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Luigi_Serafini-Codex Seraphinianus:

Codex Seraphinianus:
33
1976/2010
  Luigi_Serafini-Codex Seraphinianus:

Codex Seraphinianus:
71
1976/2010
  Luigi_Serafini-Codex Seraphinianus

Codex Seraphinianus
1976/2010
Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Druphilla Georgensis
2009
  Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Fagus Rimemorabilis
2009
  Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Quercus Formicorubrorum
2009
Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Ngangola Orthogonia
2009
  Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Platanus Galactata
2009
  Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Blowupica Campestris
2009
Luigi_Serafini-Ultima apparizione del Pesce d'Aprile

Ultima apparizione del Pesce d'Aprile
2001
  Luigi_Serafini-Giuramento degli Orazi e dei Carpazi

Giuramento degli Orazi e dei Carpazi
2001
  Luigi_Serafini-Il trionfo della Grande Pollarola

Il trionfo della Grande Pollarola
2001
Luigi_Serafini-Silver Deer

Silver Deer
2004/2005
  Luigi_Serafini-Famiglia Gomitaly

Famiglia Gomitaly
2004/2005
  Luigi_Serafini-Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem
2003
Luigi_Serafini-A la coque comme à la coque

A la coque comme à la coque
2007/2010
  Luigi_Serafini-A la coque comme à la coque

A la coque comme à la coque
2007/2010
  Luigi_Serafini-A la coque comme à la coque

A la coque comme à la coque
2007/2010
Luigi_Serafini-Serafhaus

Serafhaus
View of the installation
  Luigi_Serafini-Serafhaus

Serafhaus
View of the installation
  Luigi_Serafini-Serafhaus

Serafhaus
View of the installation
Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Polyphyllum Faliscum Floridum
2009
  Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Eutherba Draconis
2009
  Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Sellaria Superflavorum
2009
Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Quercus Pedasina
2009
  Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Rubus Auriflammeus
2009
  Luigi_Serafini-Storie naturali:

Storie naturali:
Rosachillus Flegreus
2009
 
Luigi Serafini (born on 4 August, 1949 in Rome - Italy) is an Italian artist, architect and designer. After the BA in Architecture at the Politecnico in Milan, Serafini started working as a designer, cooperating with Gruppo Memphis, headed by architect Ettore Sottsass. He also worked for the Italian television and for several movie productions, among which Federico Fellini’s La Voce della Luna, and stage, light and costume designing for the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. He has created scenery, lighting and costumes for the ballet The Jazz Calendar by Frederick Ashton at Teatro alla Scala and worked also for the Piccolo Teatro di Milano.

Among his most significant works the renowned Codex Seraphinianus – an illustrated encyclopedia of imaginary vegetal and animal species in an undecipherable language – published in 1981 by Franco Maria Ricci and reprinted by Rizzoli in 2006 should be mentioned. The Codex Seraphinianus was originally released in a limited edition of 5000 artfully-bound copies in 1981. It has been later republished on four occasions, first in a 1983 English language edition; then in English, Spanish and French editions in the 1990s, each again limited to 5000 copies; and finally in a more widely printed 2006 edition. In 1984 he illustrated Pulcinellopedia (piccola) by P. Cetrulo (published by Longanesi), with a suite of pencil drawings focusing on the Neapolitan masque of Pulcinella. He also published collections of short stories for Bompiani, Archinto, Fandango and several magazines.

In 2003 he completed a polychrome bronze sculpture Carpe Diem and some bas-reliefs for one of the Naples subway stations (Mater Dei). In May 2007, he held an "ontological exhibition" Luna Pac at P.A.C. (the Pavilion of Contemporary Art) in Milan. In the same year the P.A.C. has paid homage to the artistic universe of Luigi Serafini by showing the 100 original plates of the Codex. Serafini has been a Banff Center visiting artist and has exhibited at the Fondazione Mudima in Milan, the XIII Quadriennale, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, the Futurarium and the Didael gallery. In July 2008 he completed a polychrome installation Balançoires sans Frontières (Altalene senza Frontiere) in Castasegna, Switzerland. In 2009 Serafini illustrated Storie naturali, a reinterpretation of Histoires naturelles (Natural Histories) by Jules Renard, published by Rizzoli in a signed, limited edition of 600 copies.

Roland Barthes, Italo Calvino, Federico Fellini, Leonardo Sciascia, Giorgio Manganelli, Giorgio Soavi, Federico Zeri, Achille Bonito Oliva, Douglas Hofstadter, Philippe Decoufflé and Vittorio Sgarbi have engaged in the analisys of Serafini’s works. Calvino has epitomized the mechanisms and the rhetorical devices in his oeuvre: “…like in Ovidio’s Metamorphoses, Serafini believes in the contiguity and permeability of every territory of the existing: the anatomic and the mechanic elements exchange their morphologies, the human and the vegetal reigns find their mutual completeness … the wild and the metropolitan, the writing and the living.”



