Italian Scene Marninart Galleries Open Spaces in Northwest D.C. by Jen DeGregorio
In the wake of globalization, which some argue erodes national cultural identity, art hounds at least no longer have to jump on a plane to get a taste of a nation’s artistic culture. Especially in a multicultural city such as Washington, D.C., one can simply choose a country and walk a few blocks to study its history, paintings and sculptures.
Those curious about Italy now have two more local spots to visit. The Capricorno and Marninart galleries have recently opened spaces in Northwest D.C., as counterparts to their original homes in Capri and Milan, Italy. Both galleries have also opened the doors to a new wave in Italian art.
Marninart Gallery Antonella Manganelli, owner and director of Marninart, began her first business venture with her husband in Milan as an antiquarian book dealer. The couple recently opened a gallery this past June in Milan, and Manganelli decided that with its strong international community, Washington would be a perfect location for a new art space that would expose Italian artists to U.S. audiences. "The residents of D.C. that love the contemporary art know the Italian artists," Manganelli said. "They understand the originality of the work and the deep historical and cultural roots that characterize them."
Although Marninart’s D.C. gallery has displayed mostly Italian artwork since it opened—such as the innovative photography of Bianca Sforni, featured in Marninart’s exhibit last month—the Manganellis said they concern themselves more with offering quality artwork to the public, regardless of its origin.
Marninart’s latest exhibit does not stray far from the couple’s roots in the antiquarian book-dealing business. Rare illustrated art books and works on paper by Marc Chagall will be on display and for sale through January.
Most people know Chagall by his surrealist oil paintings, such as "I and the Village." However, Marninart offers an opportunity to see the artist’s experiments in a different genre: printing. The books selected for the exhibit are rare editions from France, where Russian expatriate Chagall spent most of his artistic career. In early 20th-century France, adult "fairytales" and moral storybooks—many of which were written as early as the 16th century—became fashionable possessions for the upper class. Editors and printers cashed in on the fad by commissioning artists to create original prints and lithographs for the books and then selling a set number of editions for collectors and connoisseurs. Editors such as André Sauret and master printer Fernand Mourlot became famous for the practice, especially for employing outstanding artists such as Chagall.
The works in Marninart’s exhibit are illustrations of scenes from fables by famed 17th-century French author Jean de la Fontaine. In his fables, Fontaine used animals to personify human vices, such as vanity, stupidity and aggression. Chagall, who was known by many as a moral and religious man, illustrated the fables with gouaches during his second move to Paris in 1923.
Chagall’s depictions bring Fontaine’s lessons to life. His drawings of the animal characters show exaggerated facial expressions, and some even contain a gothic element, with the grotesqueness highlighting the unattractiveness of the characters’ behaviors. Yet the soft colors in which Chagall often drapes his drawings also give the scenes a strange childlike quality. If viewers know the history of Fontaine’s fables, then they will assume that Chagall’s works are for adults. Yet Chagall’s imagination—evident in all of his paintings—can suit a person of any age.
The full books on display are rare editions signed and numbered by Chagall himself. One of the highlights of the exhibit is a book titled "De Mauvais Sujets," which contains 10 original color etchings. The works on paper include a collection of lithographs and etchings, many of which are also signed. "Marc Chagall: Rare Illustrated Art Books and Works on Paper" runs through Jan. 20 at Marninart Gallery, 406 7th St., NW, Third Floor. For more information, please call (202) 347-3327 or visit www.marninart.net.
Man of Contradictions
By Deanna Murshed There is an ineffable grace about Italian artist Giuseppe Maraniello’s work. Perhaps it is the way he repeatedly combines disparate elements into unified pieces of art. Everything about each piece seems to be a union of opposites: materials, colors, temperatures and even subject matter. However, the beauty and strength of Maraniello’s work is that this marriage never appears forced, but somehow seems a natural cohabitation.
Marninart Gallery is host of Maraniello’s first solo exhibit in the United States, and fellow Italian and curator Antonella Manganelli has chosen to introduce a small, but meaningful segment of Maraniello’s work from the late 1970s to today. The choice to present both Maraniello’s paintings and sculpture in this particular exhibit is itself inspired by the apparent distance between the two disciplines.
