Part of the exhibition.
(photo credit: ELAD SARIG)
Opening Wednesday night at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is the exhibition “Piranesi/ Shiota: Prisons of the Imagination,” which presents a thrilling juxtaposition of etchings by 18th century Italian artist, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720- 1778), with an installation by contemporary Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota. The exhibition will run through May 6.
“The concept for this exhibition began with Piranesi,” says exhibition curator Emanuela Calò. “Piranesi is considered by many artists and scholars to be one of the most influential artists of all time. His powerful, richly imaginative vision inspired a wide range of writers and poets from Edgar Allan Poe and Victor Hugo to William Blake and Vik Muniz, and I wanted to demonstrate this.”
On show is Piranesi’s series of prints Carceri d’Invenzione, ca.
1761, a masterpiece that perfectly encapsulates his virtuoso skills, combining motifs from classical buildings, set designs, and medieval castles into unique vistas unparalleled by other artists of his time.
The framed series is complemented by the visually powerful installation Stairway, 2012/2016, where Shiota weaves together black, wool thread, creating a three-dimensional etching. The lines and space she constructs are reminiscent of the crosshatching in Piranesi’s prints.
In their works, the artists each raise questions about personal, professional and national identity. Piranesi, a native Venetian, lived in Rome and dreamed of resurrecting the city’s glorious past. Japanese-born Shiota (b.1972) has lived and worked in Berlin for the past two decades, yet her works continue to reference her life in Japan and blur the line between dream and reality.
“Piranesi and Shiota’s works are both concerned with fragments, memories and vestiges of the past.
In both the presence of a supernatural, transcendental realm is palpable,” says Suzanne Landau, director and chief curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
The “prisons” that Piranesi depicts as vast spaces with monumental columns and arches reminiscent of Gothic halls are impossible architectural structures that are not meant to resemble actual prisons. Instead they represent his personal nightmares, mainly social and financial constraints.
Shiota also creates a personal, yet imaginary “prison.” In her weblike installation, she traps various objects that serve as surrogates for her own body.
“Her endless preoccupation with national, familial, female, and artistic identity, her total immersion in her work, and the anxiety accompanying her obsessive and endless creative process simultaneously produce a prison and a route of escape,” says Landau.
The image of a stairway appears numerous times in Piranesi’s series of prints, and a set of seemingly floating steps is the central focus of Shiota’s exhibited installation.
“The use of the stairway is a metaphor for a transition to another sphere – a path leading, perhaps, to the world of dreams or of the subconscious,” says Calò.
“This trajectory simultaneously ascends and descends, connecting between past and future, between life and what lies beyond it. The stairs leading nowhere within the space of Shiota’s installation and the endless stairways in Piranesi’s prints are made of past and future architectural fragments, creating the impression of an endless, Sisyphean process.”