Wooly and sturdy – a work in progress: Renato Cala...

Wooly and sturdy – a work in progress: Renato Calaj in Rome

Transeunte, the solo show by Renato Calaj, curated by Davide Silvioli at Contemporary cluster in Rome, leads us inside a dimension where iron’s tightness, artificial’s coloring and the soft and colorful plurality of carpets open in a wide mélange condensated in the space. The language used by the artist, already consolidated in an international environment, shifts the emphasis – and the public’s attention too – on the dialogue that his artworks can hold between them and the background which they are related to.

Renato Calaj, “Transeunte”, installation view, ph Giovanni De Angelis, courtesy Contemporary Cluster, Roma

Following a regular path and thrown into the first room, the viewer is faced with a “construction site” and can easily compare the combination between the geometric coldness of the artistic installation composed by iron pipes assembled to form a cube and the softness of the Persian carpet, that recalls a domestic livingroom, where the heavy structure presses on. The day life sensation in Calaj’s artworks gives us the feeling of the unfinished work that materialises under our eyes the transience of construction acts; this is the urge to think about the temporariness of the artwork which builds itself before our eyes but without achieving ever its entirety. Walking through all the three rooms of the exhibition we can notice the fil rouge which links the three installations that appear to us as huge monuments dedicated to the unfinished.

Renato Calaj, “Transeunte”, installation view, ph Giovanni De Angelis, courtesy Contemporary Cluster, Roma

In the first room, where we see the heaviness of the “cubic skeleton” waiting for the scaffolding, we are already preparing a travel which brings us to the last room where we encounter four incomplete concrete pillars showing us metal spikes and ask for more concrete to keep building themselves while interrogating the viewer on what will the next verse be or where to take the path to their final destination. Until after this scenario make us realise the solidity of the four sculpted masses while pushing once again on the homly carpet – the Persian one again – forcing us to pull on it to form our groundwork; so the past is the unavoidable pillar on where we can edify the future and finally grow upwards.

Renato Calaj, “Transeunte”, installation view, ph Giovanni De Angelis, courtesy Contemporary Cluster, Roma

The robustness that appear in Calaj’s structures, cubic heaviness, or again serialism of numbers and abrasions we can find on the pictorial works (but not only) within dry teal green and blue marks, use to share informations with the precious and warm chromatism offered by the carpets put right under the suffocating heaviness of iron and concrete. In this way the entire exhibition, in constant dialogue even with the hollow bricks that hold the work “94”, takes a consistency that seal the poetic harmony at our side during all the journey. The gallery welcome, in its capacity as scraped inside building, all our artist’s works which show up incubated in a structure characterisated by shipbuilding references where even old sketches on walls, probably unfinished frescos, fit perfectly in the show’s rhetoric.

Renato Calaj, “Transeunte”, installation view, ph Giovanni De Angelis, courtesy Contemporary Cluster, Roma

The paintings on show obtain their own materiality – taking charge of it – from the same humus on which Rotella’s decollages or Malevič wrinkly monochromes flourished, until reaching alphanumerical letterings by Kounellis or even the “paesaggio anemico” (anemic landscape) by Schifano. Calaj’s coherent artistic research striking combine to a popular language developed in the 60s in Rome. Calaj’s art spys on roman school’s canon without even having a direct experience of it; so the exposition seems to be delighted by invisibile masters, far away in time but close to the Roman context and to the artist’s spirit.

Andrea Palagiano


Renato Calaj. Transeunte
09/05 – 08/06/2024
Contemporary Cluster
via Merulana 248, Roma


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