In one of the featured paintings, Maraniello seems to be toying with the concept of value: He employs media on both sides of the spectrum, from precious to poor materials. Warm woods, resins and waxes are played against cold metals and a white gold leaf.
In another sculptural piece, the devil sits reclined on the apex of a mechanism that suspends an amphora. Maraniello seems fascinated with these figures. The amphora and devil are recurring themes in many of his creations—perhaps for the extreme forces that each represents. Other subjects that reappear in his works are the “man beast,” the hermaphrodite “male-female,” and the ambiguous leaping figure shown making a giant jump from one plane to another.
Perfect artistic equilibrium seems to be what Maraniello is after, and his compositions reflect this experimentation in balance. Many of his three-dimensional arrangements are held together by chords, lines, beams and pulleys as if to create the exact suspension of weight and tension among all the participating elements.
Maraniello is masterful at proposing an art that mirrors the silent searching of the soul. According to the Marninart Gallery, his works wonderfully ride on the “thin line of demarcation between appearance and truth, between the concrete physicality of the art and the most impalpable spirituality.”
“Giuseppe Maraniello: Opposites Attract” runs through Sept. 4 at the Marninart Gallery, 406 7th St., NW, Third Floor. For more information, please call (202) 347-3327 or visit www.marninart.net.
Artists Chiriboga, Weinstein Follow Different Routes in Reflective Exhibit by Christine Cubé Artists Lucia Chiriboga and Joyce Ellen Weinstein take very different avenues in their interpretation of “From the Depths of Memory,” the new exhibit at the Marninart Gallery.
Chiriboga, a native of Quito, Ecuador, produced pieces that examine the struggles of the indigenous people and peasants who populated a large piece of real estate in Ecuador called Tenguel. The land passed through dispossession and terrestrial divide before becoming partitioned into towns and hundreds of small parcels of land. The story of Tenguel is similar to the early plight of the indigenous American Indians who were forced from their lands and homes.
Chiriboga’s work takes on a decidedly heartrending feel as viewers are faced with the symbols of the Ecuadorian people—their strong faces, the oversize images of land documents and official municipal papers, and the eventual town grid and blueprint of what was once Tenguel. It’s a photographic essay that will take your breath away and make you wish you could turn back the clock.
The prints in Chiriboga’s repertoire are similar to one another, from their size and the repeated images of native Ecuadorians to the color of the photographs and the burned edges of each frame.
The other half of the exhibition features the artwork of Weinstein, a Jewish American artist from New York. Weinstein takes exhibit-goers on her private journey to Israel and Eastern Europe, where she collected a host of photographic images and physical pieces from her travels to create layers of art that can only be described as historical reality, distortion of reality and collective memory.
Her work resembles a scrapbook with multiple layers of media adhered to the same “canvas,” which includes cut-up pieces of photographs, branches or other types of wood, rope, small pieces of paper and metal. Her canvas, which comes in the form of a large, flat piece of plywood or handmade paper, is also natural and very unconventional. Most of these pieces feature a barely legible penmanship that guides visitors to different places such as Lithuania, Jerusalem and Russia.
Weinstein’s interpretation of “From the Depths of Memory” takes on a more abstract feel than Chiriboga’s. Visitors know what they’re looking at only by considering the whole of her artwork. For instance, in a depiction of the Kovno Ghetto, Weinstein includes small photographic images, an empty photo slide in the center and watercolor images of people’s faces scattered throughout, all flanked by an abstract “forest” with trees and real wood sticks on each side. Another interesting piece, “Reflections of War” is an art book with 14 linoleum cuts and two collages. The cover of the book is made of wood and the front features wrought-iron scrollwork with broken mirror pieces screwed to the top of the book between metal bars.
Weinstein’s work can almost be considered a “living history,” where she strives to achieve acceptance and understanding for her own past history and that of her Jewish heritage.
Both artists’ creations are available for sale at the Marninart Gallery, with prices ranging from $2,000 to $4,000.
“From the Depths of Memory,” which is being co-sponsored by the Ecuadorian Embassy, runs through Nov. 6 at the Marninart Gallery, 406th 7th St., NW, which is also home to several other small art galleries. Marninart Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday. For more information, please call (202) 347 3327 or visit www.marninart.net.