The encyclopedia of a visionary

In the beginning, there was language. In the universe Luigi Serafini inhabits and depicts, I believe that written language preceded the images: beneath the form of a meticulous, agile, and limpid cursive (and strength lies in admitting it is limpid), that we always feel on the point of deciphering them just when each word and each letter escapes us. If the Other Universe communicates anguish to us, it’s less because it differs from ours than because it resembles it: the writing, in the same way, could have developed very similarly to ours in a linguistic forum that is unknown to us, without being altogether unknowable. Reflecting on it, it occurs to me that Serafini’s language does not distinguish itself only by its alphabet, but also by its syntax: the objects of this universe evoke the language of the artist, such as we see them illustrated in the pages of his encyclopedia, and are almost always identifiable, but their mutual relations appear psychologically disturbed to us by their unexpected relationships and connections. (I say “almost always”: there are some unknowable forms that serve an important function that I will try to explain later on.) Here is the conclusive point: endowed with the power to evoke a world in which the syntax of things is subverted, the Serafinian writing must hide, beneath the mystery of its indecipherable surface, a more profound mystery touching on the internal logic of language and thought. The lines that connect the images of this world tangle and cross; the confusion of the visual attributes gives birth to monsters, Serafini’s teratological universe. But the teratology itself implicates a logic which appears to us to, turn by turn, flower and disappear, at the same time giving us the sense that the words are carefully traced back to the point of the quill. Like Ovid, and his Metamorphoses, Serafini believes in the contiguity and permeability of all the domains of being. Anatomy and mechanics exchange their morphologies: instead of a hand, one finds a hammer and pliers at the end of an arm; a pair of legs rest, not on feet, but on wheels. The human and the vegetative complete one another: in the page consecrated to the growth of the human body, a forest sprouts atop a head, climbing vines curl around legs, prairies cover the palms of hands, carnations flower from ears. The vegetative espouses merchandise (one finds plants whose stems are unwrapped bonbons, whose ears of corn are replaced by pencils, leaves by scissors, fruits by matches), the zoological marries with the mineralogical (dogs and horses are petrified at mid-body), all aspects of architecture are allied with the geological, the heraldic with the technological, the wild with the urbane, the written with the living. Similarly, certain animals take the form of other species who share their habitat, just as living beings find themselves contaminated by the form of objects in their environment.
In this passage from one form to another, one may observe the successive phases of the coupling of a man and a woman, metamorphing little by little into a reptile. It’s one of Serafini’s most felicitous visual inventions. In my list of favorites, I would site next the fish that, rising to the surface of the water, call to mind the big eyes of a movie theater; and the plants in the form of a seat, which must be cut and pared down in order to get a chair of the best feel; to which I would add all of the figures where the motif of the rainbow appears.
The skeleton, the egg, and the rainbow are, in my eyes, the images that spark Serafini’s greatest visual ecstasy. One could say that the skeleton is the only core of reality that, in this world of interchangeable forms, remains just as it is: thus, see the skeletons awaiting the moment to put back on their envelopes of skin and flesh (suspended from hooks, they float like vacant clothing), then, once clothed, perplexed, they contemplate themselves in the mirror. Another page conjures a city of skeletons, where television antennae replace the bones, and where a skeleton-waiter serves a bone on a plate. With or without its shell, the egg is the original element that appears beneath all of these forms. A hose falls on a meadow of shucked eggs, that immediately pussyfoot out of the grass like organisms endowed with a perfect autonomy of movement, next climb a tree and let themselves fall to the ground anew, taking this time the characteristic form of eggs on a plate. As to the rainbow, its importance is vital in Serafini’s cosmology. Solid like a bridge, it can sustain an entire city; once again, this city changes its color and consistency at the same time its support does. Emitted from the rainbow, at the several circular piercings in its iridescent tube, are certain bidimensional, multicolored corpuscles in irregular and never-seen forms, that could very well be the vital principle of this universe, as representative of the generative corpuscles of the unstoppable general metamorphosis.
On other pages, one sees rainbows hung like clouds from a sort of helicopter: they are given a classic form, semicircular, but also drawn like knots, zigzags, spirals, droplets. A number of the polychromatic corpuscles are suspended, by threads, from the cloudy fuselage of the machine. Is this derived from its mechanical counterparts of iridescent dust? Or really from hooks fishing for colors?
