“CAROLE ROBB: Re-Imagining the Antique,” through November 3, 2015 at the SACI Gallery (reviewed by Dr. Edina Eszenyi)

Carole Robb, "To Whom it May Concern," watercolor on paper, 5.4m x 1.5m, 2015

Carole Robb, “To Whom it May Concern,” watercolor on paper, 5.4m x 1.5m, 2015

January 2016 update: Read an interview with Carole Robb in Studio International.


Through November 3, 2015

On Tuesday, the exhibition “Re-Imagining the Antique” of watercolors by Carole Robb opened in the SACI Gallery and runs through November 3, 2015. Images from the reception can be viewed below. Hungarian art historian, Dr. Edina Eszenyi writes about Carole and her work:

Carole Robb (http://www.carolerobb.com/) lives in the US and works internationally with a decades-long attachment to Italy. Born and studied in Scotland, her works are held by major museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, etc.) and private collections while her awards include the British Prix de Rome, a Fulbright Award, a British Arts Council Major Award and many others. In her 7th year as Artistic Director of the Rome Art Program (www.romeartprogram.org), she is a Member of the National Academy in New York. Italy’s embrace has been formative for her vision where invention, observation, and memory all play a part.

The artist’s exhibition, Re-Imagining the Antique, at SACI’s Palazzo dei Cartelloni in Florence (October 9-November 9, 2015) forms an intercontinental bridge. It explores the transfiguration of the work of art during the creative process by challenging Robb’s own oil paintings from a recent New York show (http://www.denisebibrofineart.com/exhibitions/1585) with their watercolor originals & studies. These watercolors (one of which is huge at 20 ft. X 5 ft) were made in New York, London, and Rome in 2014-2015, and the show argues that they have become separate entities.

The show reflects upon the instinctive power of human relations through the iconic affair of Helen of Troy and Paris. Their passionate collision triggered an epic war, demolished cities, lives, rationality and history, as a vital force that changes continually while in itself, it remains unchanged. The mythic love affair was rediscovered by the artist during one of her recurrent stays in the British School at Rome, and she set the scene in Rome after reading fictitious letters of the swirling couple in Ovid’s Heroides. The images, therefore, have unusually enough been inspired by texts.

The resulting works are technically controversial. The show focuses on the activity of painting a subject and on paint as matter. Watercolor, however, is an unlikely means of monumental art and bears, as such, unusual relevance to the unexpected nature of relating. The medium demands swiftness of execution, as quick as relationships, jumping into existence in a moment and fading out in the heat of another.

Space opens up to break chronology in the monumental compositions. The episodes are kept in the story not by time but by pictorial frames, reshuffling the puzzle and calling the viewer to assemble them in a different way. Every generation rediscovers passion but it’s never gone away. Time breaks within the frames as it breaks within relationships, loses its relevance within their matrix as art and relationships become equally timeless.

Carole Robb, "Hades Express" Watercolor on handmade paper, 30" x 44" / 76.2cm x 111.76 cm, 2015The featured work of the exhibition, The Hades Express, recalls how relationships conquer time when they’re transformed, instead of dissolving. Helen and Paris share a last embrace without shame, at the iconic site of the train station, a structure that judges human relationships by trial with distance, and which still remains a key site for human communities.

The exhibition invites us on a journey, externally to Italy and internally to wonder whether relating is unique or singular. 27 centuries after the Trojan War there is still an immediate emotional connection to the main characters as love remains the base connection of humanity. While love can be a noble experience, the artist suggests that theirs is not a noble narrative, but a passion born of desire. Can relationships bear frames or are we in their control? The exhibition asks us to acknowledge how inevitably we relate and equally inevitably, bear the consequences.

Dr. Edina Eszenyi is an art historian born in Hungary, with a Ph.D University of Kent, England, (2014). She lives in Rome, Italy.

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SACI Gallery
Palazzo dei Cartelloni
Via Sant’Antonino, 11, Florence – ITALY
T 055 289 948

Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 7pm
Saturday & Sunday 1pm-7pm

Admission is free
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About SACI

SACI is a US non-profit College of Art and Design in Florence, Italy, for undergraduate and graduate students seeking accredited instruction in studio art, design, conservation, art history, and Italian language and culture. Founded in 1975, SACI offers the following programs: Academic Semester/Year Abroad, Summer Studies, Venice Summer Program, Post-Bac in Conservation, MFA in Studio Art, MA in Art History.

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