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Luigi Rocca at San Diego: Seeing, Looking by Petra Schaefer Andreoli

 

 

Here are the latest works of Luigi Rocca, finished in July and immediately sent to the MICHAEL J. WOLF FINE ART GALLERY in San Diego. In Venice we just made it to see these new masterpieces before they left on their journey across the ocean.

This exhibition is of great interest, for it reunites representative works of various moments and styles that Rocca tackled in the past years: in almost whirlwind speed we move from the infinite spaces of the aerial views to the compressed interiors of American diners. With the eye of the artist we spy on fascinating angles of New York and charming cross sections of daily life.

But also on the technical level Rocca completely expresses himself in these works: strong hues and tones on the limits of saturation and warm and intimate blacks and whites. They are broken by an essence of humanity and loose themselves in the profoundness of the black and the purity of the white. A true artistic Reset that demonstrates the ease with which the artist confronts and experiments with new artistic limits.

The exhibition also offers us interesting comparisons, where we come upon recurring subjects (such as the all-time favorite Time Square), painted in either in chiaroscuro or with the full range of colors, thereby always exulting both the undisputed mastery and astonishing technical command of the artist. Among the New York works two surprising, I would dare to say that two exceptional works stand out: "Mr. W. in New York" and "Jockey.

The former has a unique story: first of all, the sitter has a definite identity (it is the gallery owner Wolf in person) and presents himself in an invasive, I would dare to say domineering manner to the beholder. How else can we explain the choice of the photo, in which a single face stands out from a mass of pedestrians seen from behind, a face looking at us with the pride of being different.

And here, while almost wanting to create a contrast to the explosive force of the portrayed subject, Rocca shows us a face that is kindly open, smiling with happy eyes. Here Rocca also demonstrates his great ability to emotionally engage the beholder, due to the smile with which Wolf addresses who is observing him, immediately being on the same wavelength and in confidence with the beholder.

It is as if Wolf, once he acknowledges and sees us, halts for a moment to look at us. Similarly, also in Times Square Jockey the city acts as mere background for the portrait is well defined and articulated in the gaze: the conspiratorial look of beautiful woman that she is a lingerie model we can read in the writing on the advertising panel a look we return, enraptured by her overwhelming sensuality. It is not the first time that Rocca chooses images of giant advertisements in Times Square, but here we instinctively perceive something unusual, which only after a few seconds we are able to comprehend: here our gaze is not, as happens often in the views of the artist, the moment stolen by our indiscrete eye. Here, it is the woman who looks at us, scrutinizes us, and discovers something attractive.

The painted subject on the canvas, paradoxically, becomes the spectator of the life of others. Everything that surrounds her, the pedestrians, the inevitable yellow cabs barely indicated or deliberately blurred, is peripheral to the interest of the beholder and to her the magnificent woman with whom we establish a true and particular relationship based on the simple possibility to see each other before we look at each other. We have the capacity to see and therefore we must look. Maybe this is the prime message, the red thread of the entire exhibition: to never underestimate or forget the importance to see the other, to be able to communicate our emotions, sensations, and memories to him with only the blink of an eyelid.

In the end, maybe also the hilarious giraffe, part of a giant advertising spot as well, with its mocking grimace and cheeky eyes is trying to say something to us? Did it only see us, or is it looking at us?

Petra Schaefer Andreoli

 

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