Contemporary Art in Milan: Dan Flavin and Carlos Amorales exhibitions

Besides fashion and design, Milan is known for its vibrant art scene. And here I don’t mean only Leonardo da Vinci and masterpieces of the past, but also contemporary art at the local galleries. There are still a couple of days left to see two of them – the Dan Flavin exhibition at Cardi Gallery and ‘The Accursed Hour’ by Carlos Amorales at Fondazione Adolfo Pini. Even if you can’t make it this time, I recommend that you keep an eye on their future events that can surely inspire anyone working in the creative industries or simply art lovers. Scroll down for more information and my photos from the exhibitions. 

Dan Flavin at Cardi Gallery

Cardi Gallery Milano Corso di Porta Nuova
A typical Milanese courtyard hides the entrance to the modern and minimalist exhibition space. Photo: dreamsanddesign

The entrance to the Cardi Gallery is hidden at the far end of a picturesque Milanese courtyard, with outdoor plants and balconies, in Corso di Porta Nuova 38. Established in 1972, the gallery has focused on post-war Italian art, Arte Povera and Minimalism promoting artists such as Lucio Fontana, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Piero Manzoni and Mario Merz. Its pristine, loft-like interior creates a minimalist environment perfectly in tune with contemporary art on display.

Entrance to the Cardi Gallery Milano
The sliding doors leading to the pristine interior of the Cardi gallery. Photo: dreamsanddesign

The current exhibition presents fourteen light sculptures by Dan Flavin (1933-1996), an influential figure of American Minimalism alongside names such as Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Agnes Martin. They aimed to create works that renounced anything that wasn’t essential or pointing to the core. Their artworks often involved grids, geometric structures, primary colours and prefabricated, industrial elements such as commercially available neon tubes used by Dan Flavin.

Dan Flavin Cardi Gallery Milano
Wall-mounted fluorescent lights transforming the room on the upper floor of the gallery. Photo: dreamsanddesign
Dan Flavin Cardi Gallery Milano
A vertical light sculpture by Dan Flavin. Minimalist artworks were often criticised for being hard to distinguish from common objects. Photo: dreamsanddesign

Like other minimalist works, his sculptures played with the perception of physical space and its transformation by light and colour. The Minimalist aesthetic was born as a response against dramatic Abstract Expressionism (think Jackson Pollock) at a time when America experienced post-war technological progress and worldwide expansion of its corporations.

Dan Flavin Cardi Gallery Milano
Light responding to architecture: one of Dan Flavin’s squares made of parallel tubes.
Photo: dreamsanddesign
Henry Timi Immacolata chairs
Also in the gallery: a limited edition of the Immacolata chair by a minimalist designer Henry Timi. Photo: dreamsanddesign

Even though Dan Flavin’s fluorescent tubes create an otherwordly, ethereal environment, the artist claimed they have no symbolic or transcendent meaning. I leave the interpretation to you – and if you’re in Milan you can also visit another place connected to Dan Flavin, the Santa Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa church with a site-specific illumination created by the artist in 1996. 

Untitled, 1995. Dan Flavin Cardi Gallery Milano
‘Untitled’, 1995. One of the late works by the artist who during his career used only ten colours that interacted with each other, also on the walls surrounding the pieces.
Photo: dreamsanddesign

Carlos Morales at Fondazione Pini

The second exhibition’s venue is Fondazione Pini, founded by scientist and art enthusiast Adolfo Pini inside the late 19th century building in Corso Garibaldi 2. The Foundation is committed to supporting emerging talents and has already hosted site-specific installations by contemporary artists.

Carlos Amorales Fondazione Pini Milan Black Cloud butterflies
Paper replicas of butterflies greet the visitors right at the staircase.
Photo: dreamsanddesign

The latest exhibition, ‘The Accursed Hour’ or ‘L’Ora Dannata’ in Italian, presents works by Carlos Amorales (born in 1970), who lives and works in Mexico City and in 2017 represented Mexico at the 57th Venice Biennale with the installation ‘Life in the folds’. Various elements of that project are present in ‘The Accursed Hour’, yet the strong visual impact is generated mainly by the ‘Black Cloud’ made of 15,000 paper butterflies that ‘invaded’ the exhibition space.

Carlos Amorales Fondazione Pini Milan
The spaces of Fondazione Pini transformed by the ‘Black Cloud’ of butterflies that showcase Carlos Amorales’ gothic sensibility. Photo: dreamsanddesign

Back in April, the exhibition attracted crowds of visitors queuing up at the entrance, some of them lured by a possibility of taking photos surrounded by butterflies. But beyond the superficial level, the exhibition touches upon several important themes: language and representation of reality, fear, our perceptions, boundaries, human violence and tensions in Mexico and throughout the world.

Carlos Amorales Fondazione Pini Milan
Mysterious silhouettes painted as if they were to walk though the walls.
Photo: dreamsanddesign

‘Black Cloud’ was inspired by the annual migration of butterflies from Canada to Mexico and conceived as a farewell to the artist’s grandmother, so it can be viewed as a transition from a private to universal dimension that can be filtered through visitors’ sensibilities. 

Carlos Amorales Fondazione Pini Milan
Visually engaging and thought-provoking: 15,000 black butterflies create a surreal and slightly sinister mood. Photo: dreamsanddesign

Both exhibitions are free and within walking distance from each other, so they can be visited on the same day, until July

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