Italian Cultural Institute, London, 39 Belgrave Square.
The exhibition is on until 16th April.
LARES FAMILIARES by Sonia Lenzi and LE POESIE DEI MURI by Gerry Badger – Exhibition opening – Thursday 21 March, 7pm
Family relationships are the first ones we are confronted with and the domestic dimension is our starting point for that adventure called life. The meaning of our existence is therefore inherent in those relationships and places. In the Roman world, the lares were divinities who assured protection and luck for the families to whom they belonged. They were given an honoured place at the heart of the house, in a special shrine, the lararium. This practice bears more than a passing relationship with the neighbourhood and familial kiosks, the votive shrines in the old quarters of Naples.
The aim of this work it is not only to examine the fascinating link between these traditions, but to actually bring them together, and in essence demolish the centuries in between. History and culture are alternative, positive values that can heal the wounds created by the camorra or by difficult lives.
The lares of the Museum collection I chose, languishing in the Museum storerooms, and as wounded or forgotten as the people with whom I paired them, become three-dimensional photographic objects temporarily placed in shrines of the Quartieri Spagnoli, Rione Sanità, Forcella and Mercato. I also created contemporary lararia, so that the two traditions could be experienced side by side, as well as the memories of the people commemorated in the shrines.
In a further act of connectivity, the contemporary lares, which sat briefly in the shrines of Old Naples, have been given to the guardians of the kiosks. Hopefully, they will remain permanently in the selected shrines and bring their own bona fortuna directly from ancient Rome. This final performative action has been recorded by a video.
Sonia Lenzi is based in Bologna and in London. Her artistic practice has an interdisciplinary approach and involves interrelated themes, concerning identity and memories of people and places. She uses photography to recreate social relationships through signs, symbols, and gestures. She graduated firstly in Philosophy at the University in Bologna, then from the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna with a degree in Painting, later graduating in Law and specializing in Administrative Sciences. She is part of Donne Fotografe – Italian Women Photographers’ Association. She has exhibited in Italy and abroad and her works are in a number of collections. Her photographic project It Could Have Been Me (2015) commemorating the 35th Anniversary of the Bologna Station massacre, was shown in Bologna at the High Speed Train Station, Family Archaeologies (2015), an exploration of her family home, was shown in London (2015), Lares Familiares at the Archaeological Museum in Naples (2016) and “Take Me To Live With You” in Bologna (Art City 2017).
LE POESIE DEI MURI
When I first went to Naples in 2016 I was fascinated by the wall art. I was aware of photographic ‘wall’ precedents, such as Nino Migliori, which made me cautious, because photographing walls seems too easy, and in a way it is. And yet these Neapolitan walls just drew me in. The subject is so rich, reflecting the city itself (of course) with multiple themes and characters on the walls of the city’s older areas – Maradona for instance, or slogans like Non Votare Lotta (Don’t Vote, Fight), and imagery ranging from abstract expressionist paintings to football to political slogans to dismembered surrealist faces.
The city itself, despite its much publicised problems, is one of the most vibrant in Europe. And the street art is amongst the best I’ve seen, not so much drawing upon the American hip-hop model but the street art of Pompeii. I photographed this aspect, but for the moment it’s the contemporary ‘wall paintings’ that fascinate me, and give me a subject that is poetic, and an ideal mix of the aesthetic with the social and political. However, these are not paintings, or painterly photographs, they are documents, and the whole project represents both the ‘poetry of the walls’ and a year in the life of Naples.
Gerry Badger was born in Northampton, England, and is a photographer, architect, and photographic critic. His own work is in a number of public and private collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The National Gallery of American Art, Washington, DC, The Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The Arts Council Collection, London, and The Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Among his books are Collecting Photography (2002), The Genius of Photography (2007), The Pleasures of Good Photographs (Aperture, New York, 2010), winner of the ICP Infinity Writer’s Award, 2011, and (with Martin Parr), The Photobook: A History (3 vols., 2004, 2006 and 2014), winner of Deutsche Fotobuch Preis and the Kraszna Krausz Prize in 2007, which was recently nominated as one of the top ten photographic books of all time by the writer Jeff Dyer. His first photobook, It Was a Grey Day, pictures of Berlin, was published in 2015. He is currently working on a history of post-war British documentary photography for Thames and Hudson.