Carlo Benvenuto, Enrico Cattaneo, Elena Modorati. ...

Carlo Benvenuto, Enrico Cattaneo, Elena Modorati. In suspensus

Fondazione Sabe per l’arte, founded in 2021 with the aim of promoting contemporary art in Ravenna with particular attention to sculpture, has decided to dedicate the 2024 exhibition activity to photography. The three exhibitions scheduled during the year will explore the potential of this medium from three different perspectives, namely the relationship with the landscape (with a project by Massimo Baldini curated by Claudio Marra), its sociological aspect in relation to gender themes, social practices and identity experiences with Federica Muzzarelli’s curatorship and the possible analogies with painting. This last theme is at the center of the exhibition In suspensus, recently inaugurated at the foundation’s headquarters, which involves Carlo Benvenuto, Enrico Cattaneo and Elena Modorati with Angela Madesani’s curatorial direction, which constitutes the first stage of this journey. The common thread between the works of the three authors is the concept of imitation in reference to the still life genre, evoked with three different approaches united by the fact of incorporating, more or less openly, the afflatus of Morandi’s poetics. Another aspect that connects the works on display is the intent to identify an almost existential dimension of the object, which, while continuing to remain such, lives in a condition suspended between illusion, liminality and mirage.

Enrico Cattaneo, Morandiana, 2002, courtesy Archivio fotografico Enrico Cattaneo, Milano

The reference to Giorgio Morandi is declared in the works by Enrico Cattaneo (Milan, 1933-2019), who opens the exhibition with sixteen shots taken from the Morandiane series (2002), reworked by him during the printing phase with an evident compositional and poetic reference to the master honored in the title. In these images, made rarefied by a treatment that seems to expose their texture, we see groups of transparent objects, such as bottles, vases and glasses, posing for the photographer on a wooden surface set against the background of a bare wall, of which a light grazing highlights the roughness. In my opinion, the most direct reference here is not so much to painting, but to engraving, which Morandi practiced as a parallel research, rarely offered to the public gaze. Cattaneo’s shots share with the etchings of his ideal mentor the intention of a formal and chromatic research based on the synthesis of the figurative structure in light and dark values, in his case no longer varied according to the frequency of the sign as in the engravings, but based on the intensity and orientation of the print stippling that inherits its function. A dusty light envelops the shapes and seems to adhere to the transparent objects like a skin that allows their presence to be detected, otherwise perceivable only as a diaphragm that deforms the vision of the texture of the wall behind. This precious selection of works enhances the individual poetics of the photographer, who recently passed away, best known to the general public for having been one of the main documenters of the art events from his time.

Elena Modorati, Japanese p.m., 2014, wax and pewter, in display case 28.5 x 45 x 20 cm, courtesy of the artist

Elena Modorati (1969, Milan) presents in the exhibition a series of display cases in which real objects lie silently next to wax reproductions created by the artist of formally similar objects or functionally connected to them. The refined chromatic range of the waxes, which ranges from white (warm and cold) to variegated shades of grey, manifests the pictorial vocation of these sculptural compositions, which the artist seems to place in a threshold condition between the existent and the archetype . Wax, a recurring material in her production as a living membrane that detects the interconnections of reality, is also used as a vehicle of specific pictorial values due to its ambivalent property of reflecting and returning light, while capturing and absorbing ambient brightness. The homogenizing and “substantiating” patina of the wax performs the further function of diluting the contrast between the objects taken from reality and their imitations, bringing the whole work into reality as «another object that is put on the world», to quote the speech of the curator Angela Madesani during the opening. Representation as a gap between reality and its imaginative projection is also the fulcrum of the site-specific pictorial work created by the artist, an environmental canvas suspended in correspondence with the window of the exhibition space which, from whatever side one looks at it, shows the outline of objects fictitiously placed at its base. The painting, itself assimilated to a window due to the fact that it is crossed by the frame and crossed by the natural light coming from the outside, acts as the intermediary of a double deception-revelation, suggesting from both perspectives a sort of inverted backlight, which can be approached to both the nocturnal and diurnal dimensions, which reveals the otherwise secret presence of purely mental objects.

Carlo Benvenuto, Senza titolo, 2023, c-print, 42 x 60 cm, courtesy Galleria Mazzoli Modena – Berlino

The mystery of the poetics of objects in relation to their reproduction with artistic tools reaches its peak in the exhibition in the works by Carlo Benvenuto (Stresa, 1966), a photographer who defines himself as a painter and sculptor. The unmistakable aesthetic of his works originates from an almost maniacal perfectionism, aimed at purging the objects he portrays from the chaos of life from which they come by projecting them onto minimal planes (bordering on abstraction) illuminated by a clear light, of uncertain origin between the metaphysics and the clarity of an unspecified morning hour. The artist works by reducing the incursions of chance to a minimum and photographs the objects in his studio on a 1:1 scale on a neutral background, with a sense of form and composition, together with a skilful balance of light and chromatic tones, which declare his admiration for classical painting. The absence of contextual elements and the intentionally neutral framing with respect to any expressive intention make even the most common things become enigmatic, around which the artist convenes further, subtle misunderstandings of essence and substance, perceivable only through a prolonged gaze. For example, one of the works on display depicts a pair of red glasses inserted into each other, whose shadow is faithfully traced by a scrap of aluminum that the artist added to the composition before photographing it, while in another a French edition of the fictional biography “Vie de David Hockney” by Catherine Cusset is related on the support surface with a pressed paper die made by the artist and an Israeli coin in imitation gold. The symbolic and visual suggestions triggered by the photographic shots are emancipated from the fictitious space of the two-dimensional support in the illusionistic sculptural reproduction of a transparent glass filled to the brim, in reality a block of glass without cavities created by an artisan workshop in Murano, which the artist placed it on a pedestal as if it had been forgotten by some distracted visitor.


Carlo Benvenuto, Enrico Cattaneo, Elena Modorati. In suspensus
a cura di Angela Madesani
20/01– 7/04/2024
Fondazione Sabe per l’arte
Via Giovanni Pascoli 31, Ravenna


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