Critics’ Picks

Ugo Rondinone, the radiant, 2017, bluestone and stainless steel, 12 5/8 x 5 x 2 1/4'.

Ugo Rondinone, the radiant, 2017, bluestone and stainless steel, 12 5/8 x 5 x 2 1/4'.


Ugo Rondinone

Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS)
Triq Joseph J Mangion Ospizio Complex, Bieb il-Pulverista
October 13, 2018–March 31, 2019

Malta’s culture remains significant in the Mediterranean region, and the republic will forever bask in its great artistic legacy. But while the archipelago may be known for its temples that date back to the Neolithic era, the city of Valletta, and Caravaggio’s The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, painted in Malta in 1608, its contemporary art scene has still not yet gained its footing with an international audience. Now, with a lone stone statute, Ugo Rondinone has offered the country not only a fresh but an invigorating sight. He is the first artist to be involved with Malta International Contemporary Art Space, which is dedicated to contemporary art and will open to the public in 2021 in what was once a hospice called Ospizio, overlooking Marsamxett Harbour.

An imposing bluestone sculpture in the center of a garden built in the mid-eighteenth century, the radiant (all works 2018) lives up to its title, as it emanates a forceful simplicity, an urgent timelessness. Five rocks, wind-chiseled and erratically stacked (a recurring element in Rondinone’s art), compose a human figure of considerable size. The material was extracted from a quarry in Crodo, Italy, and the confident preservation of marks where the sculpture was fashioned both reveals the artist’s process and lends an archaic aura. One hundred and seventy cast-iron wishing bells that hang on the surrounding trees act as a foil to the gravity of the monument and reflect the desires of the Maltese children with whom Rondinone worked to create the installation, which, as with the radiant, is dedicated to them. It too lives up to its title: Joy.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.