There are many mothers: biological, adoptive, adolescents and adults …There are the ideal mothers, model mothers and godmothers, stepmothers, mothers-for-choice, mothers-by-chance up to the mother-for-god-will. There are the mothers of mothers, mothers of friends, mothers of loves; daughters who act like mothers and mothers who act like daughters. Some people does not want to become mother. There is Mother Nature, Mother Culture and Mother Art. Palazzo Reale in Milan exhibits “The Great Mother” (26 August to 15 November 2015). The exhibition-event was conceived and produced by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi together at the Royal Palace for ExpoinCittà 2015, curated by Massimo Gioni: a monographic and encyclopedic exhibition of “a myth which runs through the history of mankind.”

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

29 rooms, 2.000 square meters of exhibition space, 139 international artists, over 400 works, documents and figurative records from galleries, collections, archives and museums all over the world: this is the motherhood in the art of the twentieth century, from the avant-gardes up to today. It is a universal story of a thousand voices for us cosmopolitans, citizens of the same world, sisters and brothers children of the same Mother Art. I followed the order of 29 rooms as if overtook each time a chapter of an intense educational book.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Fertilization, zygote, embryo, fetus: “Abakan Red I” by Magdalena Abakanowicz is an imposing presence and it opens the way for the miracle of life, often accompanied by spirituality, prayers and “meditation drawings” (Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn). It is the Mother Art praising fertility, to its intimate connection with nature and the earth.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Razor cuts, holes drilled on canvas: the magic of birth is an explosion of “disparate energies” and the miracle of birth is accomplished thanks to the “Spatial Concepts” by Lucio Fontana. It is the art that produces new life. With “Newborn” by Constantin Brancusi I find myself in front of the perfection of form. Only a cut to indicate the small mouth crying – just arrived in the world – or maybe an egg, metaphor for motherhood, or a cannon projectile or the careening of a car, such as the “Son lamp” by Duchamp.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

If the art is the mother, the artist is the obstetrician and the work is her manifestation in the world: here is the new maieutics. But the birth is accompanied by fears, anxieties and dreams. “Freudian Slip” is the Freudian slip by David Hammons. “Votivbild” is a votive image by Meret Oppenheim, an ink and watercolor drawing depicting a frosty landscape dominated from the scene of infanticide made by a woman. Kindred spirit to Man Ray, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso, Oppenheim chooses provocation embracing the “androgyny of the spirit”. Why should all emancipated women have children? Here the artist prays God to protect her from pregnancy.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

 

It’s time to grow, to move our first steps in the modern world at the art side. “Mater-Matter”: the twentieth century opens with the Futurist avant-garde and the relationship with the female becomes an antithetical struggle between good and evil. The theses contained in the “Manifesto of Futurist Woman” and in the following “Futurist Manifesto of Lust” by Valentine de Saint-Point is a response to stereotypical views expressed by Marinetti. First of all is the belief of the mediocrity of a humanity that was perceived as divided into women and men when it had to be considered as consisting of femininity and masculinity, the characteristics that make a complete human being.
Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

It was answered back with “aerodanza (air-dance)”, painting in “aerofuturista (air-futurist)” style of “physical thrill of motherhood”, almost graphic mechanical sculptures, with work and effort because the men were at war and you had to take their place as “The women of the day after tomorrow”, and “Free personality”. Emmy Hennings, Mina Loy, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (“mother of Dadaism”) are the “daughters” of Dada, women who tried their emancipation in the art and which can be considered represented in the portrait of Baroness Elsa dressed as a man made by Man Ray in 1920.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

The only active woman in the Paris movement was instead Suzanne Duchamp, overshadowed by his brother’s success. “Unfortunately, as soon as you start working on the history of female avant-guards – says Massimiliano Gioni – you realize, for example, that many works have been lost or have not been preserved ….”

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

I enter the eighth room: at the center, the ‘”harrow”, a monumental torture machine. I can’t breathe, and although aware that the device is nothing more than a literary reconstruction (based on the Franz Kafka‘s work “In the Penal Colony” and created for the exhibition “The Bachelor Machines” by Harald Szeemann, whom Massimiliano Gioni has devoted the whole room), I do not feel safe.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

“The Big Glass”, the famous Duchamp’s “window”, represents various sexual relationships gone shattered: the “Bride Stripped Bare by her bachelors” is shown at the top, where a vaporous cloud exhales, while the nine male figures are located at the bottom represented by mannequins and images of ordinary professions. After the woman-machine, the woman-soldier, the woman voting, comes the woman-muse, priestess, witch and spirit guide. Surrealism comes along with its worship of the female figure.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

In the first issue of «La Révolution Surréaliste», André Breton published a particular photomontage: the portraits of the movement’s leaders (many of which made by Man Ray) were surrounding Germaine Berton’s mug shot, anarchist, assassin of an right extremist and suicidal. The woman painted by Surrealism is creative, strong and independent; she is Michelet’s witch, Mary Wigman’s star of obsessive dance; she is the anti-heroine Violette Nozières, the “new woman”; she is vacuous, masochistic but at the same time mystical, with a thousand faces and the “100 heads” as the protagonist of the novel by Ernst; she is the femme fatale, muse, “nature animated by Eros.” I listen closely the chorus of women’s voices made of references between the works themselves.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

