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4-11-2006 / 11-11-2006

A new personal exhibition at Galerie Mensing: Munich, Germany. Introduction by Petra Schaefer.

 

That New York remains the city best loved of the hyperrealist Luigi Rocca is amply demonstrated by this Munich exhibition, “New York Visions”. These recent works show the city suspended between what it is and what we would like it to be; visions in the true that is, the double sense of the term, they chart New York life from first light to the depth of night.

The city itself is a relentless generator of images, and like it the artist never pauses except to capture those concentrated moments between one burst of energy and the next. Thus he follows, sometimes pursues, life as it is lived in all the various corners of the city; and to do so, he has to move with the same frenetic speed as New Yorkers themselves.

This account of the dynamics of a normal day within the Big Apple starts, aptly enough, with early-morning jogging. Bleary eyes catch a glimpse of the beloved skyline, a brief vision that leaves little more than a blurred image  and then the jogger makes for the bridge over the river which will bring him back into the centre of downtown, where another day’s work awaits.

That day is spent behind the mirrored glass of New York’s innumerable skyscrapers, buildings which Rocca catches in ‘aerial’ views. Each individual office becomes a reflection, a visual effect within an enormous complex of glass and steel.

In the lunch break or at the end of a day’s work one is swallowed up by the frenetic life of Broadway. Strollers and window-shoppers are caught up in the omnipresent and dazzling advertising that literally explodes around Times Square as evening comes. This is the pulsating heart of the city, the place where one sees all its blinding pzazz. Like modern-day Sirens, the neon-signs and digital-displays seem to lure the citizens of the New York away from their homes and into a world of insomnia, the world of a ”city that never sleeps”.

In Rocca’s night shots, New York becomes speed, movement, vibration, frenetic activity. Human figures seem to disappear; or, rather, the only human figures that do appear are those in the huge advertisements, beings that seem to come from a parallel universe (perhaps that inhabited by Sirens and the other creatures of ancient myths).

These recent works by this master of extreme hyperrealism push the boundaries of his art even further. There is an innovative juxtaposition of objects in sharp focus with those caught only in a blur. Perhaps this is Rocca’s way of recognising that New York is the ideal city of the third millennium, a place of both certainties and hopes. To return to the double sense of the word vision, the city is a place wherewhat is coexists with what we would like there to be.
In effect, Rocca’s art is the sublimation of this dual concept: each picture is the transposition of what is (a photography) into what he would like there to be (a painting, though not one frozen in the immobility of a fixed image).

Within his continual changes of style, it is possible to chart a precise, perhaps unconscious, train of thought. It is almost as if Rocca aimed to surprise the viewer with the ease by which he can undermine or overturn the canons of his own means of expression. In places, the gaze is slowed to a near standstill; time seems to come to a halt within a hyperrealist precision of detail which verges on the maniacal. In others, the image is accelerated, with outlines and forms being rendered in long brushstrokes. In either case, the artist adopts the technique and palette best fitted to the ‘vision’ he has chosen.

These visions are inspired by Rocca’s own particular muse: glossy colour photographs. Throughout his work on each painting, these images are there on his worktable, repeatedly consulted as he strives to transfer them to the painted canvas.

Rocca himself is a rather retiring figure; he shies away from the insistent questions of those who wish to analyse his work to pieces. However, recently he has been more forthcoming about why he opted for photo-realism and how he chooses his subject-matter

Rocca’s love of photography dates back to his childhood. His paternal grandfather worked as a photographer and thus the profession has long played a part in his life; it was almost inevitable that it have a profound effect upon his own personal and artistic development. And when one thinks about it, what is a photograph if not yet another ‘vision’, with the artist capturing a precise moment in the passage of reality in order to emphasize specific aspects of it? Look, for example, at the portraits by Newton and Mapplethorpe, or the post-industrial landscapes photographed by Vidor.

I recall in particular one comment Luigi Rocca has made with regard to his art: for him, work in fact comes to an end the moment he has chosen the photograph which he will re-write in paint. In making that choice perhaps more is involved than Rocca’s conscious will; perhaps a particular angle, a certain fall of light has such personal resonance with the artist that he finds himself drawn into the fixed image, needs to create his own, very personal, ‘vision’ thereof on canvas. And the result is just that: a ‘vision’ which is the perfect compromise between what is and what we would like there to be.

Petra Schaefer Andreoli

 

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