Renato Leotta – Cripta747

Lorenzo Scotto di Luzio e Cripta 747, Cavallo morente RAI, 2014


The current show “Museo (Cavalli e Cavalle, Cavalli, Cavalli, Cavalli)” by Renato Leotta at Cripta747 in Turin, rises from the willingness to give life again to those themes that have always been part of the history of art and that have survived to new artistic trends through the centuries, since they have a deep and intimate relationship with both the culture and the human history. This exhibition was realised in collaboration with Dario Giovanni Alì, Sara De Chiara, Sebastaino Impellizzeri, Giacomo Leonzi, Francesco Messina, Piergiorgio Robino e Lorenzo Scotto Di Luzio.

Interpretations of the works in exhibition

Of loves and ladies, knights and arms, I sing,
Of courtesies, and many a daring feat;

Starting is as important as ending. In these two verses at the beginning of his work, Ludovico Ariosto synthesises the whole plot of his romance. The topics are the typical ones: Love (women, loves, courtesies) and Death (knights, arms, daring feats). But the way these terms wedge in each other suggests something:

Of loves, ladies,
knights and arms I sing,
Of courtesies
and many a daring feat;

This is movement: reading is a zig zag experience of galloping between the semantic areas of love, fight and death. Loves-ladies, knights-arms, courtesies-daring feats.
The text – the horse – gallops between one image and the other to suddenly stop: I sing. Subject and verb crash and fall, together, to the end of the sentence to interrupt – at least for now – the frenetic race.
It only takes two verses, the first two verses, to create a quintessential image valid for the whole romance. In Orlando furioso Love and Death run after each other from the start to the end, love and military adventures concatenate making us lose the sense of direction.
The connection is not only thematic and historical, but also textual and grammatical, involving the structure of the sentence and of the whole work. Orlando furioso is the romance of movement, a never ending race generated by a specific cause: women (it is not by chance that this is the first word of the romance).
Women make the romantic plot possible.
The progress of the historical background – the war between Christians and Saracens – is constantly interrupted by love hunts and other adventures dominated by the presence of women.
The escape of a specific woman, in the first chapter, starts the narration: princess Angelica escapes in a wood close by Paris, followed by a crowd of admirers she does not care of.
Orlando, paladin of Charlemagne and main character, decides to leave the war to find her. All adventures in the romance start from these pursuits.
Angelica, who should be the main female character, is in fact only a rapid draft of a character who escapes even the overall look of the reader. She only says a few words, her appearances in the romance are rare and very short. She is constantly on the move, someone on which one’s attention cannot stop. When she escapes, she exists because she is wanted, but as soon as her image becomes steady (when she marries a common soldier and goes back to Catai) she fades away, forgotten by everyone, as if she died.
This happens because Angelica is not the exclusive main character of Orlando furioso, just as all the other women within the romance. The main character of the is not a woman, but the woman, conceived as a heterogeneous product of different personalities who, one by one, take the name of Angelica, Bradamante, Marfisa, Fiordiligi, Olimpia, Isabella, Origille, Gabrina, Doralice… Good or bad, faithful or unfaithful, women in Orlando furioso represent the start and the end of every adventure.

text by Dario Giovanni Alì

When suddenly Johnny gets the feeling he’s being surrounded by horses, horses, horses, horses
coming in in all directions white shining silver studs with their nose in flames, He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses
(Patti Smith) 