As I suggested above, these are the sole indefinable forms of the Serafinian cosmorama. These beings’ morphological neighbors appear, in the form of luminous corpuscles (photons?), in a swarm escaping from a lantern; one also finds them carefully identified, as characteristic of microorganisms at the beginning of the botanical and zoological sections of a contemporary encyclopedia. Maybe they have the same composition as graphic signs: they constitute again another alphabet, more mysterious and more archaic. (In fact, one sees similarly represented forms sculpted on a sort of Rosetta stone, with the “translation” available). It may well be that all Serafini shows us is of writing: only the code varies. In this writing-universe, the almost identical roots are catalogued under different names, because each linguistic element is a differential sign. The plants entangle their supple stems, all this like the entanglements of the lights that the quill traces; returning understood from where they sprout, the plants surface again, a little farther, and they don’t even give birth to subterranean flowers. The vegetative forms prolong the taxonomy of imaginary plants, such as was inaugurated by Nonsense Botany by Edward Lear and followed by the sidereal Botanica Parallela of Leo Lionni. In Serafini’s tree nursery, one finds cloud leaves that water the flowers, spider web leaves that catch insects. There are shrubberies that uproot themselves on their own and head off, in the direction of the ocean, where they raise their anchors, making their roots turn like the propellers of a motor boat. Serafini’s zoology is always worrisome, monstrous, nightmarish. Its evolution is ruled by the laws of metaphor (the sausage-serpent, the snake-lace in a tennis shoe), of metonymy (the bird made from a single feather that terminates in a bird’s head), of the condensation of images (the pigeon that is also an egg). As far as the zoological monsters, they are anthropomorphized: maybe they represent aborted attempts on the road of human evolution. The great anthropologist Leroi-Gourhan explains that man became man starting with his development of feet. On Serafini’s pages, one can see a series of human legs that force themselves to attach, not to a torso, but to an object as incongruous as a pelican or an umbrella, or even to the simple luminosity of a lit, sparkling star. We see a crowd of beings of this last species in one of the most mysterious folios of the work: upright on a small, drifting boat, they come down a river and pass beneath the arches of a bridge.
Physics, chemistry, mineralogy inspire the most relaxing pages of Serafini’s, because they are the most abstract. But the nightmare returns with met\chanics and technology, where the teratomophism of machines doesn’t appear any less disturbing than that of the humans. (The comparison arises, this time, with Bruno Munari and the entire line of inventors of crazy machines.) When one moves into the humanities (including ethnography, history, gastronomy, games, sports, clothing, linguistics, and urbanism), one cannot fail to see the difficulties of separating the human from objects, the latter of which we see henceforth soldered with the former, ushering in an anatomic continuity. One sees likewise a perfect machine, capable of satisfying all of man’s needs, to the extent of transforming man into a coffin after his death. The ethnography is no less frightful than the other disciplines: between the diverse types of savages, taken account of with their costumes, their tools, and the characteristic habitats, we see represented a Man of filth, and a Man of extermination; but most dramatic is the man of the street, the street-man, with asphalt clothing adorned with the white regulatory dividing line.
There is, in Serafini’s world, an anguish of the imagination that reaches its pentacle, perhaps, in gastronomy. A particular joy isn’t altogether banished from this world, which is evident in the technological inventions: supplied for the teeth, a plate of chewed food, which allows the eater to absorb it with a straw; a central distribution of fish with flowing water, through the conduits and faucets, to deliver fresh fish to the house. The veritable “gai savoir” [happy knowledge], for Serafini, appears to me to be linguistic. (Above all the linguistics of the written; for the anguish yet refines in spoken language, which we see leak from the lips like a blackish pulp, or instead, extracted with fishing rods from a wide open mouth.) Written language is living, it is (it suffices to prick it with a pin to draw blood), but it toys with a real autonomy and body; it could have three dimensions, become polychromatic, grab hold of small balloons that could lift it off the page, or yet jump off with a parachute. To detain certain words on the page, one must sew them on, passing the thread through the loops of the ringed letters. And if you examine the writing with a magnifying glass, the thin scrawling of ink allows one to see the strong currant of the meaning that courses through it: such as a highway, such as a crowd parading in tight rows, such as a river filled with wriggling fish.
At the end of the tally (see the last page of the Codex) the destiny of all writing is to decay into dust; only the skeleton of the hand that writes survives. Lines and words detach from the page, breaking away, and here the tiny motes of dust spew forth the colored corpuscles from the rainbow, which then begin to frolic. For the vital principle of all the metamorphoses and all of the alphabets, a new cycle begins.

