The thread and the infinite: at Palazzo Pitti the creations of Maria Lai – Florence

Maria Lai, Stitched canvas, 1976, collage of fabrics and wool. Lanusei (Nuoro), Maria Lai Archive

Florence – There is a legend that everyone knows in the town of Ulassai, the small town of Nuoro, framed by the Ogliastra mountains. It is the story of a child who, during a furious storm, leaves the cave where she had taken refuge, attracted by a beautiful flying ribbon in the sky, a gesture that allows her to escape a devastating landslide. This extraordinary allusion to the power, sometimes salvific, of art and beauty, had already been transformed into tactile experience by the artist Maria Lai who, in collaboration with the inhabitants of the country of Ulassai, in 1981, had given life to the first relational work made in Italy, titled Binding to the mountain an ambitious operation on the territory inspired by that legend.
The artist had bound all the doors, streets and houses with about 27 kilometers of light blue cloth ribbons. The material operation lasted three days and involved women, children, pastors, elders.
And it is precisely that tape with which Lai enters the scene of international contemporary art – as evidenced by his presence at the Venice Biennale and at Kassel's Documenta – the first element from which to follow The thread and the infinitive shows that until next June 3, in the Andite degli Angiolini of Palazzo Pitti celebrates the Sardinian artist .

"At the center of this exhibition – explains Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries – is the most typical means of his work, that thread that 'links and connects' in a definitely living and often remains free and not yet sewn: among the various mythological references can only remember Penelope who weaves during the day and in the night melts the threads ».

And indeed, those intertwined by Maria Lai are threads that make up geographies, legends, illustrated books.
The exhibition, curated by Elena Pontiggia, celebrates Lai's more than 70 years of artistic research, from the lyrical realism of the 1940s to the informal choices of the late fifties to the early sixties and subsequent conceptual works.

Among the threads dear to this woman, active between Ulassai, Cagliari, Rome, there are those of the loom, the millennial weaving tool, which appears already in a drawing of the forties to leave the place, in the following cards, to the figures of weavers. "I heard a loom beat, and the village did not seem dead anymore" wrote Salvatore Cambosu, Sardinian writer, teacher and his great friend.
Of 1967 is Object-landscape exhibited in the first room of the exhibition: an unmade frame, cluttered with broken and disordered strands, occupying the space, similar to a totem.
Le Tele cucite born from Telai while continuing to evoke the archaic world of textile art in Sardinia, are inserted in the expressive research that works with the canvas, and seem recall the Sacchi by Alberto Burri, the Tele fasciate by Scarpitta, the fabrics by Piero Manzoni.

The artist linked to Ulassai by ties of affection – but also by the tragic experience of the death of his brother, killed at the age of thirty two in an attempted seizure – transforms the simple, everyday object from the purely decorative function into a a poetic instrument that invites us to reflect, to think, to understand.
"This should make art: make us feel more united" Mary repeated.

And then there are the Scriptures always created using the threads, from which, in the late seventies, the Libri characterized by visual fairy tales, were born, as Holding the shadow of 1987, focused on the ability to accept the negative that is in us all. It was since 2004 that Maria Lai did not return to the Uffizi, precisely since she had set up at the Boboli Gardens, the Invito a tavola a large terrace of bread and books in terracotta, and now in show in New York.
Several times he paid homage to this city, for example with his imaginary maps of Leonardo da Vinci or with the work The sea needs figs made in 1986 on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the the flood of November 4, 1966.

Read also:

• Maria Lai. The thread and the infinite

• Maria Lai. Table Invitation

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