The project of the exhibition Museo (cavalli e cavalle, cavalli cavalli) by Renato Leotta rises from the willingness to give life again to those themes that have always been part of the history of art and that have survived to new artistic trends through the centuries, since they have a deep and intimate relationship with both the culture and the human history.
These themes are represented in paintings and sculptures, but they emerge often only superficially.
For this reason, it is hard to capture their essence, their intimate content, their poetics and the imaginative power that they are able to inspire.
The exhibition deals with the way of making art in the contemporary age with a critical approach.
This happens when the figurative art seems to have given the way to a new kind of realism which denies the representation in favor of the description of the world as it appears.
Is it possible that themes and traditional genres talk us about the present?
Is it possible to actualize the traditional representation?
The exhibition develops these reflections, focusing on the drawing and the sculpture, in relation to the concept of display. In fact, the way in which the works, belonging to traditional artistic genres, are outfitted may expand their potentiality, thanks to the manipulation of the relationship between the works and the space in which they are displayed. The display is of considerable importance because it reveals the poetical choices of the age to which a work belongs: the presence or the absence of the frame for a painting or the type of the base for a sculpture are decisive almost as the represented subject. The history of art is full of similar examples that have changed the way of making art. The display is not to be considered only from a formal perspective, but it should be conceived as an essential part of the work, since it is involved in the process of creating new narrative strategies. It is realized beginning from the way in which the work occupies the space, by giving it a meaning. The works of the exhibition change the essence of space and the way in which we perceive it: their presence becomes almost immanence.
Museo (cavalli e cavalle, cavalli cavalli) is focused on two different series of works: one series is constituted of female portraits, committed by Renato Leotta to Sebastiano Impellizzeri, and the other one is constituted of sculpture realized by Francesco Messina. As it often happens during the ages of intense linguistic experimentation, the protagonists of the exhibition are traditional subjects, two classics of the history of art: on one hand, we have portraits of female nudes, and, on the other hand, we have sculptures of horses. The unifying principle of the exhibition is the movement: the works act directly on the space, creating an immersive feeling, thanks to their dynamism.
The portraits are placed on a movable structure that makes the space dynamic, like in a theatrical scene. Following a principle akin to that that guided Robert Breer in realizing his well-known Floating sculptures, the drawings run along the wall of the space slowly and moving horizontally, thanks to a small engine, astonishing and hypnotizing the viewer with their unexpected dynamism.
The external change creates a semantic slippage, that blurs the boundaries between the space of the representation and the real space, albeit the drawings renounce to mimicry and hyperrealism.
The drawings are realized with charcoal, the concise lines fray so as to evoke the contortion of the bodies and to echo into the space the vibrations of a body in motion. The works are astonishing thanks to their new kinetic action and create a magic and enchanted dimension. Their elementary and intuitive mechanical translation of the desire to reproduce the real world reminds the optical experiments typical of the early ages of cinema.
The framed and shifting drawings are strictly connected to the fascinating and sinister literary tradition that speaks about moving paintings and painted women, who create a tricky game with a reciprocity of gazes.
This happens for example in Nabokov’s short story La Veneziana, in which the real life is compared to the inaccessible dimension of art and beauty.

