Thursday evening was magical. In the company of friends old and new, I was immersed in a stunning new contemporary art exhibit set inside the walls of an historic villa.  The vernissage for the exchange show Latitude 34-40 was a huge success thanks to the tireless efforts of Renato and Cynthia Penna, founders of the non-profit Cultural Association ART 1307.

A meeting of two cultures as Cynthia explains, “This melting pot: this tangle, this mixture of cultures, races and experiences which characterize the very life of the two cities…”

An idea born, an idea brought to life by ART 1307. This exhibit, the second of two acts transports five Los Angeles artists to Naples to share their passion, their work, their talent. Their counterparts, seven Italian artists made the journey to Los Angeles’ LA Artcore in June of this year.

Arriving at the 18th century Villa di Donato along a candlelit path, I knew it was going to be a great exhibit. Tucked away in the San Carlo Arena district of Naples, just below Capodimonte and just above the Real Albergo dei Poveri (Bourbon Hospice for the Poor) on Piazza Carlo III, this historic hunting lodge provided the perfect backdrop, the perfect contrast for this contemporary art exhibit.

After a quick peek around I found Cynthia and introductions to the artists were made. Each beamed with excitement behind eyes tired with jet lag and the work it must have taken to set up the exhibit. Each genuinely excited to show their art to a new audience and bemused by the sounds of  the many Italian conversations going on around them.  But be them strangers in a strange land, they received a warm and gracious welcome from their new Neapolitan patrons.

The artists were presented to the crowd by Cynthia Penna and the US Consul General Donald L. Moore. Cynthia opened the evening with a short speech in which she shared some of the history of the exchange with LA Artcore and thanked the Province of Naples and the Campania Region for their moral patronage. She also expressed her gratitude to the US Government, the US Embassy in Rome and the US Consulate in Naples for their continued support and for sponsoring the artists catalogue. This was followed by a short speech by the Consul General who thanked the owners of the Villa for opening up their home to the arts and talked about the ongoing collaboration between the Consulate and ART 1307 over the last 3 years. Then, art historian Marco Di Mauro led the group through each of the artists’ exhibition rooms.

US Consul General Donald L. Moore and Cynthia Penna

After the formalities, I made the rounds with my “date” for the evening Penny Ewles-Bergeron, an English artist living here in Naples. Our first stop was to see the work of Mark Steven Greenfield. At once serious but with a wicked sense of humor, Mark brings his personal experiences to his art. Compelling us to examine age-old stereotypes, through his work Mark explores “the psychological effect associated with African-American stereotypes characterized by blackface minstrels.”

The application of an eye chart to late 18th century/early 19th century Vaudeville photographs keeps the viewer from turning away from the image.

We next met Richard Aber , a quiet and contemplative man who creates “sculptures and installations which ideally possess a force and energy capable of expanding into space…”

Among his works was the rust colored “Grid Warp” made from unstretched canvases that extended nearly the entire length of the back wall.  Richard said he came to this technique “after I made some oil paintings of these grids on paper that physically warped, that I began to see the potential for unstretched canvases and warping the works on the wall.” I was immediately struck by the color, which reminded me of mottled copper, the movement of the piece, and its textural quality.

 

Born and raised in Israel the child of Jewish immigrants who escaped the Holocaust, Yoella Razili brings a more grounded and minimalist approach to her work.

Yoella works with industrial materials, exploring the qualities and characters of each material and how they relate to and react with one another. Yoella says “It is not the illusion that I am seeking for, it is the real stuff, reality by itself.”  Her blocks of complimentary and contrasting colors, materials and textures create a harmonious whole.

Somehow or another over the course of the evening I kept missing Carlo Marcucci and I’m so disappointed I didn’t get a chance to chat with him because his work is fascinating. Carlo explores the effects of industrialism especially as it concerns the food industry. “His series “Wheatfields” and its related series “Wheatboxes” are a series of works featuring wall-mounted sculptures made of Italian and Japanese rice and wheat spaghetti. These minimalist compositions are abstract interpretations of food containers and the disproportionate role they have in modern processed food distribution. In a metaphorical sense, the box containing the spaghetti is reborn as a box constructed of spaghetti.”

Our last stop was to Ann Gooding’s room, who unfortunately could not make the event, but her works were very well received just the same. Ann combines sculpting and painting techniques, layering paint on wood boards and carving it away to create fascinating and engaging pieces.

Latitude 34-40 continues through November 30th but is by appointment only (081/660216). It is definitely worth a trip to see the works of these great artists and the historic Villa di Donato they are set in.