In Florence, Davide Balliano strikes up a dialogue with sculptor Arturo Martini

In Florence, Davide Balliano strikes up a dialogue with sculptor Arturo Martini

The Brooklyn-based artist has created a site-specific intervention of monochromatic works inspired by a stone nude from the collection of Museo Novecento

Located in the heart of Florence, Museo Novecento occupies a former nunnery, a past traceable in the modern art museum’s architectural accents – saintly frescos adorn doorways and the soaring ceilings enhance the divine. It was these historic motifs that prompted artist Davide Balliano to select 20th century sculptor Arturo Martini’s stone female nude, Susanna (c 1935), from the museum’s collection, to anchor his exhibition, ‘L’Attesa’.

Museo Novecento artistic director Sergio Risaliti invited Brooklyn-based Balliano to exhibit his work in conversation with an art object from the permanent collection for the fifth iteration of ‘Duel’, which has previously seen collaborations with contemporary artists including Ulla von Brandenburg and Jose Dávila. ‘I thought a strong female presence at the core of the show would create a powerful bridge between the history of the space and the controversial time we live in,’ Balliano explains.

 L’Attesa’ at Museo Novecento, Florence

Balliano is known for his abstract paintings of meticulously intertwined contours that convey a sense of infinity and weightlessness despite their hefty and voluptuous bodies. His plaster and gesso forms on wood recall column radiators or serpentine paths, with sculptural qualities reaching architectural extents. The paintings reveal imperfect marks of process upon close inspection, not unlike a building façade baring its cracks and scraps.

The Turin-born artist’s intervention at the Florentine museum is subtle yet responsive, attempting to balance existing interior characteristics with symmetrical touches, including a horizontal painting of uninterrupted curves placed inside an altar to evoke contemplation and continuity. Below a fresco of a nun making silence gesture with her fingers hangs Balliano’s painting of two tangled circles.

Recalling two angelic wings, the composition is ‘a reflection on the tendency that life has to lean towards communion, relationship and creation of organic systems’, according to the artist, who positions a hollow half-cylinder, mirrored steel sculpture across from Martini’s nude. Reflecting and containing the female figure inside its glossy surface, the sculpture consummates the harmony between Susanna and Balliano’s work for ‘L’Attesa’, which means ‘the anticipated’ in Italian. §

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