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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Contemporary Architecture in Painting

"Contemporary architecture in painting" is a series of seven paintings by SerraGlia in which renaissance figures are transplanted into contemporary contexts, a possible interpretation to the question, "How could a Renaissance artist react to our cities build in the name of economic benefit and rationality?"

[Saint Catherine of Alexandria | image source]

Of course I couldn't help finding the original paintings from which the renaissance figures are culled, to compare the context from 500 years ago to today. In Raphael's Saint Catherine of Alexandria (ca. 1507), Catherine is leaning on a wheel in a landscape with water, trees and a few buildings in the distance. Her gaze is towards a subtle glow in the sky. The wheel, and any metaphorical intention, is removed in SerraGlia's round canvas, in which Catherine looks into the windows of an office building, not towards God above. She appears to long for a gaze that might never be returned.

[Young Woman with Unicorn | image source]

Raphael's Young Woman with Unicorn (ca. 1506) sets the figure between two columns framing a distant landscape. SerraGlia retains the verticality of the columns via the red glass but flattens everything into a facade, which becomes the pictorial landscape. Is the natural landscape itself annialated by the city? Or at least blocked from our gaze?

[Annunciation | image source]

Representations of the Annunciation are a popular subject in the world of art. They are too numerous for me to find the painting SerraGlia used above. Nevertheless, most paintings locate Mary and the angel Gabriel inside, in a domestic setting, or in an inside/outside condition like a colonnade. By moving the setting outside into a barren Modernist plaza, the meaning of the moment is drained, not surprisingly. The setting takes center stage, even though it does not have the color of the two subjects. It points to how the scale of Modernist buildings and their leftover spaces overwhelm the people and events that unfold within them.

Other series by the artist include "anonymous architecture(?)" and "building facade collage." Thanks to SerraGlia for sharing these images.


  1. I believe it's one of Fra Angelico's Annuntiations.


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