17 September 2012

Franco Fortunato's Recovered Cities

"  Looking into each globe, you see a blue city, the model of a different Fedora.  These are the forms the city could have taken if, for one reason or another, it had not become what we see today.  In every age someone, looking at Fedora as it was, imagined a way of making it an ideal city, but while he constructed his minature model, Fedora was already no longer the same as before, and what had been until yesterday a possible future became only a toy in a glass globe."

Situated on a hill above the Tyrrhenian Sea, not in a bottle, the old medieval town of Librizzi lies between Messina and Palermo in northeastern Sicily. Where the four communes of San Piero, Montalbano Helicon, and Librizzi, meet in a point called Quattrofinaiti. Each August, the commune celebrates a festival of macaroni!  My father's ancestors took their name from the commune of Librizzi,  founded circa 1100. 

When I purchased  La Citta Ritrovata (The Recovered City) by Franco Fortunato, I thought that I, too, had recovered a city, an imaginary ancestral home.  The image of a city in a bottle also made me think of the walled cities of Europe in the Middle Ages.  Fortunato, in Golden River (below) uses a palette similar to one often used on antique maps (see map of Parma at bottom).

Fortunato the artist can be recovered, in a way, through his work.  Italo Calvino's book, Invisible Cities, a series of imaginary conversations between the explorer Marco Polo and the emperor Kubla Khan, was an obvious beginning.  Through their dialogue in two languages, alternatives ways of looking at cities emerge.  Invisible Cities has become a sourcebook for architects and artists, and I suspect that Fortunato is one of them. 

 Although Fortunato was born in Rome in 1946, the city-states of the Italian Renaissance, particularly Florence with its red-tiled roofs, have served as his model cities.  He found his way to art after studying the sciences and then literature.    In images in blues and golds he pays homage to painters of the Quattrocento, and in his synthesis of geometrically ordered space with the fantastic there is a hint of an affinity with such recent Italian artists as Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988).

Fortunato likes to work in series: The History of the Park, Recovered Cities, Isolated Towns, The Vagabond, The Poet, and Leaves of Time.  He will take a quixotic idea, such as a city unfurling like a film strip, and come at his subject like the errant knight tilting at the windmill from every direction.    In Leaves Of Time, an entire city is revealed to be nested in a tree, and why not?   The planet we live on continues to be revealed as a small object in an ever expanding universe and our spatial sense is constantly being revised. If we know that we hang off the side of the earth at an angle, thanks to Isaac Newton, who knows what else we may learn in time?   Surrealism is a term often applied to Fortunato's cities, but his lack the forebodings of Giorgio de Chirico's surreal public spaces. 

"Beyond six rivers and three mountain ranges rises Zora, a city that no one, having seen it, can forget. ,,Zora's secret lies in the way your gaze runs over patterns following one another as in a musical score where not a note can be altered or displaced.

‘The ancients built Valdrada on the shores of a lake… Thus the traveler, arriving, sees two cities: one erect above the lake, and the other reflected. Upside down.”

 “..every street follows a planet’s orbit, and the buildings and the places of community life repeat the order of the constellations and the position of the most luminous stars…”

“From one part to the other, the city continues in perspective, multiplying its repertory of images: but instead it has no thickness, it consists only of a few and an obverse, like a sheet of paper, with a figure on either side, which can be neither separated not look at each other.”

All quotations are excerpted from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, translated from the Italian by William Weaver, New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 1974.
To learn more visitwww.francofortunato.com

1. Franco Fortunato - La citta ritrovata (Recovered City), private collection, New York.
2. Franco fortunato = The Golden River, Himmelberger Gallery, San Francisco.
3. Piero Fornasetti - City Of Cards, Massimo Listri, Thames & Hudson.
4. Franco Fortunato - City In The Wind, Arte Lombardi.
5. Franco Fortunato - La Citta Isola (The Isolated City). Franco Fortunato website.
6. Franco Fortunato - Recovered City, Himmelberger Gallery, San Francisco.
7. Franco Fortunato - Recovered City, Arte Lombardi.
8. Franco Fortunato - La Spiaggia (The Beach, Salon at the Municipal Palazzo, Siena.
9. Unidentified artist - Map of Parma,  15th century.


Tamborim Zim said...

I really loved to know this painter from your blog! One of my favourite blogs!

Jane said...

I like Fortunato, too. He is one of the few artists whose work I own. That city in a bottle at the top is mine.

Tamborim Zim said...

Uau! But what a pleasure and a privilege! COngrats Jane, it's beautiful indeed!