Title: Il Pendio
Curated by: Bruno Corà, Marco De Gemmis and Michele Iodice
Location: Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples [Italy]
Date: 4 December 2004 – 9 January 2005
On 4 December 2004, ‘Il Pendio’ opened in the Sala della Meridiana of the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. The exhibition of work by Bizhan Bassiri was promoted by Incontri Internazionali d’Arte in collaboration with the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Naples and Caserta. Curated by Bruno Corà, Marco De Gemmis and Michele Iodice, the exhibition features a large series of metal, lava stone and graphite sculptures entitled Erme. There are in fact 120 sculptures, a number achieved after two important exhibitions held by the artist –one in Sarajevo, ‘Eventi Tellurici’ (16 September-6 October 2002), and the other in Istanbul, ‘Sorgente’ (10-29 April 2004).
The blocks of lava stone used for the heads of the Erme were collected by Bassiri on the slopes of Mt Vesuvius. With this exhibition in Naples after those in Sarajevo and Istanbul, like a circle closing, the Erme have returned to their original location, precisely in the seat of Incontri Internazionali d’Arte, which published Pensiero Magmatico e scrittura animale in 1985.
The 120 Erme represent the heart of the exhibition, a metaphor of an army heralding the future. They alternate, however, with 60 lecterns holding compositions by Bassiri written in Italian and Persian and 60 wood poles coated in graphite. In this way, the artist brings together his plastic creations with poetic writing and music.
“The alternating, tightly-packed line-up, conceived as an “army” of forms adapted from the classic herm, produces a rhythmic, saturated space, rendered even more impressive by the darkness of the lava stones and metals of the bases, which Bassiri has treated with graphite. Each Erme is designed with an inverted pyramid-shaped trunk, while the plane on which the phantasmagorical figures rest their “heads” is on an incline on which the improbable, anonymous faces loom, glistening darkly.
Created with minimal intervention by Bassiri from natural blocks of cooled lava taken directly from the slopes of Mt Vesuvius, the Erme are a gallery-army of melancholic, disquieting figures and a striking manifestation of the chaotic, irrepressible energy surging from the bowels of the planet, providing a dramatic presence to its hidden material life. In fact, these blasted, lumpen physiognomies come from a pit that is the very “sorgente” (source) of the energy that Bassiri has “controlled” artistically and transmuted imaginatively for so many years. The grotesque procession spontaneously brings to mind images of other line-ups associated with the tragic past and present of war. More precisely, however, it recalls sculptures from ancient China, Persia or Egypt that have become symbols of the mastery of artists of the past in memorializing the grandeur and thirst for power of emperors, sovereigns and pharaohs.” (Bruno Corà)