others because it takes life from the painting, at least
in the sense of a fixed and frontal construction, The various parallelograms,
also constructed and assembled, are this time connected with small boards
to which the artist has nailed pieces of colored iron (the two main
lessons that Annalisa took from the recent vanguard are from the Burri's
irons and the collages or posters of Rotella). Here, the assemblage
of different woods, as I was saying, is more in the style of a chromatic
vision, because they play in more significant spaces, almost as if it
was the air that drew the shapes between solid and solid, where azure,
gray, ochre, prevail in the poetic palette; and then the embrace of
the palette istoriato with consumerist metal relics, imposes on the
image another life: a sense of immutability and, at the same time, of
tenacious survival comes from this construction, as a presence and a
And here I have to pass on to another chapter of my writings, the one
concerning the houses with the wheels and other games. If Annalisa Ramondino's
simple way of dealing with forms or shapes inside a very slow gestural
motions that I have till now described, can be easily described as playful,
the development of her work seems more evidently and openly so, thanks
to some well realized irrationalities and imaginative transgressions.
Because the sculptor, literarily speaking, puts wheels on her towers,
houses and tombs.
Another extraordinary aesthetic operator, Miela Reina from Trieste,
a contemporary of the Roman pop "La tartaruga", occasionally
added wheels to some - but more related to consumerism - objects, among
toys and comics and strolling sculptures. Here Annalisa's, wheels are
in my opinion a way of smiling - or even laughing - at all that archaic
and primordial sense of her own shapes, another way, serious, of playing.
And then, with the wheels, the sculptor can move the unmovable, can
give to it the dimension of the real object and prevaricate over this
reality, by maintaining perhaps that, with or without the wheels the
object remains tower, skyscraper, memorial stone, it suffices that we
don't remove it from the imagination.
The object-trouvés with wheels, like the funnels for example, became
war machines with a flag on the top, carriages where men remain immune
in addition to invisibles, object-trouvés are such a whole with rust,
that the swarthy opaque skin that cover them half-breeds them. freeing
them from the old usage as far as they became unrecognizable furthermore
when they are overturned, as they are. And then, on the thread of the
playfully run with wheels, there's for us also a tent or the hut or
the pyramid, having a such abstract shape, so closed and so deprived
of any ornament, that you just can't define it as joyous. But who says
that the execution of the game can't be performed even when one is grieving
Closer to the logic of the wheels are other objects made by the artist
like the little theaters, reminds us. with the wheels, the nomadic destiny
of these rustic stages; and also the carts, little more than boxes with
wheels, that they seem added to the traditional things of the furniture
for Hades, for children, drastic rebellious in the light of the sun.
A tribute to Dada - with nostalgia for
the Schwitters or the Rauschenberg but also sensitive alignment to the
experience of the bidimensional collage on old paper and writings, or
cardboards cadenced in soft "natural" tonalities to pretend
landscapes of houses - that can be celebrated in Annalisa's collection
of works. But while in the work of some artists, mainly women, this
painting operation of materials that can even have some precise implication
of taste of the object-trouvé, is brought to a conclusion of final refinement
(it suffices to think of Giovanna Leonetti and, why not, Anna Bruna
Cusmano) in Annalisa Ramondino is to be evaluated as a recognitive stage
maybe not as physiognomical as the other ones.
But what is certain is that all the instances proposed by the artist
are alive and coherent, not like samples and formalistic attempts but
as expression of thoughts and sentiments, of abandon and of human irrevocable
choices, that only images can thoroughly reflect.
Marcello Venturoli, January 1993
"Tales of Peace and War"
Art Gallery Antonia Jannone
Disegni di Architettura, Milan
March 13th - Aprile 8th 1997
by Marcello Venturoli
Di already passionately wrote about
Annalisa Ramondino, an "Arte Povera" artist beyond Duchamp,
magnet of "object-trouvés" in any continent, that she disposes, like
sumptuous nativities, in her "theaters of things", and about her skyscrapers,
rooted and movable, recycled from worn wood, when they were exhibited
in the Art Gallery "L'Ariete" in Bologna in 1993 (in "Time
puts wheels in Annalisa's wood"), and here, due to the exiguous
space I have at my disposal, I won't repeat myself. I will only say
that in the elapsed three years, the artist succeeded in giving a physiognomy
to her sculptures, or objects, or significant things, or Lilliputian
trophies, or pensive and smiling games of the memory and the imagination,
making so, that the "object-trouvé" - even remaining in the company
of her theater of mental images, adapted - like a color from a tube
on the palette of a refined "nuancesist" - to collaborate
- structurally at times in the skeleton, at other times in the skin
- to the emancipation of that little "created thing", or that sculpture-toy.