They look and study each other: a tiny sized Dorothea Tanning held by the hair by Max Ernst (work by Lee Miller) tries to attract the attention of “Rapture”, the sunflower symbol of ecstasy that Tanning realized during the her stay in Arizona together with the famous artist. I stand in front of a lush forest with in the center a doe wound at the heart and back: it has the face of the woman-pride of our Mother Art. Here the silence is the perfect melody. As I was catapulted into the film without dialogue by Celia Rowlson-Hall (“Ma”), I am surrounded by the captivating echoes of “Amazing Grace” sung by the activist Mahalia Jackson. In the darkness of the immense room I understand I’m living the dreams of others. A 280-used-strollers army surrounds me (Nari Ward). The wonderful anthemic Grace turns into ethic and aesthetic violence : why have these strollers been abandoned?Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Before reaching the rebirth of Venus, a reliquary greets me. The small room is protecting the symbols of motherhood that has faced wars and tragedies of history.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

And in succession my eyes can see the self-portrait of a pregnant Diane Arbus, famous for her photos immortalizing people on the margins of society; the symbol of the Association of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo with a lot of silent cries “We want our children”; a still image of “Two Women (La ciociara)” / “Rape” / “Rape of Italy” by De Sica and one from “Mamma Roma” by Pasolini; the grief of a mother hugging her dead son in the engraving of Käthe Kollwitz; the anxious gaze of the “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

The cycle of life is naturally beautiful as unstoppably cruel. We can only hope, learn to live and – if we want- to believe. The art room often has no more walls. I look at the ceiling, and in a moment I am catapulted into a baroque fresco in motion. No cherub, only a mother nursing her son in the nature of a Milanese garden. Terrestrial and human body come together in an ethical panaestethic universe: “Holy, Son, and the Milanese Garden” is the only work of land art on display created especially for the exhibition by Piplotti Rist.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

How is Art reproduced? Sherrie Levine challenges the definition of originality, denies’ “paternal authority” of the work, takes possession of the classics by the masters. “Fountain (Madonna)” is a religious icon, “Body Mask” is the mask-body worn by men during the initiation rites (new criticism of the relationship between modern and primitive art), ” Tight Coffin ” is the “coffin of the dead of art”. The “art-life” by Lee Lozano was born to abolish the borders. From the refusal to talk about art to that to create commercial objects, his “Untitled” remains the most expressive oil on canvas of the entire exhibition.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

How to represent motherhood in the Art? In Maria Lassnig an alien figure is giving birth (or pretending to give birth) in her “Illusion of Failed motherhood”; in Alina Szapocznikow in a “headless torso” is embedded in a polyurethane black magma like a reverse childbirth, as if she could never break free from the horror of the Holocaust and of the disease. The “Mother” of Italian artist most renown by the media worldwide, Maurizio Cattelan, is represented by a photograph-document of a performance executed during the Venice Biennale in 1999. “Mother” is the link with the world and nature, as evidenced by the fakir’s hands in prayer almost completely covered with earth. The “Mother” of Katharina Fritsch is a fluorescent yellow Madonna, iconographically she reminds the enlarged version of a souvenir from Lourdes: 170 x 43.5 x 35 cm of polyester and painting are needed by the artist to criticize the beliefs of projected on works of art and religious signs. And I, provocatively, answer the critic by turning to Art a devout sign of the cross.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

I walk past self-portraits, memories of feminisms and nests.
I walk past family photos repeated every year with the same subjects, like the wall of Nicholas Nixon dedicated to the Brown sisters, modern Madonnas and child, devoid of affection but realistic in their alienation and fear of motherhood; as in the painting by Alice Neel, I am involved by brotherhood and love of which the art of Cathy Wilkes is imbued, lived as a “process of abandonment”
.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

I stop in front of the special effect of the work by Keith Edmier. A mother-robot in pink resin and silicone watching her pregnant belly in which appears his son in his embryo stage: the iconography of the Pietà in a Chanel candy-colored outfit and in a surreal dimension of a post-human reality as Hollywood. In reality, however, I walk “past” nothing, everything stands still, image and reflection of Art Mother to which we all look alike. And I find myself in a light room where even the star of Pop Art, Andy Warhol, becomes a fragile man-child who films his mother, Julia Warhola, engaged in daily activities, cooking or sleeping.
 It is the last, the twenty-ninth room, a room of my own.

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

Eloisa Reverie Vezzosi, La Grande Madre, Fondazione Trussardi

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Credits:
Special thanks: Trussardi
Photo: Viviana Bonafede 

AMOlinks:
fondazione trussardi.com
fondazionetrussardi/grandemadre
lagrandemadre.org
palazzoreale.it
i-d.vice/ilpapàdellagrandemadre
larafacco.com