The names of god and the color of the universe: the Vincenzo D’Argenio exhibition, between spirituality and science

On the occasion of the art week in Bologna, from 12 to 15 May 2022, Vincent D’Argenio (Benevento, 1982) presents “RICOGNAZIONE”, an exhibition, with a critical text by Silvia Delevatiborn from the collaboration with The Circle of Libya in via Libia, historic association that operates in the fields of hospitality and culture based in via Libia 72/b. Through works that emerged from the union between spirituality and science, D’Argenio elaborates a personal conversation with the multipurpose room of the association, a place of daily passage for migrants and volunteers used mainly for recreation and prayer for guests of the Islamic faith. Inside the room there will be works already completed, but unpublished, together with others, produced for the occasion. To create an enveloping environment of recollection and reflection, olfactory stimuli and a sonorization of Dominic Canino (Cellular).

The press release explains that you were immediately struck by the atmosphere of the association’s multipurpose room. What was the first impression you had on visiting this place? And how did it influence the production of the exhibition?

«“RECONNAISSANCE” is a project that I had been planning to carry out for some time. The discovery of The circle it was completely accidental; after seeing some images of its interiors, I had the idea of ​​visiting the space and trying to ask for a collaboration. During the inspection, I perceived a profound sense of spirituality in the multipurpose room, in my opinion the most fascinating environment due to the presence of carpets and sofas characteristic of the Arab world. It reminded me of two artists that I adore: Rothko (and his namesake Chapel in Houston) and Spalletti (Chapel of Villa Serena in Città Sant’Angelo). Since the project was already highly spiritual and symbolic, I decided to move in this direction.

In space, the wall installation #9CFFCE it is related to the two elements of a diptych. The first, Untitled Aon which I started working in 2018 with the artist Sarah Chancellors, is made up of eighteen strips of raw earth, one of which covered in gold leaf, arranged on an iron pedestal. For the exhibition I completed the diptych with a second work, Untitled b, composed of as many levels of framed carbon paper, which generate an indecipherable and dark work, if it weren’t for a layer of golden paper. While making it, I thought about the Kaʿba and the Black Stone. This work also dialogues with a cross located on the opposite wall produced by a laser level».

Vincenzo D’Argenio, Without title B, carbon paper, gilded paper, glass, frame, cm. 24×22, 2018-22

In the exhibition insert two suggestions: the short story by Arthur C. Clarke The nine billion names of god and the #9CFFCE, the Cosmic Turquoise, the incorrect mean color of the universe. These appear to be two clues capable of arousing possible interpretations of the relationship between the two concepts that inspired the works, spirituality and science. How do they relate to your more personal dimension and act as a leitmotif of the works? Why did you choose to include an error story?

«I grew up with my maternal grandmother, a Friulian raised in the south who had a pragmatic faith often linked to customs learned after her arrival in Sannio, such as trying to discover with a handful of prayers, a plate of water and a few drops of oil olive who had given me the evil eye when I had a headache. Luigia also told me stories of plants and animals, such as the legend of the robin associated with the Crown of Christ. Along with my childhood memories, astronomer Carl Sagan’s musings on the Pale Blue Dotsthe photograph of planet earth taken from a distance beyond the orbit of Neptune, among the most touching I’ve ever read: when a man of science speaks in those terms it doesn’t seem very far from a priest during his homily.

Anyway, #9CFFCE it had already been designed for a call in which I wondered what the color of the universe could be. After some quick research, I discovered its name cosmic milk, but thinking of immensity as a cup of cappuccino didn’t inspire me much. I then read that the first medium (wrong) color of the cosmos had been the magnificent Cosmic Turquoise! What more beautiful mistake?

The nine billion names of god is a short story that introduced me to Aldo Brianzione of the components of Ancient Fires who will perform on the occasion of the Art City White Night (May 14) accompanied by the live set of Dominic Canino. The few pages made me think deeply and I decided to add some copies of the story from series of different publishing houses and editions to the room. My work usually has a strong narrative component so, being “RECOGNITATION” a more symbolic project, I wanted to insert suggestions that could enrich the exhibition by providing the missing element. Having in a sense erected my temporary church (laughs), I liked that visitors could experience an immersive environment and linger with a reading».

How do your works hope to relate not only to an already strongly characterized environment but also to the habits of the people who live there on a daily basis? And what were and will be the difficulties?

«The difficulties have not been few and will not be so even during the opening days since the guests of the The circle. To avoid causing disturbance, visitors to the exhibition will be asked to wear shoe covers or take them off. For my part, every day I will partially disassemble and reassemble the exhibition so as not to cause discomfort. Whenever I can, I try to dialogue with spaces not dedicated to art, even if I don’t deny that a white cube always gives a certain amount of security compared to other places where you are a guest».

The names of god and the color of the universe: the Vincenzo D’Argenio exhibition, between spirituality and science