Besides the portraits, the equestrian sculptures by Francesco Messina give a perception of movement, thanks to both their shapes and the reflections of the bronze.
Francesco Messina was a realist artist and loved the sensual side of the life.
Thus, he was able to reveal the alive essence of the world and to evoke the impetus lying underneath the appearance, by showing the visible beauty.
Thanks to the realism, Messina links the elegance of the ancient and mediterranean art – that reminds Sicily (where he was born) – with the modernity.
This happens thanks to the passionate commitment of those who “capture, in the reality, the symbols of the rhythm of life and of the harmonic order of spiritual energy that animates the physical world” (F. Russoli). This will is achieved thanks to the equestrian sculptures. When Messina dealt with the horse theme, he had already faced the question about the display.
As it happened with Degas’ sculptures – artist loved by Messina -, the base of the sculpture narrows, becomes a diaphragm, overstepped by the horses, and leaves behind the pose and the solemn walk of the horses of the equestrian monument and enters into the life, in the real world. This stirs up its wild and instinctual energy. The price of freedom is paid with the fallibility: the horse runs, but it also falls down, it’s dying, as the famous horse of the RAI, here reproduced thanks to Lorenzo Scotto Di Luzio, giving a metaphysical and surreal atmosphere to the space.
In the modern age many artists have used the horse as subject to reproduce the essence of the movement.
In fact, in 1878, Muybridge used the horse for his experiments of chronophotography. In particular, he was capable to show the real gait of the horse, after studying its gallop. Some years later, Muybridge invented the zoopraxiscop, which is a primitive motion picture device, through which he reproduced the horse in motion.
Similarly, Reynaud invented the praxinoscop, in which twelve drawings of knights, drawn in different stages of the gallop, reflected on some mirrors offering the perception of movement.
On his route to the abstraction, Kupka was inspired by these optical instruments when, at the beginning of the twentieth century, he realized the ink drawing Knights, that summarizes his research on movement.
Boccioni was a futurist artist and an advocate of the modernity and of the power of machines. He represented the development of the civilization by using the energy of the horses in his well-known painting La città che sale. The horse is the protagonist of another series of works, known as Dinamismi, which include paintings, drawings and sculptures, in which the animal overwhelms the environment, arousing plastic emotions: “Indeed, all things move, all things run, all things are rapidly changing. A profile is never motionless before our eyes, but it constantly appears and disappears […]. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and their movements are triangular”. (Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting).
Moreover, in 1969 Kounellis displayed in Rome twelve alive horses in the gallery L’Attico.
It is well known how Messina ended up to pay close attention to the horse as subject of his works. It happened for the first time in 1973 in occasion of the commission of the new monument “Regisole”, erected at Pavia. In fact, Messina brought a horse in his atelier, straight from the stable, in order to study the its anatomy. In 1947, during a travel in Argentina in occasion of a retrospective, Messina was impressed by a herd of wild horses running through the pampas.
In 1958, this fascination incited him to create over the years an amazing series of little bronze horse sculptures, in different poses and sizes. The vibration of the material of these sculptures, that seem still to be in a fluid state, contains the potential energy of life and shows their incredible force. The horses, with their smoldering bodies, are crossed by opposing forces. Their tails and manes rise up in the air like torches. And it is possible to perceive in each sculpture the previous action to the one that follows, like a film still. The sequence of the poses of the horses is an ideal series of movements. The hearth of the research is the movement and its essence. The deformity of the lines of the horses, distorted and grotesque, causes a dramatic increase of the emotions. The horse is the symbol of the power together with the beauty and the elegance “but in the horse, power, beauty and elegance are glorified and to some extent overwhelmed by its wild nature” (A. Paolucci), that belongs to human being as well, and that survive in the instinct, in the impetus and the doubled nature of the centaurs.

The desire to become an indian
If one were only an indian, instantly alert, and on a racing horse eaning against the wind, kept on quivering jerkily over the quivering ground, until one shed one’s spurs, for there needed no spurs, threw away the reins, for there needed no reins, and hardly saw that the land before one was smoothly shorn heath when horse’s neck and head would be already gone. (Franz Kafka)

text by Sara De Chiara

Renato Leotta, “Museo (Cavalli e Cavalle, Cavalli Cavalli), 2014
installation view, Cripta747, Torino


Francesco Messina, “Giovane Stallone” – bronzo, 55x76x22,3 cm, 1991 – courtesy Studio Copernico
Francesco Messina, “Stallone” – bronzo, 42x74x42 cm, 1969 – courtesy Studio Copernico
Renato Leotta, “Ritratto di donna in movimento (Giacinta)”, studio sul ritratto e disegno di Sebastiano Impellizzeri
carboncino su carta, telaio motorizzato, 150 x 180 cm, 2014


Renato Leotta, “Museo (Cavalli e Cavalle, Cavalli Cavalli), 2014
installation view, Cripta747, Torino


Renato Leotta, “Museo (Cavalli e Cavalle, Cavalli Cavalli), 2014
installation view, Cripta747, Torino – flat display setting by Piergiorgio Robino


“Aria di testa (Elisa, Antonella, Giacinta)”
studio sul ritratto e disegno di Sebastiano Impellizzeri – carboncino su carta, 140 x 170 cm, 2014
Francesco Messina, “Stallone”
bronzo, 42x74x42 cm, 1969 – courtesy Studio Copernico


Cripta747 – Via Giuseppe Regaldi, Torino
8 November 2014 – 15 January 2015