Exhibition September 13, 2013 – January 4, 2014

Ars amandi

Love in the art of Luca Leonelli and the poetry of Arturo Schwarz

Engraving by Luca Leonelli (2009)

ModenaPalazzoMuseiFriday, September 13 at 17h30
The authors will be present, and a signed copy of an artwork will be given to those present

Biblioteca civica d’arte Luigi Poletti
Palazzo dei Musei
Viale Vittorio Veneto, 5
41124 Modena
Tel: 0039-59-2033372

Opening times during the Festivalfilosofia.it:
September 13–14 at 9h00–23h00
September 9h00–20h00

Opening times from September 16 to January 4:
Monday: 14h30–19h00
Tuesday–Friday: 8h30–13h00 and 14h30–19h00
Saturday: 8.30–13.00

Orchid, from the art edition 'Il fiore più bello'Since the beginning of the '90s, Luca Leonelli and Arturo Schwarz have made four art editions — two in multiple copies and two single-copy works, — fruit of a long artistic collaboration and a magistral touch in editing and controlling the printing process.

Vanitas We can enjoy these fruits at ease, with the loose pages exhibited in separate frames, which turns each of them into a little theatre; this enhances the "aura" of the images and the accompanying text, which both ask us to slow down to take them in — instead of leafing through a bound volume.

Beside the four works the artists made together, which form the heart of the exhibition, there are a further ten books by Luca Leonelli on show that are all dedicated to love, one of the perennial themes of his work.

Love and technique in the art of Luca Leonelli

by Arturo Schwarz

Orchid, from the art edition 'Il fiore più bello'Amongst all the flowers, the orchid seems to reflect best the beauty and complexity of the female sex. In antique China it was connected to the celebration of renewal in nature, of spring. Its beauty is a symbol of perfection and purity. Its etymology (from Greek orchis, testicle) reveals its complex androgynous nature, confirmed by the flower's anatomy that joins and reconciles the female and male elements. We know that androgynity is a divine attribute as it expresses the perfection of the female-male ensemble. A solely male or female divinity has only half of perfection. This explains why all divinities of the most evolved mythologies always have a counterpart of the opposite gender.

—from Arturo Schwarz, Il fiore più bello (2005)

About Life and Death in the Drawings of Luca Leonelli

by Arturo Schwarz

One of the most frequent themes in both sacred and profane iconography is the association of woman with death. As with all archetypical values, both assume an antithetical allegorical power as a symbol. Particularly, in esoteric traditions and myths, the maiden and death often personify the Great Initiator, who brings ecstatic happiness and salvation with the light of knowledge.

Or otherwise, and this is an exception still largely perpetuated by the monotheist religions, woman and death stand for all that is pernicious: they bring pain, perdition, ruin.

From 'On a walk with Spinoza, Breton and TrotskyTo me it seems that in this cycle of drawings, Luca Leonelli has succeeded in representing not so much the conflict between Eros and Thanatos as their complementary nature, and has thus highlighted their positive potencies. We find a classical example of the ambivalence of the Woman-Death pair in the compulsion to regressus ad uterum. The return to the maternal belly signifies in many esoteric systems as well as the alchemist tradition both death and rebirth.

In most antique systems, and foremost the Orphic and Pythagorean systems, death is always surrounded by symbols of resurrection, while the woman appears as the supreme initiator into the mysteries of sexuality and hence of life. It is not by chance that death is intimately connected with orgasm.

In many languages this is called “the little death”. The Latin poet Propertius, describing the “First delights of love” by Gallus, wrote: “I see you die in her arms/ Then after a long pause breath again” (Elegies I-10).

Leonelli overturns the significance of the fundamental Christian iconography, bent on mortifying the flesh and provoking guilt in those that “give in” to the pleasures of the senses. The Dance with Death becomes with our artist an unbridled ballet, the Triumph of Death becomes an exaltation of Life, and the fearful encounter of the living with Death who reminds by-the-by that “I was what you are now, you will be what I am now”, turns into an amorous tussle.

VanitasUltimate and non-negligible detail, the woman involved in these passionate encounters is always corpulent. In the erotic immaginarium there is always a close connection between the pleasures of sex and food. It suffices to think of the feast at the wedding of Emma in Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Or on the double meaning of “eating you out”, where not only in English the verb can stand for cunnilingus.

In the poetry of Baudelaire dedicated to the young giantess, corpulence is linked to the fullness and intensity of the amplexus, as if to sanction the Great Refusal that love can oppose to the inevitable end of existence.

—Arturo Schwarz, from the books Assaults of Love, 1992, and Samsara, 1992, both by Arturo Schwarz and Luca Leonelli and both in the cycle The Vanities.