Nicola Verlato’s exhibition "Hostia" opens at the Museo d’Arte Contempoanea in Lissone, Italy on May 10 and runs through June 22. The museum exhibition serves as a memorial to the recently murdered poet Pasolini and includes Verlato’s new work in the areas of painting, drawing, sculpture, and music.
I had the good fortune to visit Nicola in his downtown Los Angeles studio earlier in March as he was preparing for this exhibition. It was such a treat to experience first-hand his process and to get to know the intensity that drives his fast paced precision work.
The timing was really lucky. I was on my way back to New York having just wrapped up the five day Representational Art Conference and was coming straight from a quick visit to the Getty Villa with Odd Nerdrum. I thought I might be feeling pretty saturated but my visit to Nicola was like a fat syringe of adrenalin injected into my heart.
Nicola’s tour of his studio and exhibition preparations was simply mind blowing. I had seen his work in person before and many pieces online, but I really wasn’t prepared for how awesome this would be and how well connected the work in its various disciplines tied into a singular theme and intent. The presentation that he gave of how his ideas developed into these art objects showed extreme organization, clarity, and speed. I truly wished I had a gopro camera on my head...
At one end of Nicola’s studio stood a painting in grisaille that ran the entire height and width of his largest studio wall. Until then, I had never seen a contemporary artist attempt to tackle such a complex multi-figure composition before. All the perspectives and proportions were right on and were depicted with a system of curvilinear hatch marks that inflated volumes of forms and muscles. I started to wonder if Nicola had been channeling old Michelangelo himself.
Nicola explains that the painting is a “seed for the entire exhibition” and “it is a sort of altar piece in which the descent of Pasolini’s body through Hell on Earth towards his childhood is depicted. Pasolini as a child sits on his mom’s lap writing his first verses, flanked by Petrarch and Ezra Pound.” In this composition, Nicola ties Pasolini’s death to the moment he began building his own immortality by writing poetry at the age of 7, the age associated with our first consciousness of death.
The presence of Ezra Pound in the composition is related to a famous interview that Pasolini conducted with the aging American poet in Venice. During this meeting Pasolini read Pound’s work “Pisan Cantos.” For the exhibition Verlato has composed a musical piece with extracts from “Pisan Cantos” arranged into the score. An instrumental ensemble and chorus will perform the music during the opening and a recording of this will be played during subsequent exhibition hours.
While I was still taking in the resonance and symbolism of the altar painting, Nicola directed my sight toward a table where, like his hero Michelangelo, he was also creating sculpture and architecture. Two clay portrait busts of Pasolini and Ezra Pound flanked a sculpted architectural model for a small memorial temple to be constructed at the site of Pasolini’s murder. He explained that this memorial and project was not only to draw attention to the death and struggle of one man, but to bring light to the struggles and oppression experienced by many creative peoples across the globe.
Summarizing the tour, Nicola shared the outline for completing the works I saw in progress in the studio. He also mentioned that several works would be created on site at the museum which he would be traveling to in about a month from my visit. These new works included an enormous frieze drawing that recalls the spirit of Pasolini’s controversial film “Saló.” Nicola is also producing onsite a life-sized plaster sculpture, which will also be painted with color, of Pasolini falling through the air in the same position as in the altar painting. For the past month or so, I’ve followed his amazing progress through his uploads to Facebook. Thank you Nicola for inspiring me and so many other artists. Rock on! - David Molesky