Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Michaelangelo to Blub: Art Speaks

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. 
– Michaelangelo

I was humbled, inspired – and a bit overwhelmed – by the art we saw on our recent trip to Italy. At every turn, in every town, I was greeted with magnificent works: the architecture, frescos, mosaics, sculpture, calligraphy, drawings. We saw masterpieces by Michangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Bellini, Giotto, Botticelli, and dozens more. We saw the finest examples of Italian art from Roman to modern.

Many of the artworks I saw, I knew from student days. But seeing them live, up close, was a whole different experience. The sheer scale and power fired my imagination in a way that seeing reproductions in a book could never do.

Let's take Michaelangelo's David, for example. The 14-foot gleaming white marble statue stands under a skylight in Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia. Begun in 1501 when Michaelangelo was only 26 years old, it is perhaps the most well-know sculpture in the world. In its presence, I was awe-struck.

He is evidently a very popular fellow. I saw other "Davids" in and around Florence. Just outside the Galleria dell'Accademia is a contemporary David, entitled "Hero," by acclaimed Italian architect and designer Antonio Pio Saracino. (I understand that another version of this sculpture can be found in Bryant Park in NYC – check it out, Mary!) 

And in the Piazza della Signoria, in the exact spot where the original used to be, is a full sized copy.

On our last day in Florence, we hiked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which offered a great view of the city – and a copy of Michaelangelo's David, made out of bronze, not marble. 

Of course, I also found Davids at every souvenir stand. For a mere 15 euros, you too can have a David sculpture. Or maybe you would prefer an apron? or boxer shorts? or maybe a jig-saw puzzle?

The other art that particularly caught my eye in Florence was a series of street art, printed and pasted onto gas boxes (never building walls) by a mystery artist known only as Blub. He (or she) recreates iconic images, dressing them in scuba and swim gear. The project is known as L'arte Sa Nuotare or Art Knows how to Swim. Blub uses water as a symbol of the obstacles in life and to illustrate that art survives and swims on regardless of whatever else happens. You can follow this project on Instagram or check out this Youtube segment.

It was great fun to walk around Florence and spot Blub's work. Here's what I found:

I found these works to be full of humor and meaning. I think there is a fine line between legitimate (if still illegal) street art and graffiti. 

Who knows, perhaps in five centuries or so, these may be among the finest works of art in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. So, what about you? What art speaks loudest to you? The classical pieces or the newest new thing? Do tell.

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