Finissage 'Monumentum. Robert Morris 2015 – 2018' in Roma

Robert Morris, 'Boustrophedons', 2017

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Forty years after Robert Morris’ first solo exhibition in Italy, the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome commemorates the work of the American master in his sixty-year career. Known for his minimalist works and also related to other contemporary trends such as Land Art, Monumentum is something different as it includes some of the works that Robert Morris produced in the last three years of his life which does not fit into any of these prior paradigms.

The Project

The peculiarity of the exhibition project lies in the fact that the works are the result of a collaboration with Robert Morris himself (who passed away on 28 November 2018). The proposal was to take his latest sculptural series to Italy and present them all together in a single space. And so it has been, a huge room of the Italian Modern Art institution gathers the impressive sculptures of Robert Morris, which, moreover, have never been presented in Europe.

This is not a retrospective, but a tribute to a passionate artist, indispensable to the history of contemporary art, who continually researched new modes of artistic production, all wrapped up in an awareness of the universality of art and its boundless magic.

The Show

Robert Morris’ latest sculptural works bear witness to the artist’s growing interest in the human figure and the work of the great masters of the past. This change in his formal vocabulary is definitely free from the sense of order and abstraction typical of much of the American avant-garde, here Morris moves towards more allegorical elements.

The first series of human form sculptures called MOLTINGSEXOSKELETONSSHROUDS dated from 2015, is made of Belgian linen fabric which has been treated immersing it in a bath of transparent epoxy resin, therefore they keep their beige neutral colour. After that, the textiles were placed on models to take their shape.

The second series of black sculptures of human forms called Boustrophedons from 2017, are made of carbon fiber.

The Inspiration: The Masters of the Past

Robert Morris praises Francisco Goya above all in his Black Paintings, with hoods that evoke friars of the Inquisition. Representations of inert bodies covered by cloth evoke Andrea Mantegna‘s The Lamentation of the Dead Christ or Giuseppe Sanmartino‘s Veiled Christ in Napoles.

Giuseppe Sanmartino, ‘Veiled Christ’, 1753

The human figure with drapery of clothing exalts the greatness of Bernini. The group of black carbon fiber sculptures leads to Auguste Rodin‘s The Bourgeois of Calais.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Beata Ludovica Albertoni Extasis, 1671-74

The experience of immersion when coming into contact with Robert Morris’ art highlights an absence or, at least, a tension between presence and absence; full and emptiness. The sculptures, suspended in the void or placed on the floor, represent the idea of sculpture as an eminently spatial art, while the group of figures installed on the wall, interact with each other to reveal an almost pictorial approach.

These latest works by Robert Morris are substantial examples of his sweeping through the universe of art history and its allegories, especially of death, almost drawing a line to his own imminent demise.

In the Museum’s own collection, the 1976 minimalist piece Untitled is on permanent display, inserted in a room that also houses the works of, among others 20th-century avant-garde artists, Klein, Mondrian surrounded by sumptuous marble sculptures of Italian Neoclassical master Antonio Canova.

Monumentum, On display until next Sunday, January, 12, 2020
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna
Viale delle Belle Arti, 131
00197, Rome (Italy)

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Text and Photographs: María Muñoz

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