Join us for the US premiere of three recently commissioned documentaries exploring the lives of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt, as well as the artist residency program their work has inspired in Spoleto, Italy, at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios. Introduced by CIMA director Nicola Lucchi, guests are also invited to visit the current exhibition ‘Bruno Munari: The Child Within’.
Anna Mahler: Notes on Stone, narrated by her daughter Marina Mahler, is the first documentary to closely consider the life and work of stone sculptor Anna Mahler, daughter of Gustav and Alma. Before reaching Spoleto, where she would live and work from the late 1960s, the film evokes the unique cultural milieu in which she grew up – among her mentors were Oskar Kokoshka and Giorgio di Chirico. The film then follows Anna from war torn Vienna, to London and Los Angeles, where she taught at UCLA and made her most monumental work ‘The Tower of Masks’. More info>>
About Sol is an intimate portrait of Sol LeWitt, documenting his life and work with a particular focus on the time he spent in Spoleto. It centres on an interview with his wife Carol, who shares a string of intimate memories beginning with their departure from New York, to a new family life in Spoleto. It explores Sol’s work through his friendships with the artists and people of the town. Conversations with Adam Weinberg (Director, Whitney Museum of American Art) and Marco Tonelli (Director, Palazzo Collicola Arti Visive) explain the relevance of the great Italian painters to LeWitt’s practice – Giotto, Piero della Francesca, frà Filippo Lippi – artists who at first sight seem distant from conceptual art and minimalism. More info>>
Mahler & LeWitt Studios is a short film with Guy Robertson (curator and founding director, with Eva LeWitt) telling the story of the program of residencies and special projects which take place each year, for five months, around the former studios of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt in Spoleto. The program welcomes and provides opportunities for curators, writers and artists of all disciplines, from across the world. In Spoleto they find an ideal space to reflect and create new work. More info>>
Bruno Munari: The Child Within Bruno Munari was one of the most independent and influential figures in the history of twentieth-century international art, design, graphics, film and pedagogy. The current CIMA exhibition focuses on Munari’s children’s books. Play is at the heart of even Munari’s most serious production. The totality of his work can perhaps be best understood through the lens of the children’s books he wrote, designed, and illustrated. These books bring together his ideas in an accessible form. It was Munari’s goal to develop a purely visual language that fostered new modes of communication, often without needing words. More info>>
The production of the documentary films stems from the desire of Maria Teresa Venturini Fendi, President of the Carla Fendi Foundation, to make a contribution to the important activity of the Mahler & LeWitt Studios. The films are intended to give context to the lives and work of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt in Spoleto, sharing their stories with new audiences, and to celebrate the significant opportunities, offered in their names, to a new generation of artists, writers and curators.
I grew up amongst the battles and the scandals of the cubists, the constructivists, the dadaists and all the other similar movements that then were really new, provocative, and revolutionaries. As a child I spent hours sitting in Oskar Kokoschka’s atelier, watching him paint. Schoenberg and Alban Berg were intimate friends of my mother, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel became my step fathers… Everything was new and interesting to me, but when I started to work it wasn’t new to me any more; I decided to find my own way. The important thing was to try to express what I could, I wanted, had to say. Anna Mahler
A documentary charting the extraordinary life of the sculptor Anna Mahler, daughter of composer Gustav Mahler and Alma Schindler, ‘muse of last century.’
The life of Anna Mahler skims over those of great writers, intellectuals, psychologists, and musicians that lived then in Vienna. It passes through two world wars – from the end of the Hapsburg Empire, to the annexation of Austria to Germany. These are years in which Anna takes sides against Nazi fascism, leaving Vienna forever. Having moved to London, then to Los Angeles and on to Spoleto, Anna always restarted from the beginning, with a new studio, works to make, and fresh ideas.
Spoleto is where she always returned. A dot on the map, a reference point for her life and work. From 1969 to 1987 Anna plunged into the town’s precious artistic culture and life, becoming a ‘Spoletina’. Her daughter, Marina Fistoulari Mahler, talks about this in the film Notes on Stone. In her stream of consciousness, she retraces the main stages of her mother’s life, a ‘viking’, whose wounds and unhappiness can only be healed by the strength of the stone sculptures to which she dedicated her life. Anna’s goal is not self-aggrandising fame; she aims at a recognition that would allow her to produce more monumental work, and in this frame of mind she relates them to landscapes or mountains. Her vision is influenced by the music and the memory of her father, whom she would always try to find again. As with a mandala, she sculpts and destroys many of her father’s portraits, never satisfied with his image fixed in stone.
In the story, Marina’s lucid visual memory colours her close bond with her mother. Anna Mahler is seen as a woman who anticipates our own times: she was an independent woman, free and different from the models of her time. Sh was also different from her mother Alma and her dominant disposition. She chose to live a more secluded life, away from the social life of her milieu. Searching in the Mahler family archive, the documentary reveals the works of an artist unknown to many, whose sculptures were partly destroyed during the Paris bombing of WWII, and which are the result of her deep meditation on abstraction and stylization. For Anna Mahler, art is the all-encompassing element, a primary need that makes life bearable, that gives meaning to her whole existence.
