The Ica Foundation in Milan hosts Michael's first exhibition Stipe, multifaceted artist and leader of R.E.M., now busy with hisfirst solo album, out in 2024. I Have Lost And I Have Been Lost But For Now I'm Flying High is the title of the exhibition, a rather unique art exhibition.
irst, because the spaces of the Ica Foundation are far from museum spaces understood in the classic sense. They are found in the courtyard of a small industrial company from the early 1900s in a neighborhood of the city that is transforming, the daughter of an era that no longer exists.
And the Foundation was born from the reuse of these places, inside a building in which everything recalls a time in which those places had now abandoned functions and the elegant stairs almost seem to clash with the delabré rooms in which the works are arranged.
Second, because Michael Stipe tells his story through his sculptural, poetic, ceramic and photographic works in an installation that is as unexpected as it is closely connected to his music.
Monty Got A Raw Deal, a song from Authomatic For The People, one of R.E.M.'s best-known records, seems to resonate while walking in the first room, a expanses of heads made of plaster and dotted with three totemsmade with the molds of colored plastic seats.
The yellow neon light and the colors of the heads, resting on the floor in different ways, seem to mark the rhythm of that song, capable of speaking to everyone and offering small unexpected surprises.
Like those totems, in fact, and a tribute to Marisa Merz to be discovered carefully in the room.
Pop is for everyone, as Michael Stipe said in an interview with the curator Alberto Salvadori, reported in the exhibition booklet: «Everyone can get in touch with it. If a person arrives who has no idea of what contemporary art is, of who I am, (...) they can still look at the works and receive - I hope - something that is human, creative, inspiring; something that reflects goodness and resonates on different levels."
Then, you reach the first floor, to cross the small corridor, open on all sides onto small rooms, perhaps the former offices of the building, used for works. Sculptures and installations (including interactive) lead to poetry. Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann (1927) is at the center of Stipe's work.
Two works quote her directly, Desiderata2027 and Desiderata Teleprompte, but the entire exhibition is pervaded by those verses.
In Italy they are little known, but in the United States they are linked to two particular moments. The 60s, when it was rediscovered for the first time and proposed by the hippie movements, and then came back into vogue in the 90s in a completely different key, that of the motivational posters of some large companies.
«This poem meant a lot to me. I can be quite sentimental», declares Stipe, who wanted to bring it into the 21st century with new freshness for its ability to lead in a historical moment in which Religions, political parties and specific doctrines are not very successful.
We ourselves are the engine of change and Desiderata can be an ideal guide. So in the exhibition we find it deconstructed and re-proposed in various forms that accompany us up to the largest room.
luminated by large windows overlooking the courtyard, the room hosts two tables. On the first, a series of ceramics dedicated to important figures from the world of music and culture, on the other a series of book covers continue the list of characters.
Masters? Friends? Perhaps. Meanwhile, three photos printed in large format are ready to show the way to the last room, a corridor of photographs.
The portraits have long been the subject of study by Stipe who, with his camera, has depicted characters from the world of entertainment (including a wonderful Tilda Swinton). But they are the ones watching whoever is walking in the room. Indeed, even more precisely, it is Stipe who looks, through their eyes.
I Have Lost And I Have Been Lost But For Now I'm Flying High is a huge self-portrait by Michael Stipe.
Useful information: Michael Stipe, I Have Lost And I Have Been Lost But For Now I'm Flying High, Fondazione Ica https://www.icamilano.it/ , via Orobia 26, Milan, open from Thursday to Saturday from 12pm to 7pm.