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24-02-2007 / 03-03-2007

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



After the great success of ‘New York Visions’, the one-man show which last year visited the Mensing Galleries in Munich, Berlin and Hamburg, Luigi Rocca this year comes to Frankfurt with ‘Hypervisions’. The prefix to the ‘vision’ in these works is justified by their heightened photorealism, their combination Hyperrealism and Pop Art in ever more perfect rendition of detail.

It was in the late 1970s that Luigi Rocca first became interested in the painting of such US artists as Richard Estes, Malcolm Morley and Chuck Close. Recognised as a veritable artistic movement by the 1966 ‘The Photographic Image’ show held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, their photorealism was predicated upon the close relation between painting and photography. Although each of the artists mentioned came from very different backgrounds, their art strove to capture the precise moment of the camera shot in order to analyse the photographic image.

The core of all the various currents within photorealism – be it ‘Hyperrealism’ or ‘Radical Realism’ – was painting itself; like the photography the artists took as their starting-point, the painted image is essentially two-dimensional in character.

After having studied in Turin and Venice under such masters as Felice Casorati, an internationally renowned exponent of so-called ‘Magical Realism’, Luigi Rocca decided to focus his art upon the faithful reproduction of the real, thus demonstrating an ability to see beyond the symbolist or idealist work then being produced by the world of academic art. After various long periods in New York, he would absorb and make his own the major themes that had inspired American Hyperrealism and Pop Art: the exploration of the everyday reality of the metropolis as symbolising a style of life. Contemporary architecture and huge advertising hoardings thus become both the background and the very content of his paintings.

This is why Rocca’s latest works have titles such as ‘Times Square’ ‘Taxi’, ‘Yellow Cabs’ or even, in direct reference to the content of advertisements themselves, ‘Maxwell’, ‘KS’ or ‘Calvin Klein’.

Interviewed by HU- Habitat Ufficio in 2005, the artist recognised that his work has a certain affinity with that of Richard Estes in its ‘photographic approach’. But the two artists have a number of things in common, including an exceptional figurative skill which means that, unlike most hyperrealist painters, they can and do work without such technical aids as grids, projected images or airbrushes. Comparing the work of Estes and Rocca, one also sees a completely individual hand at work, a recognisably ‘personal’ brushstroke.

Within this exhibition there are certain works dedicated to Times Square, in which hyperrealist figurative art blends with what Rocca calls ‘speed of depiction’, something which is clearly inspired by Impressionism; in fact, the artist has in the past been described as a ‘hyperrealist impressionist’. This acceleration in capturing the moment is clear in his night scenes, where streaks of light dissolve into wide wakes that accentuate the movement of the cars. In the foregrounds of the works, forms, light and colours are transformed into impressions, creating a sublime atmosphere that is redolent of landscape art and very distant from the hurly-burly of the New York street. It is as if darkness and rain served to form a sort of protective ‘bell’ over the scene, denying the usual hyperrealist visions of such a world.

In other works one can see developments upon another current in American realist painting: the precisionism of artists such has Don Eddy and Richard McLean. The clear masterpiece here is ‘New York Taxi6G10’, in which Rocca offers a scrupulous reproduction of the real, depicted right down to the smallest detail (note the magnificent touch of the skyscrapers reflected in the rear window of the taxi in the foreground). The result is a ‘reality that is more real that real reality’, a reality that outstrips our usual visual capacity– for the naked eye could not possibly seize all these details at once. In effect, this is a reproduction that might be defined as hyperdetailed, hyperprecise and hyperperfect.

Rocca’s new works are also distinctive because of the palette used. Primary colours – for example, yellow, red and blue – predominate and are combined without many nuances. For example, with their sharp and brilliant colours, the taxis in the foregrounds recall the style and forms of expression that were typical of Pop Art. However, whilst Pop artists deliberate abandoned all depth of image, creating spaces that are ruthlessly and absolutely ‘flat’, Rocca offers a sort of ‘way out’. His images open up into the streets between the monotonous skyscrapers of the American city, almost as if they were inviting the viewer to imagine a possible direction leading towards another reality – the reality we may well find expressed in his next masterpiece.

Critic by Petra Schaefer (translated by Mr. Jeremy Scott)

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