About Sol is an intimate portrait of Sol LeWitt, documenting his life and work with a particular focus on the time he spent in Spoleto. It centres on an interview with his wife Carol, who shares a string of intimate memories beginning with their departure from New York, to a new family life in Spoleto. Journeying through her memories, Carol touch on Bach’s fugues, Sol’s extraordinary, hand-catalogued cassette collection in Connecticut, a lost Edweard Muybridge book of moving animals, and days her husband spent looking at a single picture, or, in his last months before passing, meditating on light and shadow: his way of ‘getting out of life.’
Gianni’s film presents LeWitt as a private individual – against the ego in art – and finds aspects of his reserved nature in his work. The film explores LeWitt’s work through his friendships with the artists and people of the town. Conversations with Adam Weinberg (Director, Whitney Museum of American Art) and Marco Tonelli (Director, Palazzo Collicola Arti Visive) explain the relevance of the great Italian painters to LeWitt’s practice – Giotto, Piero della Francesca, frà Filippo Lippi – artists who at first sight seem distant from conceptual art and minimalism. According to the artist’s friend and gallerist, Marilena Bonomo: “In Italy, Sol found the formula of painting, and he repurposed it in the geometry of his work.”
Our program is mainly concerned with the processes of research and development; usually, we do not place emphasis on end results. Guy Robertson.
The studios of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt are a short walk from one another: with Guy Robertson (curator and founding director, with Eva LeWitt, of the Mahler & LeWitt Studios) this short film tells the story of an encounter which, in their own lifetimes, never materialised – but which today has evolved into an extraordinary artistic collaboration in their names.
Each year, for five months, the former studios of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt welcome and provide opportunities for a new generation of artists, curators, writers and musicians, from across the world. They find, during their stay in Spoleto, an ideal space to reflect and create new work. The Torre Bonomo, a medieval tower once used as a residency and exhibition space by the gallerist Marilena Bonomo, is also central to the program.
Bruno Munari: The Child Within
Bruno Munari (Milan, 1907– Milan, 1998) was one of the most independent and influential figures in the history of twentieth-century international art, design, graphics, and film. Associated with the second wave of the Italian Futurist movement, and one of the founders of the Italian movement for concrete art—Movimento Arte Concreta (MAC), his multifaceted practice allowed him to contribute to all fields of the visual arts, as well as literature, poetry and teaching.
‘Bruno Munari: The Child Within’ focuses on Munari’s children’s books and demonstrates how his experimental and commercially produced publications expressed his wide-ranging ideas about the possibilities art offered to communicate visually. Play is at the heart of even Munari’s most serious production. The totality of his work can perhaps be best understood through the lens of the children’s books he wrote, designed, and illustrated. These books bring together his ideas regarding art, design, and pedagogy in an accessible form. It was Munari’s goal to develop a purely visual language that fostered new modes of communication, often without needing words. In the 1940s he started to create his series of “unreadable books,” completely devoid of text, but full of tactile and visual expression.
The Center for Italian Modern Art (CIMA) is a nonprofit exhibition and research center established in 2013 in New York City to promote public appreciation and advance the study of modern and contemporary Italian art in the United States and internationally. Each year, CIMA presents in its spacious loft in SoHo an installation examining the work of modern Italian artists rarely exhibited in the U.S. These installations bring the art of inspiring masters into dialogue with contemporary artists, illustrating its impact and ongoing resonance today. The exhibitions serve as the theme for CIMA’s fellowship program, which aims to promote new scholarship and dialogue in the field through the support of emerging young scholars from around the world. italianmodernart.org
The Carla Fendi Foundation promotes and creates artistic events, restorations, social projects, science and research. Since forming in 2007, the Foundation has collaborated with the Festival dei Due Mondi, Spoleto, becoming its Main Partner in 2012. Among its projects in Spoleto, the Foundation organises the annual Premio Carla Fendi – in 2021 Marina Mahler and Carol LeWitt were recipients of the prize for their services to culture in Spoleto. They donated their prize money to the Mahler & LeWitt Studios and it will fund a series of cultural collaborations between the Carla Fendi Foundation and the studios. fondazionecarlafendi.it
Gabriele Gianni (b.1978) is an Italian director and artist. For the Carla Fendi Foundation he has also created: A Sense of Wonder, about the life of the British scientist Stephen Hawking, and Ecce Robot, on artificial intelligence, robotics, and the thinking of British scientist Alan Turing. He is co-director, with Davide Barletti, of Nothing Wrong, about the search for the meaning of Time through the stories and eyes of three hundred children during the year of the pandemic. The film was screened at Biografilm 22, and at Annecy Cinéma Italien. In 2022 he created Reality? an augmented reality installation located in the renaissance church of Santa Maria della Manna d’Oro in Spoleto, Italy. Produced by Carla Fendi Foundation, it investigates illusory space in consciousness. gabrielegianni.com