Birth of a Nation

April 19th, 2018toDecember 31st, 2018

by Katiana Uyemura (Stanford University)

Nascita Di Una Nazione, the art exhibit currently housed in the Palazzo Strozzi, chronicles the transformation of Italian art from World War II to the late 1960s, accompanied by salient political and cultural information which influenced artistic creativity during that time.

Unlike the chaotic crowds that swarm the inside of the Uffizi, taking selfies and waiting patiently in line to catch a glimpse of Boticelli’s Primavera, the entrance to the exhibit is peaceful, just a block away from the Piazza Santa Trinita and one bridge west of the Ponte Vecchio. Upon arrival, one might even wonder if one has gotten lost, everything is so quiet. Employees in flowered shirts watch in unobtrusive silence as a handful of people meander through the exhibits.

The first of the nine rooms contains four large screens offering black and white vignettes of Italian life from Italy’s unification until 1968. Soulful piano music accompanies images of people wading through floods up to their knees, followed by upbeat jazz as crowds of people dance in enormous halls, quiet chimes as women model clothes, and near-silence as lines of protesters with linked arms march for an unknown cause. Guttoso’s Battle of Ponte dell’Ammiraglio, with screaming horses and bloodied men, calls to mind the bright colors of Mexican murals, but also emphasizes that this period was a tumultuous time of rebirth.

The second room contains the piece depicted on the ticket, all beige curves and tall red triangles, but it is the third room which seems to be filled with artwork that belongs together. Though most were received poorly at the time, these abstract pieces were experimental expressions of war and man’s tortured psyche, done with various mediums such as burned wood, burlap, and shiny copper. One canvas in particular is almost as chaotic as Picasso’s Guernica, slashes of black and grey interspersed with smears of dull white.

This pattern of modern materials being used for art continues through the next rooms, one room so white that some of the artwork blends into whitewashed walls lit by white lights, another a turbulent combination of red, white, and black mimicking the political provocations that were shaking the world between Italy, Russia, and America.

A tapestry towards the end proves relevant to even today’s world, regardless of nationality. It is a map of the world, each country’s borders filled in by its flag instead of valleys, mountains, and lakes.

Students should take advantage of this uncongested and informative gallery of art to learn more about Italian history, as well as be exposed to pieces of work that were created after Michelangelo’s, Botticelli’s, Da Vinci’s, and Raphael’s masterpieces. After all, Italian art did not cease to progress with the deaths of these geniuses! The exhibit will be open until July 22nd.

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