by Rummy Gill, Cohort ’20
The Gallery of Art of Temple University Rome in participation with the American Academy of Rome presented the virtual exhibition of Mapping A Friendship: Joyce Kozloff and Simonetta Moro on Tuesday, May 18th, 2021. The exhibition was accompanied by a conversation with the artists, who are also two fellows of the American Academy in Rome: Joyce Kozloff, a recipient of the distinguished Rome Prize, and Dr. Simonetta Moro, the recipient of the prestigious Italian Fulbright Fellowship in the Visual Arts.
Shara Wasserman, Director of Exhibitions at Temple University introduced “Mapping" and "Friendship” as central cues in this exhibition, as the two artists met and became friends through their mutual curiosity in cartography at the academy in 1999. The current Interim Director of the American Academy in Rome, Elizabeth Rodini, points out that, “making relationships are enduring and important to the academy’s legacy.” According to Wasserman, the artists’ works have much in common through their fastidious “attention to detail, use of historical source materials, extensive travels, and history. [They] use a unique approach to mapping, as a way of understanding urban and social issues.”
The exhibition presents new works by Joyce Kozloff created during the 2020 COVID pandemic at the height of the lockdown. Kozloff’s use of military maps from the American Civil War addresses “political aggression and world conflicts.” Each map in the series is based on an American civil war battle, meticulously created and reworked into beautiful expressive paintings which relate them to the current moment by rendering “viral outbreaks.” Kozloff says the viral outbreaks are a metaphor, “a kind of an underlining disruption in our country historically and today that erupts at different moments.” Kozloff's series of paintings are seen as abstract images using non-traditional colours, mostly delicately detailed in “Anglo-Saxon” names of people who lived in the southern regions of the U.S. These maps are layered with explosive firework-like viruses, positing not only the tragic “bloody and gruesome” war but its “celebratory” end to the war.
Simonetta Moro investigates the theme of the city from her earlier monoprint series which depicts views of Rome and the Coliseum. They are lusciously rendered in graphite, pigment mixed with oil, and gold powder. She also takes us through a series of never-publicly-seen commissioned works on mylar. Moro says that, “a city reveals but also covers up history or natural occurrences”; this series is made up of two layers of mylar – “the upper layer is an oculi and the lower layer is the actual painting, which allows the viewer to see through the holes to reveal what is” vividly emerging and part hidden below – “something strange and familiar or to discover something of history that is not immediately apparent.” As Moro said, “the color scheme is not realistic,” but rather her choice of colors are points of energy thought of as “intensities” in order to see the “dynamic flows in the city – a play on what is visible and what is not.” The use of mixed techniques, including inks, water soluble colour pencils, pastels and gouache skillfully renders the topological configuration of the cities.
Both Kozloff and Moro’s use of Google Earth enables them to zoom in and extract details to provide more realistic elements in their works, which convey much more than a terrain; they are looking at different histories and transforming information in the modern world. Kozloff looks to the “political” making historical maps to “jolt the old historical musty image” to suggest something that is more contemporary and expressive of its time. Moro on the other hand, looks to natural and geological boundaries highlighting cities in different continents as a connection to her “personal involvement with history” but also to observe what is “not personal” in order to explore different approaches and histories. In both cases, the histories are beautifully embedded in the artists’ maps – as a process of interpretation and cartographical reading to evoke the “desire to know a place.”