Ange Leccia

Villa Medicis

An artist of Corsican descent, Ange Leccia is perhaps best known for creating works in which identical objects, including cars, airplanes, motorcycles, projectors, and ships, are placed directly in front of each other in a kind of tête-à-tête. These at times colossally proportioned sculptures invoke many facets of transportation and communication. In his recent exhibition in Rome, however, Leccia presented a very different kind of “arrangement,” as he calls his pieces—one that examined such themes as the essence of light, art history, and memory, as well as architecture inflected by transitions between interior and exterior spaces.

From 1981 to 1983, while he was a boarder at the Villa Medicis as a recipient of a fellowship from the Académie de France à Rome, Leccia shot a video in the stunning Renaissance interior and gardens. The footage included images of the statues—facsimiles of antique sculptures once owned by the Medici family—that dot the gardens. For his recent show Leccia reproduced part of this earlier material, re-filming it with a Super-8 camera and then transferring the footage to video, thus restoring depth and grain to colors that had eroded with time. This process suggested a distancing from the materials, a sort of “cooling” of the image.

The filmed images, in sequences that lasted for two to three minutes before beginning again, were projected directly onto the walls of the first and second floors of the villa. The camera seemed to caress each statue as it slowly approached and focused in on a single detail, enlarging and abstracting a mouth, for example; the effect was that of entering into the very grain of the image, which came to resemble a kind of skin. Each sequence became progressively more luminous, as though through some internal combustion, then appeared to implode as it suddenly darkened before being repeated. The arrangement of the sequences also evoked breathing, as noted by Laura Cherubini in her text for the exhibition’s catalogue, through a slow, natural rhythm that contrasted dramatically with the increasingly breathless pace of contemporary existence. The viewer seemed to share in the artist’s memories and experiences, as well as the historical memory suggested by the classical statues and the Renaissance gardens.

The walls of the villa seemed to dissolve in the light to the point that boundaries between interior and exterior were blurred. Significantly, the last portion of the exhibition was a long, dark corridor leading to a wall in which two windows let in the sunlight. Thus, the path through the exhibition resembled a long tunnel that one crossed by traveling from the exterior to the interior, only to return to the gardens by way of the luminous interior sequence.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.