Until 30 Dec 2004. Ontani, one of Italys most unusual international artists, has always based his rich production on his own image. He himself is the object of his art; his subject matter is other beings, made in his own image. Narcissus looked into the still spring-water and found his own lineaments. But when Ontani looks into the mirror he sees himself, as Gertrude Stein a plump egg shape-like Russian doll; or as the Roman wolf-mother dressed in furs and leaning over the twins, one black, one white; or as Napoleon as a centaur, his right hand properly slipped into the breast of his embroidered uniform.
He creates these beings with the help of efficient and understanding craftsmen, in photographs, in wood, or in gleaming ceramics.
After the exquisitely witty show about Napoleon in the very Napoleonic museum here in Rome two summers ago, this new one is about "The Eros of Heroes". He explains: "Eros appears and disappears, always ambiguous, as a source of the true heroic act." In the generous display on the chosen theme, the small sparkling ceramics are again the most fetching. Garibaldi as a centaur with his Anita is one; Romes most beloved popular poets Trilussa and Belli are united in one and the same bust and crowned by the Colosseo; a little hermaphrodite has a pointing finger for a leg; there are Antinoos, Indian and Christian saints, Ontani as dandy Oscar Wilde all with Ontanis features. How does he do it?
His ever-busy one-man art movement is quaint and eccentric, but also scary for all his whimsy and baroqueness, he is one of the most serious and timely artists around, working slyly and wilfully at his great inventions. Edith Schloss
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Luigi Ontani. Eros and Heroes.
Lorcan OReilly Gallery, Via Ortis DAlibert 1, tel. 0668892980.