"What inspires me? By light. Light is decisive for shapes, for objects, for a total ambience. Light goes and has no dimension, and you can travel very far'. This is how Nanda Vigo used to describe her poetics. Throughout her artistic career, she explored, through each work, the conflict-harmony between light, space and time. Architect, designer, artist, multifaceted figure open to experimentation, she has focused her creative activities on the themes of light matter/non-matter, colour, and the generation of space through its immateriality. Light is the protagonist of her innovative design. As she herself said: 'When I was seven years old, I first understood what beauty was by looking at Giuseppe Terragni's Casa del Fascio. That beauty was for me given by the light, which played with the shapes and even changed the architecture in the course of the day! That is why I decided to design and invent lamps."
The first Swiss retrospective dedicated to the artist
The Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna in Ascona, Switzerland, opens the 2023 season with the first retrospective on Swiss soil dedicated to Nanda Vigo (1936-2020). Alfabeto Cosmogonico, scheduled from 2 April to 25 June 2023, curated by Mara Folini, the museum's director, and art critic Alberto Fiz, in collaboration with the Archivio Nanda Vigo in Milan, analyses the artist's creative path through 40 works documenting the salient phases of her creativity, realised between the end of the 1950s and the 2000s.
Art, Architecture, Design
"Nanda Vigo," recalls Mara Folini, "was an extraordinary artist, a protagonist of the Milanese and European cultural climate of the 1960s, who was able to distinguish herself thanks to her identity language, capable of integrating art, architecture and design with the fundamental component of light in a space-time continuum aimed at a cosmic and absolute future.
The tour, which is divided into thematic areas, opens in the atrium of the museum where Neverended Light, an almost three-metre high sculpture made of neon, steel and glass that radiates light, stands out, and continues with the section dedicated to architecture. For the first time, two projects conceived in the first half of the 1960s are reconstructed, thanks to the collaboration of students from the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio who worked on original drawings: Monument for the Vajont Dead and Cemetery Towers. Video and photographic documents then illustrate some of his most famous projects such as Scarabeo sotto la foglia realised with Gio Ponti or Zero House, the first of his immersive architectures.
Spaces of freedom
"Nanda Vigo's work," explains Alberto Fiz, "represents for the viewer the opportunity of an immersive and totalising experience made explicit by the exhibition project proposed in Ascona, which allows a series of interactions with the works. The artist does not create, dogmas but activates spaces of freedom where he intercepts an imperceptible and imponderable dimension that seems to connect with certain issues of science and mathematics".
Time, Space, Light
"The exhibition allows us to relate to her most famous investigation, the chronotopia, which represents the fusion of time (chronos) with space (topos) through light. To create the Chronotopes, Nanda Vigo uses simple forms: a quadrangular metal structure, within which she inserts sheets of industrial glass that filter light, when it passes through or strikes them, in different ways depending on the time of day (time) and the angle at which they are struck (space)," Folini continues. Four Chronotopes are on display, including the first dating back to 1959, as well as Ambiente Cronotopico (1968), which allows for an immersive experience.
The tour continues with Alfabeto Cosmogonico consisting of trapezoidal structures covered in mirrors, to which the exhibition owes its title. The works, according to their arrangement, reflect their surroundings, which become an integral part of the installation. The perceptive mechanism is made explicit in Venerezia: Venice is a cosmic illusion, a rare film made by Vigo herself that takes on a performative aspect of her work where the different elements of the Cosmogonic Alphabet interact ironically with the architecture of the lagoon city and with the artist's body.
Reflections on space
There is no lack of space dedicated to Light Trees, which propose an innovative idea of reflection on space, where nature and artifice find a new, more evocative dynamic. The Light Trees have as their reference the symbolism of the tree and, as Nanda Vigo wrote, "roots in the earth, branches towards the sky, logical figuration, especially if the branch brings light whose propagation in space gives us the mathematical formulation, the only one that is not relative".
The cosmos and its symbolism
The more than four-metre Parete Cronotopica, created for the occasion, changes the overall perception of the museum, which becomes not only a space to house works of art, but art itself as container and content coincide. "This work, which will remain permanently at the museum in Ascona, enriching its contemporary art collection, was created based on Nanda Vigo's plans for modular structures," Folini concludes. The exhibition then offers the opportunity to immerse oneself in Genesis Light, a work in black crystal and red neon, which entrusts a single object (the crystal circle) with the function of evoking infinite references to the cosmos and its symbolism.
Nanda Vigo and design
In this extensive retrospective, the exhibition explores the artist's profound relationship with design, and for the occasion a living space has been created where her most famous creations can be found, including the bed from the Top collection with mirror slabs, the Mobile Cronotopo, and the Golden Gate, her most famous lamp with a fluorescent light that seems to spring directly from the chrome-plated steel. Other iconic objects include Due Più, where the seat and backrests in Mongolian fur appear almost suspended from the tubular steel structure, and the Stars Fell on Alabama chandelier.
Leaving the rooms dedicated to design, one enters a space where the dynamism of light passes through Deep Space, radiant or directional works composed of a parallelepiped wooden base surmounted by a pyramidal structure in mirrored glass with a blue light inside that recalls the cosmogonic dimension. We reach the end of the itinerary with Light Progressions-Trilogy: Homage to Gio Ponti, Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni, three works in glass and neon dedicated to the main figures of reference in the artist's artistic path and life: the masters Gio Ponti and Lucio Fontana and his love Piero Manzoni.