CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
New York | Exhibition & EventDecember 31, 2010

If Only Leonardo Knew

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"Every generation uses the tools of its time in order to understand the significance of everything around. It's the laptop generation."

Peter Greenaway

Born in Milan, I spent my childhood near the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

When the weather permitted, my Catholic nanny Maria took me on long walks in the neighborhood, and often just before lunch we would stop at the monastery refectory to gaze at the renowned "Last Supper" mural by Leonardo da Vinci. The theme was a traditional one for refectories, although the room was not a refectory at the time that Leonardo painted it. The painting was commissioned by Sforza to be the centerpiece of the mausoleum.

The lunettes above the main painting, formed by the triple arched ceiling of the refectory, are painted with Sforza coats-of-arms. Leonardo began work on "The Last Supper" in 1495 and completed it in 1498—he did not work on the painting continuously.

5oo years later on December the 4th at the Park Avenue Armory on 66th street, close to where I now live in New York City,  I am once again on my way to admire "Leonardo's Last Supper",  this time through the vision of Welsh-born filmmaker and multimedia artist Peter Greenaway.

Armory president Rebecca Robertson's press release describes the exhibition as a "Multimedia Reverie."  Peter Greenaway's premier of this epic and immersive multimedia work marks the first U.S. presentation of the artist’s installation.

Through his incisive manipulation of chiaro-scuro, sound, and theatrical illusion, Greenaway creates a series of dynamic audio-visual environments that provoke new ways of seeing Leonardo’s masterpiece.

Prior my visit at the armory, I have been reading several articles, points-of-view and interesting critical pieces on the controversial exhibit like Holland's Cutter of the New York Times, some of whose excerpts I am sharing on this post for further discussion. Is this new era of showcasing art a genius-like display of innovation or an art form of its own?

"A Vision by Peter Greenaway" is part of the artist’s ambitious ongoing series "Ten Classic Paintings Revisited", an exploration of works from around the world that encourages viewers to retrain their gaze when experiencing classical and Renaissance painting, and that creates dialogue between this age-old medium and modern technology.

"...From this we walk to a second, smaller enclosure, measuring the same size as the refectory of the Santa Maria Delle Grazie monastery, where “The Last Supper” still resides. Straight ahead is a replica of the painting, digitally scanned and printed on plaster, with its familiar image of Jesus seated among his perturbed apostles at a long table. A three-dimensional version of the painted table, replete with plates, knives and loaves of bread but with everything plaster white, sits in the center of the enclosure... " ( via New York Times)

" ... Special effects kick in. Images projected onto the replicated painting make figures look three-dimensional. The light in the depicted scene changes; sometimes seeming to come from above, sometimes from a mysterious background source. One group of apostles is momentarily spotlighted as the others fade into darkness; another group is set off with diagrammatic outlines. At regular intervals the whole scene goes dim except for the figure of Jesus, which radiates beams like a searchlight." ( via New York Times)

Greenaway launched the series in 2006 with an evocative multimedia exploration of Rembrandt’s Nightwatch in the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. In June 2008, he staged a one-night-only event with the original "Last Supper" in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan

In June 2009, Greenaway exhibited his digital exploration of "The Wedding at Cana" by Paolo Veronese during the 2009 Biennale di Venezia and the film "The Marriage" about the same painting and installation at the Venice Biennial Film Festival.

"... As we walk back out through the drill hall we see that “Italy of the Cities” has been replaced by Mr. Greenaway’s take on Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana". It might have looked great in Venice — what doesn’t?— but it’s underwhelming here. Digital reproduction and video recording of art can be valuable, letting us see things we would otherwise never see." (via New York Times)

"Leonardo’s Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway" fuses  elements from his extensive study of thousands of years of painting to create a spectacular and unforgettable encounter.

"...A front section of the drill hall is enclosed with scrims for a kind of sound-and-light warm-up act called “Italy of the Cities,” conceived for the Italian pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.

Onto the wraparound scrims are projected video shots of Florence, Rome, Venice and Milan, accompanied by a musical pastiche that includes, all too inevitably, the theme (French, 18th century) from “Masterpiece Theater".

...There’s no question that at a time when a museum visit can mean little more than snapping pictures on the run, persuading people to stop and look is a good thing. But the question becomes whether jumpily edited copies of paintings are an improvement over jumpy viewers.

...Mr. Greenaway also allows that entertainment was a factor he kept in mind when producing the work now at the Armory, though with its limited range of recycled effects, it doesn’t score high in that department.

... Then there is the “Last Supper” itself. In irreversibly degraded condition, it may one day have to be taken off view to preserve what’s left. At that point copies are what most of us will know of it. (Whether those copies should be colorized as Mr. Greenaway’s “Last Supper” has been, presumably to recapture its original look, will be a matter for debate.)

...Most insistently of all — it’s right there in the title — “Leonardo’s Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway” asks to taken as art on its own, but that doesn’t work either. Even as a form of appropriation art, the piece neither illuminates its borrowed material nor has anything new to say on its own." (via New York Times)

I  have enjoyed playing with the concept of  'appropriation art' through posting  my own pictures of Peter Greenway's work at the Armory show. I have  inserted texts appropriated from other colleagues and finally created my own form of cognitive, visual subjective expression about the matter.

The reader will evaluate, simply absorb, transcend the information into something visually new and organic in a blog, or maybe  share it on Facebook.

At this point, my final thought goes to Leaonardo da Vinci... Would he approve this visual tech chain evolution if he knew it?

"Leonardo’s Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway" is organized and presented by Park Avenue Armory, the Superintendency for Architectural and Environmental Heritage of Milan and the Comune di Milano/Cultura, Italian Trade Commission, and supported by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.

Portions of the work were first produced by Change Performing Arts in Milan in 2008 as an initiative supported by I SALONI MILANO, in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.

Additional support for the Park Avenue Armory presentation is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, The Robert Lehman Foundation and New York State Council on the Arts, A State Agency.

The inaugural week will continue with the opening of acclaimed designer, director and visual artist Robert Wilson’s "Perchance to Dream", a multimedia installation featuring a series of video portraits  in collaboration with internationally renowned Italian ballet dancer Roberto Bolle, Etoile at La Scala ballet and principal dancer with American Ballet Theater in New York City.

Joelle's Picks:

The Exhibition: "Leonardo’s Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway"  643 Park Avenue New York, NY 10065 (212) 616-3930 Park Avenue Armory

December 3, 2010 – January 6, 2011  Tuesdays – Sundays 11:00am – 8:00pm (Showings are on the hour starting at 12:00pm and last approximately 45 minutes. Last showing of the day is 7:00pm)

The Film Director: Peter Greenaway

The Source :New York Times : Adding Bells ...

The Lecture :Peter Greenaway: "Nine Classic Paintings Revisited"

The Book: "Last Supper” by the art historian Leo Steinberg (Zone Books; 2001)

The high-resolution photography and three-dimensional scanning: Factum Arte

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