THE BAROQUE IMAGINARY OF STEFANIA VICHI
I had never met the work of an artist so difficult to describe. Making tidy reflections on the works of Stefania Vichi was an elaborate work, object of attention, delicacy and in-depth analysis, due to the complexity of the elements that characterize it, elusive, impregnable, like a fish in the sea, always ready to escape from your hands with a backlash. With the courage of a she-wolf, Stefania Vichi, like Kandinsky, abandons her career as a lawyer to spend her life in art. And like a she-wolf, her appetite for creating new works and new concepts is never sated. During this historical moment, he went so far as to organize a demanding exhibition at Palazzo Ranieri di Sorbello, in the historic center of Perugia, home of the Italian Design Institute; and this becomes an act of faith and hope towards those passionate disciplines such as the arts, which clinging willingly to a way of life, declare to the world that they want to survive. It is the creation of art, understood as a common good, to be preserved and kept alive. I believe this is the real revolution that is harboring in Stefania Vichi’s desires. The days of physical confinement made us aware that nothing will be the same as before and the fact that only by taking care of the other can one save oneself, has grafted a sort of principle of solidarity in the face of special events. It is important to understand that all the rebirths after the great epidemics are renewals, formal, aesthetic, but above all ethical, rules of life, morals, which have often dictated the guidelines even for the highest innovations in visual expressions. Rebirths of something that is not absolutely necessary for survival, such as art, but for this very reason of extreme importance to survive. Therefore, the event and the exhibition in Perugia fit rightly into the Italian contemporary scene, and with a youthful air, suggest that behind affirmations, concepts and aesthetic solutions, there is not only the self-esteem of complex productions, but roots deep, studies, love, courage and knowledge, which often emerge like beards, swelling the asphalt of very complex and lasting thoughts and works.
So, by risking or taking advantage of the moment, we, alongside the artist, unworthy prosecutors of a tradition that saw revolutionary artists in these lands, try to cross a consumerist and pragmatic renaissance to arrive, with Vichi’s work, at a Neovisionary and contemporary baroque, the natural fruit of our time. As the Renaissance finds nourishment in classical art and in its rigor of balance, mirror of material and contingent things, thoughts that today are victims of their own transience, so be it now, the vital substance for that impulse towards the transcendent, towards the spiritual, towards an immaterial world that identifies in the baroque artifice of Stefania Vichi a means of baroque-renaissance, made of strong messages, captivating images, visual courtships, which have as their goal the well-being and amazement of the soul that looks. A very complex work is hidden behind those apparitions and effects that have the primary task of surprising. The easiest combination that first arises spontaneously is the echo of a distant world made up of scrolls, waving drapes and damasks typical of baroque ecstasies. But not everything is as it appears, which, then, is one of the principles of the artifice of the Baroque itself. The matter becomes more complicated. If we take a step back, we can really enjoy comparing the principles of the Renaissance with those of the Baroque and instantly understand the tribute that Vichi’s work owes to the latter. Since man is no longer at the center of the universe, Vichi denies the artist’s importance in favor of the work of art. In an art scene where Duchamp’s lesson reigns, determining the shift of interest no longer on the work but on the artist, Vichi’s work then appears to be truly counter-reforming! The importance of the sense of sight, where everything appears different from what it is, in a multiplicity of perspectives that introduce the theme of the mirror and the shiny reflection, goes alongside the great illusion, spatiality, metamorphosis, metaphor, what complicates the vision, to the bizarre connections that lead to a falsified reality, where we tend to break the rigidity of the material, with plays of light and shadow, of spatiality in the reliefs and in the voids. Already in the middle of the post-modern era, Omar Calabrese identifies, in his 1987 book “The Neo-Baroque age”, the search for forms in which the classic canons of order and systematicity are put aside, in exchange for the instability, polydimensionality and changeability.