Whereas in 1993 the artist "put together", today she "builds", if then
she was overwhelmed by a thousand hypotheses of replaceable and independent
objects, thanks to the connection of "pieces" or only their simple material
union, now the artist is able to design those sculptures exactly as
she wants them to be,
I mean that she can give them an accomplished and poetic threedimensionality,
as if they were characters on a stage, or rather on wide white tables,
as they are now exposed in the Art Gallery Antonia Jannone, where, on
three stages, her significant objects of war and peace, play a still
Each one of these stages has a different atmosphere.
In the first one (and partially in the second) the war machinery prevails:
those Command Tents that remind us of the famous one painted by Piero
della Francesca in his "Constantine's Dream". The singularity of these
presences is due to the fact that the antique solemnity doesn't disappear,
it only becomes minimal, it doesn't impoverish itself by the spiring
of little funnels over the conical summits or by the silvery sheets
that once were used for weaving Liberty dresses and now serve as doors
to guarded captain's gateways. A lightly ruffled atmosphere develops
in "Towers" entirely build with zinced sheet metal, whose
surfaces are offended by time with ready-made stains and splits, and
in "Fighters" , big funnels equiped with wheels and flags, wooden cylinders
that have the faith of fable.
Of course, in Annalisa's encampments, there's not even a dribble of
all the venom that nowadays still intoxicates the world's populations,
but it is a fact that this war game of hers isn't less admonitory and
moving than that of a serious pacifist philosophy. Open and shut "Command
Tents" tell us, without any doubt, in their reiteration, something similar
to tournaments, certainly not to battle fields; but the war game (then
fallowed by the peace game) isn't played by a child, the artist composes
her war devices by filtrating them insidethe forms of a well recognizable
vanguard which returns, from Brancusi to Melotti; and if, as it is by
her choice, "poor", detached and playful of the object-trouvé, her war
engines are illuminated by an ironic smile, while remaining persuasive.
The second table's characters aren't very different in their intentions,
but they have a plainer, a more abstract, style. It suffices to interrogate
the "Darkroom's Towers" that present themselves as observatory engines;
or those little, ingenuous perches with wheels, made of wire and entitled
"Enemy's Gage" or that unmistakable armored car obtained from a tin
To live up to peace needs, table number three doesn't need doves with
olive twigs in their beaks, to this implied narrator it suffices to
show "Revolving Chimneys" and "Imaginary Towers", that tell us: "Let's
be at peace anyway, by being wicked and overbearing you only lose the
wonderful energy of your existence, and all the propellant of fantasy
love gives you will wither in hatred". Here, on this table-theater,
Annalisa Ramondino refers to her world of travels: with houses, buildings,
towers, "Constructions With Flag" that are cans whose interiors gleams
with tin and with tall metallic cones that grow over them, representing
chimneys, And what to say about the "imaginary Towers"? From "melottians"
vertebrae of wire spring others more delicate and thin, like tactile
impressions of rivers, of traces, over which airplanes and clocks flash,
what to say about the "Automotive Pyramid" , unique in all the world,
or of the "Great Building made of air gages", that transparent skyscraper,
that becomes permanent because it holds flags on its top!
Marcello Venturoli, 1997
by Paolo Levi
Annalisa Ramondino's micro-urban constructions
show how much the artist is endowed with a not waggish irony. Her culture,
in fact, has its roots in Dada and widens itself in a profound interest
for the language of materials, whose assemblage becomes a chromatic
By revealing themselves, the objects become allusive, like three-dimensional
icons that will inhabit a tiny theatre of memory.
