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Ugo Rodinone is a romantic minimalist. After his first exhibition in 1989 (“weihnachtsausstellung” at the Kunstmuseum Luzern) opened to the public with an inauspicious turnout, he decided to leave his studio practice and work nomadically instead.
“Nobody came. I was frustrated,” says Rondinone. “I made a point at that moment to change the situation and make it more about me, about my own life, and get out of the studio and draw in nature. This was the beginning of a contemplative life as an artist. The gift of being an artist is really the time that you have by yourself. That’s where it started.”
This winter, Rondinone’s solo show “good evening beautiful blue” is part of the inaugural program for the reopening of The Bass Museum in Miami Beach. On view now through February 2018, his multi-room exhibition presents work from throughout his career. Whitewaller spoke with the artist about his practice of self-inspection and contemplation over his past few colorful decades.
WHITEWALLER: Tell us about clockwork for oracles, an installation you first did in 2008 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
UGO RONDINONE: It’s 52 windows in different sizes on four walls. Instead of having glass windows, there are mirrors in different colors—52 different colors of the rainbow’s spectrum. There’s a wall of whitewashed newspapers, which is always the daily newspaper of the region. For this one at the Bass, it’s the Miami Herald. So you enter, and you reflect yourself—literally.
WW: And what about vocabulary of solitude, which you first explored in 2014?
UR: That is a portrait of a single person by himself, represented by 45 actions. Those actions are represented by a contemplative clown. I made a list of things that I do when I’m by myself, and I came up with 45 actions in a 24-hour loop—sleep, wake, stand, walk, shower, pee. They’re very generic actions; something everyone does by themselves. It ends with going to bed again, so it’s a loop.
WW: Why did you choose clowns?
UR: As an artist, once you’ve exposed yourself and you work in the art world, you work in the entertainment business in general. So the clown is maybe the single symbol of entertainment—as this product just to entertain. That’s his function. In my case, those clowns don’t entertain; they’re just passive. They don’t follow the rule. It’s a heroic figure representing the artist who doesn’t follow the rule—who doesn’t follow the expectation. Once you don’t follow the expectation, it takes off the pressure and you’re free to do what you want. It was a figure that allowed me to escape.
WW: And in the third room, you’re presenting a video, it’s late…, which was created in 1998. What does that consist of?
UR: It consists of a blue neon ceiling that turns the six projected videos that were filmed in black-and-white, blue. There are 12 videos on six projections. Each projection is between a female action and a male action. Very simple gestures. In the first video, you see a woman opening a door, walking into a room, and closing the door. In the second video, you see a man standing in front of a window motionless, just holding onto a curtain tail. In the third video, you see a woman endlessly swimming. They are all loops—they don’t go from A to B. It’s another kind of inspection. The six women and six men don’t have any interaction with anyone or the outside world—just themselves.