Here, Vichi, with these new and ancient dispositions, revisits the sensitivity of Alberto Burri, born in Città di Castello as Stefania, of the “Red Plastics” of 1963/68, increasing their thickness with fascinating high-reliefs, and, in parallel with the research contemporary of Beatrice Gallori, creates the series of “Lex Italica” and “Pantheon”, where the teaching of history is transmitted precisely as a new way of behavior for those who care about art. The human virtues are the only ones to be encouraged to take a way out in dark times, and Vichi identifies in some fundamental Italian historical families the great intuition of supporting the Geni (artists) in their creations: from the Medici to the Borgias, from the Sforza ai Borboni is the triumph of color and form, in a glittering parade of drapery and symbols that the pictorial sculptures evoke through iconographic hints; from the intertwining of fruit baskets to the grape berries of the Bacchanalia in Bacchus, in the magma of contemporary paradigms of techniques and concepts. But the baroque theater finds its maximum commitment in the Bonfire of the Vanities, a complex three-meter installation that evokes the evening of Shrove Tuesday, February 7, 1497, when the friar Savonarola and his followers burned thousands of objects considered impure, sinful in Piazza della Signoria , immoral, which in their opinion could generate vanity precisely. Among these, besides mirrors, cosmetics, luxurious clothes, also musical instruments, manuscripts, numerous drawings and paintings. The fire extinguishers (such as Caravaggio, Bernini, Canova, Burri...) come to the rescue who dominate the flames, controlling and extinguishing the great fire, precisely with their healthy artistic vanity and their genius that overwhelms those who try to set art on fire to destroy it . The flow of the “tempus fugit” thus performs its absurd dance, with choreographies of ruins, objects, mementi, which constitute the image and reflection of the decadence and fragility of the human being. Among the vanities of the Savonarola bonfire there were also precious, luxurious clothes, and Stefania Vichi could only pay attention to the subject with Dress-Art. It does so with the same provocative fantasy that makes the visitor the protagonist as a possible wearer of a series of corsets with which to dress. It is an invitation to wear a sign of art, to transform oneself, letting oneself be carried away by the flows of the scrolls and the splendor of gold. This attitude also underlines the hedonistic aspect, rather than the educational one of the arts in the Baroque conception. And if we had a drop in energy, the Loading Art series is ready: like first aid kits, there are these compositions of essential elements for survival: those who are suffering from anemia towards art, those lacking sensitivity, the weak of ideas, I can charge with new energies with the restorative drip of amazement, with transfusions of beauty and love for art. In a triumph of color, in the victory of the imaginary over the image, the photographs presented by Stefania Vichi are a natural consequence of what she declares with her more technical and monumental work. They are frames of a story, they are eclectic and unreal scenographies, where the intelligent use of Vichi’s picto-sculptures, clothes and other artistic inventions, are brought into play, in a dialogue between them, on a theater stage, protagonists of a human comedy, an eternal metaphor of that of art.
In the baroque, colorful, excessive atmosphere, which borders on kitsch (considered bad taste only because it is opposed to the balance and harmony of classic aesthetic canons) of Stefania Vichi’s photos, we recognize irony, glamor and iconography that blend into one a sort of advertising poster, between pop and fashion, close to the slogans-advertising and images of Davide La Chapelle or Andrea Serrano. A language that naturally becomes almost transgressive, due to that subtle balance between the sacred and the profane on which all of Vichi’s work essentially moves in representing her universal themes. With hints of bizarre and provocative compositions, Vichi wants to reaffirm the artist’s full freedom and individuality, taking charge of the tendency to excess, illusion and theatricality, which are effectively expressed in a complex artist who uses traditional means indifferently , sculptural (where he demonstrates knowledge of craftsmanship and technique), to represent high concepts with works containing references to history. Quotations that produce memories and second thoughts from the public, which is unexpectedly often involved in interactive actions, in dance performances with bizarre choreographic inventions or reflected in photographic images that summarize all the artist’s effort in chasing the cult of beauty , transformed by Vichi into what she cares about: the cult of Amazement and Wonder.
But after all .... “..the poet is the finest wonder ...”. *
* Giovanbattista Marino sonnet of mockery with Murtola.