The art, design, and fashion worlds collided on Wednesday evening at ISAIA’s swanky Upper East Side store to celebrate the Naples-based menswear label’s collaboration with Turinese artist Renato Leotta.
Hosted in partnership with artnet, the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation, and the Gaspare Asaro-Italian Modern gallery, the event turned out Italian art admirers from all corners, each of whom were greeted at the entrance of the three-story townhouse with glasses of prosecco and Aperol spritzes. Once inside, they headed upstairs to the beautifully decorated penthouse rooms, featuring Italian design pieces borrowed from Gaspare Asaro-Italian Modern and racks of suiting that paid homage to ISAIA’s 1920’s Neopolitan roots. The company is now run by the Isaia family’s third-generation CEO, Gianluca Isaia, who has long sought to re-interpret the sartorial traditions of Naples.
Leotta, who is also debuting two solo exhibitions this week in Cold Spring and New York—the collective results from a month-long artist’s residency at Magazzino—created a special project for the brand using their shirts as an alternate kind of canvas.
Using a photosensitive emulsion typically intended for photographic printing, Leotta took six white shirts on 50-minute walks around New York, allowing the fabrics to react to the sunlight and turn varying shades of blue. The sunniest days procured rich azures, with criss-crossing white textural lines that traced the sun’s rays, calling to mind, for Leotta, visions of the Mediterranean sea. At the event on Wednesday, the final works, displayed artfully on ISAIA’s topmost floor, were on view.
In a conversation lead by artnet’s Andrew Goldstein, Leotta explained that the project presented “the simplest way to work with the sun”, and to examine the relationship between man and nature—a theme that runs through his oeuvre and his current exhibition at NYU’s Casa Italiana (on through June 12).
The ISAIA project, titled “Passeggiate al sole” (or “Walks in the sun”), also ponders what the sun may subconsciously help us illuminate about our inner lives, Leotta said. “The shirts were an easy way to capture time and space on a color gradient—though that was of course harder to do on rainy days,” he joked.
Co-hosted by Vittorio Calabrese of Magazzino and gallerist Gaspare Asaro, the panel discussion also touched on the last legacy of the Arte Povera movement, which saw Italian artists in the 1960s use commonplace, pre-industrial materials to challenge the rise of consumer culture in the post-war era.
“I think, like Renato, we’re seeing a new generation of artists who can break free from that narrative and shape a way forward,” said Calabrese, who recently organized a show of Arte Povera-era artists at Magazzino. “And with the show we have on at Magazzino, we’re not trying to rewrite the history, but showcase the individual stories of the artists who contributed to that movement. I think Italian artists feel connected to Italy, but not bound by it anymore. They’re living all over the world, including here in New York, and branching out Italian culture, connecting it to others. What it means to be an Italian artist today is totally different than what it was then.”
Leotta’s “Passeggiate al sole” is on view at ISAIA, 819 Madison Avenue, until Monday, May 6. See more images from the event below.
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