Like Alice, the artist seems to come to gripes with her dreams, with
immediately communicative imageries, because she knows how to draw in
space an alphabet of archetypical and primary forms.
She herself inhabits and designs utopian cities and, as she herself
says, residual, or rather reduced to game dimensions, where the space
is essentially allusive, inhabitable only by the fervent fantasy of
the child that every true artist preserves.
To respect our Alice, we, correct observers of art, must play the game
she politely proposes, by sharing with her the sociability of the unspoken
and to rereading the subtle calligraphy of the non-visible. In the mean
time, we must be aware of the profound fracture that we are going to
create by unveiling the so to speak "real" that desecrates the conventions
We must turn ourselves into Lilliputians and participate in these cities
metaphysical silences that transfigure our perception or to gauge the
weight of our useless gigantism, as a deserved condemnation to our pride
of wanting to become adults .
But what matters, in this game, is the wish of becoming accomplices,
ourselves actors of a fairy tale told and heard among relics, offcuts
of wood, left on the floor by a Geppetto who accomplished his work of
manipulator of concreteness.
Now - and unwillingly - we must abandon the metaphor and correctly remind
the visitor of this exhibition, Annalisa Ramondino's cultural heritage.
Leave it to Marcel Duchamp to remind us of the meaning of the word Dada,
that defines itself as extreme protest against the physical appearance
of painting and metaphysical attitude.
Here our artist, with educated coherence, puts that lesson into pratice
by using new materials, like, among others, proclaimed Hans Arp and
Kurt Schwitters on 1920 "Dada Almanach".
They were artists that referred to, as Maurizio Calvesi wrote time ago,
not matter as a primary and indistinct substance, but the "materials",
that are reality in its historicity, in their manifoldness and unlinearity,
ultimately, waste and relics from everyday life.
Annalisa Ramondino's assemblages remind us of those brilliantly constructed
by Cubists and Futurists. like the magnificent and metaphysical construction
entitled "Residual Cities" ("Borghi Residuali") hold with wheels, where
the operation is the explicit matching by analogy and contrast of "not-forms".
The pieces of wood or iron are for the artist the occasion for overturning
painting and sign, to highlight the figurative casualness, giving dignity
to communicative sign. Her "Metropolis" aren't, however, those which
emerged, horrid, from George Grosz's, or Paul Citroen's the anguished
fantasy, that were hostile proliferation of houses infected by deformed
gigantism. To Annalisa Ramondino the model is the essential form of
a Renaissance at its dawn, where the "ornamentation" rests also in the
optical illusion, like the "Command Tent", where the expressive exactness
melts with the "divertissement" and skilled manipulation.
The motif of the city is that of an endless scenography destined to
impossible theaters, but it implies a positive, optimistic morality,
dense with vitality.
Who crosses the threshold of the "Great Building Of Air Cages" finds
in it the pleasure of entering a transparent and light universe that
enmeshes us, and here the metaphor becomes the real experience of entering
a net-box, where we can pretend to be invisible to who doesn't participate
in the game.
The admonishment we get - because, like in every tale, a profound "natural"
morality is also readable here - reveals us that liberty, the real and
creative one, doesn't consist in the anarchic denial of conventions,
but in the ingenuity of creating awesome spaces where our mind is free
of wandering, even being inside and respectful of the strictest rules.
Annalisa Ramondino's cities tiny spaces seem to concentrate, with its
essentiality, all possible of our own knowledge, as a germinative moment,
dense and light.
The historical memory nourishes itself with these extremely concentrate
moments, of plastic lumps that are able to expand themselves in the
fantastic way of the recovered time. "It suffices the gesture of a skilled
hand to bring into existence an entire universe of a chivalrous and
heroic era, of antique and solemn rituals, that only strategic simulation
games can summon, the dame, or sand constructions, or imaginary journeys
on the four wheels of a barrow.
Providing that the pleasure of risking remains intact and that we are
able to appreciate the subtle fear of losing, providing that we avoid
the predicable, the preordained and the conditioning of daily life.
Art, at bottom, is made of exactly this.
Paolo Levi, 2003