Pino Pascali, the African & Sirens – Museo Civico of Castelbuono

The Museo Civico of Castelbuono (Palermo) is pleased to present two exhibitions organized in collaboration with the Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali of Polignano a Mare (Bari). Pino Pascali, the African is the first exhibition ever in Sicily devoted to one of the protagonists of Italian art of the Twentieth century. His work will be shown at the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale curated by Okwui Enwezor. Sirens presents an installation by Australian artist Virginia Ryan, together with a group of works by the African artist Frédéric Brouly Bouabré, centred on the myth of mermaids. The project, curated by Laura Barreca, Director of the Museum and Santa Nastro, for the Fondazione Pino Pascali showcases part of the production of Pino Pascali (1935 – 1968) inspired by the myth of savages and primitivism, with the intent of re-contextualizing his research intimately related to the issue of the Mediterranean and African cultures, with their shared mythologies.

The exhibition Pino Pascali, the African illustrates the artist’s interest towards the search for origins and lifestyles more in contact with nature, as opposed to modern society’s myth of technological and industrial progress. These issues attracted the attention of artists and intellectuals in the sixties, like the philosopher Claude Lévi-Strauss. The protagonist of the films dedicated to Tarzan presents the hero “par excellence” of the time. Already in production since the early decades of the twentieth century, in response to the great demand, the Tarzan series are distributed in Pino Pascali’s time. He is particularly sensitive to these issues and loved to be photographed dressed as a ‘savage,’ making no mystery to be inspired directly by the fantastic character of Tarzan.

The interest in the “primitive” is present in several works by Pascali: from the commercials in which he depicts savannah animals for the Lodolo-Saraceni advertising studio – exhibited in Castelbuono – to the fake sculptures representing fragments of dinosaurs and whales; the lianas, the bridges made in steel wool and the series of farm tools. These latest works, many of which used as elements of performative actions, are documented in the exhibition by the photographs of the Fondazione Pino Pascali Archive. Also on show the short film Africa, made in the sixties for RAI Television, where Pascali worked as assistant set designer for the most successful TV programmes of the time. The exhibition also presents the series of Totems made in the mid-sixties with mixed media techniques and materials, from the Fondazione Pino Pascali and from a private collection.

An educational section of the exhibition will be dedicated to the screening of documentaries that give a survey on the figure of the artist and the great influence that his work continues to exert today, with film materials produced by the Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali. Among them, the rare and precious TV movie produced by RAI TRE Pino Pascali o le Trasformazioni del Serpentedirected by Marco Giusti and productions made within the project arTVision – a live art channel ( – that recount Pino Pascali’s seminal work and his influence in contemporary art.

As a “counterbalance” to the work of Pino Pascali, a double solo show by artists Virginia Ryan and Frédéric Bruly Bouabré is set in the former stables of the Ventimiglia Castle, combining past and present, through the relationship with Africa and its myths. On display are the great Sirens by Australian artist Virginia Ryan who – for several years now – works between Italy and Africa, investigating the issues of migration, memory, loss, and transformation. During her stay in Ghana and the Ivory Coast Ryan has created installations through which the culture and spirituality of indigenous peoples are reinterpreted in a perspective linked to contemporary living.

Water as an element of origin and destruction – with which man always confronts himself, finding in it his most intense existential metaphors – emerges in Virginia Ryan’s Surfacing. This installation consists of seven sculptures made of iron and hair extension, retranslation of the myth of Mami Wata (from English ‘Mammy Water’), with which the local inhabitants of Anglophone coastal West Africa called the images of a deity half woman and half fish. This divinity is comparable, in its ambivalence of seductive power – both creative as destructive – to the Mediterranean myth of the mermaid, whose sweet song bewitched sailors. The Mare Nostrum, element of ancestral myth, is today the scene of daily tragedies related to migration.

The series of drawings of mermaids by Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, the most important artist of the Ivory Coast – who died last year – are exhibited alongside the great tails of long black hair with which Virginia Ryan depicts the African deities, as emerged from the depths of the sea and floating in the air. These drawing were especially made by Bouabré for Virginia Ryan in 2010, as testimony of their elective affinities. It is a series of small works in pencil on paper, in the typical format adopted by Bouabré: a small image drawn in pen and pencil on a postcard, surrounded by a text that runs along the rim. With this same technique Bouabré has made thousands of “cartes postales” on which he always made colourful designs with a text running around them. And writing is “a remedy that fights oblivion” that Bouabré has used to tell us a story, an impression, to bring us through the revelation of the signs, the universal knowledge.

The catalogue of the exhibition Pino Pascali, l’africano, published by Kalòs, with an introduction of the curators Laura Barreca and Santa Nastro, contains essays by: Rosalba Branà, director of the Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali; Marco Tonelli, author of the book Pino Pascali. Il libero gioco della scultura (Johan&Levi, 2011). The brochure of the exhibition Sirens di Virginia Ryan e Frédéric Bruly Bouabré contains an interview with Virginia Ryan by Valentina Bruschi.

During the period of the exhibition the Museum will run educational workshops curated by Giulia Gueci, related to Pino Pascali’s “African practices”, and a calendar of theatrical performances will be organised in relation to Virginia Ryan’s installation, entitled La strada verso Itaca, curated by Associazione teatrale Fiori di Carta.

Museo Civico di Castelbuono – Castello dei Ventimiglia, P.zza Castello, Castelbuono
29 March – 28 June 2015