Italo Calvino (1981)
translated, S. E. Grant
 
 
 
Luigi Serafini - Selected Group Exhibitions
 

2012

Il fuoco della Natura/ The Flash of Nature, Salone degli Incanti -Ex Pescheria, Trieste (Italy)

2011

Little Circus, Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea, Milano (Italy)
  Arte Fiera, Ca di Frà, Bologna (Italy)
  (+150) Visione: origine e potere, Tempio di Adriano, Roma (Italy)

2010

Il segno del designer, Triennale Design Museum, Milano (Italy)
  Speaking Volumes, J.M. Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI (Usa)
  Passion is the difference, LipanjePuntin artecontemporanea, Trieste (Italy)

2009

Arte del Quotidiano (Design), Fondazione C. L. Ragghianti, Lucca (Italy)
  Festival Rilke, Sierre (Switzerland)
  Artisti per Epicentro, Museo Epicentro, Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto (ME) (Italy)

2008

Arte Bregaglia, Val Bregaglia (Switzerland)
  Quadrangolare del Fantareale, Roma (Italy)
  Un libro in maschera, Fondazione Biblioteca di Via Senato, Milano (Italy)
  Premio Terna , Roma (Italy)

2007

Mythos e Miti. Archetipi nel mare della conoscenza, Athens (Greece)
  Mythos e Miti. Archetipi nel mare della conoscenza, Tirana (Albania)
  Arte e Omosessualità, Palazzina Reale, Firenze (Italy)
  13 x 17, Spazio Berengo, Murano (Italy)

2006

Premio Michetti, Fondazione Michetti, Francavilla al Mare, Chieti (Italy)

2005

Cow Parade, Piazza della Repubblica, Firenze (Italy)
  Abitare il Tempo. Ventennale (Design), Fiera di Verona, Verona (Italy)
  Sul filo della lana, Ex Lanificio Pria, Biella (Italy)
  Miracolo a Milano, Palazzo della Ragione, Milano (Italy)
  Il segno dei Designers, Istituto Statale d'Arte, Bari (Italy)
  Arte Fiera, Bologna (Italy)

2004

MiArt, Milano (Italy)
  Flash Arte Fair, Milano (Italy)
  Arte Fiera, Bologna (Italy)
  Ipermercati dell'Arte. Il consumo contestato, Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena (Italy)
  Buonincontri. Fratelli d'Italia, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Paris (France)
  Il libro d'arte, Museo di Palazzo Boggi, Bologna (Italy)
  Iconica, Villa del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Enna (Italy)
  Franco Maria Ricci: collezionista, editore..., Reggia di Colorno, Parma (Italy)

2003

Italian Factory. La nuova scena artistica italiana, Istituto di Santa Maria della Pietà, Venezia (Italy)
  Premio Michetti, Fondazione Michetti, Francavilla al Mare, Chieti (Italy)

2002

Il lato oscuro della letteratura, Galleria Bonelli, Mantova (Italy)
  Surrealismo padano. Da de Chirico a Foppiani, Palazzo della Ragione, Piacenza (Italy)
  Da de Chirico a Leonor Fini. La pittura fantastica, Civico Museo Revoltella, Trieste (Italy)

2001

Arte Fiera, Bologna (Italy)
  Arco , Madrid (Spain)

1999

Premio Sulmona, Sulmona, L'Aquila (Italy)
  Quattro Volte, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Roma (Italy)
  Quadriennale, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Roma (Italy)

1998

Lady D., Trevi Flash Art Museum, Treviso (Italy)
 
 
Luigi Serafini - Selected Solo Exhibitions
 

2010

Storie Naturali, Fondazione Mudima, Milano (Italy)
  Serafhaus, LipanjePuntin artecontemporanea, Roma (Italy)
  Storie Naturali, Fondazione Mudima, Milano (Italy)

2009

Vietato Vietare (Installation), Spazio Krizia, Milano (Italy)

2008

A la coque comme à la coque (Installation), Rotonda della Besana, Milano (Italy)

2007

Luna Pac Serafini, PAC , Milano (Italy)

2004

Luigi Serafini, Galleria Ca' di Fra', Milano (Italy)

2003

Paradiso Pedestre & Carpe Diem , Stazione Mater Dei, Metro, Napoli (Italy)

2002

Geometrindi e Matematindi, Politecnico di Milano, Milano (Italy)

2001

Mucche e Serafini, Galleria Le Bureau des Esprits, Milano (Italy)
  H2O. Fontanella Pubblica (Design), Lamezia Terme (Italy)

2000

Orestiadi (Installation), Gibellina (Italy)

1998

Il teatro della pittura, Fondazione Mudima, Milano (Italy)
  Nidi di ceramica (Installation), MACAM, Maglione, Torino (Italy)

1994

Luigi Serafini, Lumen Travo Gallery, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

1990

Inverosimile (Installation), Castello di Volpaia, Firenze (Italy)
  Berlin, Galleria Colombari, Milano (Italy)
 
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