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Monday, September 4, 2017

"Autobiography of the Mother": Silvia Codignola's exhibition, reviewed by Shara Wasserman


Shara Wasserman, right, with Dianne Bennett, 2013
For this review of an ongoing exhibition at the Museo Carlo Bilotti, RST is pleased to welcome as guest blogger Shara Wasserman. Wasserman is an American art historian and curator of contemporary art.  She received her BA in Art History with honors from Temple University and her MA in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. Following a period at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, first as Hilla von Rebay fellow and later as Editorial Assistant, Wasserman relocated to Rome.  She is on the faculty of Temple University Rome, where she serves as Director of Exhibitions.  

The Museo Carlo Bilotti, an exhibition space in the heart of the Villa Borghese in Rome, is hosting a lovely display of a decade of work by Roman artist Silvia Codignola.  Curated by Lea Mattarella,  the show runs through October 22.

Silvia Codignola, in her Rome studio, 2013
Trained as an architect, Codignola moved to the visual arts early in her career, producing a varied body of work that includes drawing, sculpture, paintings and installations.  Her early architectural training is always present and results in a focus on structure and geometry.  Solid, expressionless figures inhabit empty spaces; dark colors and sharp chiaroscuro keep the spectator’s eye on the surface plane; still life objects and figures firmly positioned in their environment hold our attention, almost as if they comprise a stage set.


Mario Sironi, "Landscape with Figures," 1932


Her artistic preferences move from the Italian Early Renaissance, with artists such as Piero della Francesca and Masaccio, to Mario Sironi, the prominent Italian painter of the 1920s and 1930s, whose spare landscapes presage Codignola’s compositions.






Titled Autobiography of the Mother, the works on exhibition were culled from a decade of the artist’s production – 2006-2016 – and in particular from her almost obsessive focus on mothers and children. Two of her paintings are reproduced below.

By including many versions of the same subject, Codignola guides the spectator viewing this exhibition through a variety of aspects and stages of motherhood: from the powerful armless, headless, anonymous pregnant woman, to the lonely sleeping mother rigidly supporting the head of her child, to the absently nursing mother, to the mother reclining with her child, to the distracted mother inserted in an austere beachscape, to the final images of a small arm reaching out of the darkness towards an old man. 

Both a mother – the show is dedicated to her daughter Miranda -- and a daughter, Silvia Codignola infuses the works with a reflection, a kind of chronology, of mother and child. 

As we walk through the show, we think of Silvia the woman, but we also think of Silvia the artist as the link between life and the strong symbolism, especially in Italian art, that woman represents.  She is the life giver, the universal mater, the bearer of the seed and the symbol of fertility; she is wisdom and intellect and war and protection.  In short, she is Mother.

A long-time fan of Silvia’s art, I am always excited to see new work and the new way that she thinks of her previous work.  This exhibition fulfills both.

Shara Wasserman
Director of Exhibitions

Gallery of Art, Temple University Rome

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