Until the 9th of September, Palazzo Reale, Milan, hosts an exhibition of the Italian sculptor Alik Cavaliere, titled The Green Universe. Given my personal interest in sculpture, and especially casting which was Cavaliere’s technique of choice, I visited the show and was left impressed by the scenic display and the quality of the displayed works. Here, I am offering my insight into the exhibition, which is taking place along with other five events celebrating Cavaliere across the city of Milan, encompassing prestigious venues such as the Museo del Novecento, Palazzo Litta, and Bocconi University.
The Green Universe takes place in the Sala delle Cariatidi, one of the most beautiful rooms in the royal palace of Milan, decorated with classical statuary and enriched by refined stucco works. References to the Latin and Greek world are particularly important to Cavaliere too since the works on display focus on his interest in the themes of nature through the mediation of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura, a philosophical treatise written in hexameters. The text analyses the Epicurean idea of nature as a constant flux, where things decay and are reborn out of the constant aggregation and disgregation of matter. In this regard, the choice of the venue could not be any better and suits the artworks perfectly, as they are given the space to stand on their own while resonating with the surrounding room.
Cavaliere’s creations are made of various metals: bronze, silver, steel, brass. Each of them is treated differently and with great care so as to maximise the individual properties. For example, silver is often left free to oxidise, as it naturally occurs, so that the metal acquires a brownish colour which reproduces mimetically the colour tree bark. On the other hand, bronze is often left bare and smooth, so that its shiny golden texture imitates that of a ripe fruit, as in Abete. Moreover, the sculptor adds patinas so as to simulate many hues and colours, such as the greenish tone of leaves. The spectator falls prey to the illusion of standing in front of natural objects, rather than hard blocks of solid metal.
Thinking of relevant criticism, I would say that the main problem of the show does not lie in the display itself but rather in its relation to the other exhibitions of Cavaliere scattered across the city. In fact, The Green Universe is supposed to represent one side of the sculptor’s oeuvre, and it fulfils the task beautifully. On the other hand, to enjoy the complete event one would need to visit the other exhibition spaces, which are set in distant sides of the city, thus making it difficult for the broader public to access. Most people will probably visit Palazzo Reale and the Museo del Novecento, maybe even the Gallerie d’Italia as they are all quite central, but few people, I reckon, will venture to the more peripheral venue for the only purpose of completing the visit path. This is a pity for two reasons: first, it implicitly precludes to the public to enjoy a broader array of works by Cavaliere; second, it presents the natural aspect of his oeuvre without contextualising it effectively in his broader production, with the risk of reducing the vegetal themes to a decorative device.
Ogni cosa è limite e libertà di un’altra
The exhibition showcases some of the most refined sculptures by Cavaliere, focusing on the natural world through the lens of classical antiquity. The complexity of these works is emphasised by the minute details of each piece: the texture of the leaves, the contorted patterns of branches, and the use of different materials and patinas to create illusionistic effects. The show, which is free, is definitely worth visiting. On the other hand, it is important to point out that The Green Universe does not exhaust the vast creativity of Cavaliere and, while it may be difficult because of the many venues, this can only be accessed by visiting the other venues which are celebrating his production in Milan this summer.