nm>contemporary is glad to present the exhibition Rubedo by Leonardo Petrucci
especially conceived for Monaco Art Week and artmonte-carlo.
Leonardo Petrucci is a young Italian artist belonging to the artistic pole named
« Pastificio Cerere » in Rome.
He had a one man show at Baruchello Foundation in Rome in 2016 and will present
« Rubedo » in Monaco at the same time as the Baruchello exhibition at Villa Arson in
This liaison among the roman institution and that of Nice will allow the public of
Monaco Art Week and artmonte-carlo 2018 to discover the continuity between a young
talent and an important artist such as Gianfranco Baruchello, close to Marcel
Duchamp, Jacques Lacan, Pierre Restany and the French New Realists.
The title “Rubedo” recalls the third and last phase of alchemic transmutation.
During this phase, the matter becomes red and gets to the absolute perfection gaining
a cosmic purity.
The exhibition is a synthesis of the alchemic process leading the visitor through two
Black is the dominant color of the first room and represents the Nigredo, the first
alchemic phase, which means corruption and imperfection.
The works displayed recall geometrical solids whose symmetry is build and destroyed
to evoke the contrast between limits and infinity.
In the second room the viewer experiences the matter’s purification walking in a red
light environment where a series of carpets, hand made by Indian artisans, reproduce
faithfully the first images of Mars surface, taken by Rover Curiosity (NASA) in 2012.
The astronomic aspect of the show is a metaphor of the alchemist research of a new
dimension, a pioneering action which makes the visitor direct protagonist of the first
step on the new planet and a new mystical world.
Mars, a planet between dream and reality.
When in July 1976, the technological eye of the Viking 1 probe revealed a curious
Martian structure, vaguely resembling a human face, it seemed like certain dreams and
visions, by then considered obsolete, were returning to the forefront.
Among the most fascinating and illustrious of all the stars, admired for its vermillion
reverberations which garnished it the nickname “the Red Planet,” Mars has always had
a primary role in the development of scientific thought. It is enough to recall the
extraordinary observations of the planet, conducted in the 16th century by the great
Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, which proved to be invaluable to his assistant,
Johannes Kepler, in formulating the latter’s famous laws of planetary motion which
bear his name.
Mars, though, is embedded in universal culture, a timeless emblem of the imagination
and dreams on the one hand and progress and science on the other. A synthesis of two
side usually taken to be opposites, that contains a sea much vaster than mere
The pinnacle of Mars’s popularity was without a doubt during the second half of the
19th century, when Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, astronomer and director of the
Brera Observatory, reported on unique characteristics he observed in 1877. That year
was quite favorable for the study of celestial bodies, arduous in telescopic investigation.
Because of its orbital motion, in fact, the distance from Mars to Earth varies between a
minimum of 55 million km and a maximum of more than 400 million km. This first
distance is met only once around every two years (just before the so-called “opposition,”
with the planet visible in the sky from Earth for the whole night, in the direction
opposite the Sun): far from that circumstance, the modest dimensions of the Red Planet (a diameter of
almost 6790 km, just over half of that of our own planet) reduce its visibility to a few
pale details, this especially true using the instruments of the past. Not all of the
oppositions to Mars, however, are equal. The planet’s orbit deviates perceptibly from a
perfect circumference, appearing somewhat elliptical (it is noticeably eccentric as was
noted by Johannes Kepler, based on Tycho Brahe’s observations), given that the
minimum Earth-Mars distance varies so greatly. It follows that the angular dimensions
of the Mars disc vary, in fact, a factor of two between an ideal and an unfavorable
opposition, with the deductible repercussions on the visibility of its ethereal details.
The best approaches are called "great oppositions," awaited with the trepidation by the
great observers of the past, who hoped to unveil particular Martians never before
What occured in 1877 was a great opposition, in which Schiaparelli displayed the
incredible Merz refractor with its 21.8 centimeter aperture, which he acquired in 1862.
The Italian astronomer collected drawings of the surface of Mars that were rich with
new detail. In particular, Schiaparelli individuated structures called “canals,” because
of their thin, linear appearance, which he sought to study even more than previous
oppositions. Schiaparelli introduced the names of Mars’s morphological structures
used, still today, as the official nomenclature on maps of the planet.
Schiaparelli’s observations of the canals of Mars had a notable echo in the United States
of America, received with particular fervor by Percival Lowell, who interpreted them
(along with others) as artificial structures used for irrigating specific areas of the Red
Planet. This likely contributed to the translation of the Italian term “canale” as “canal”
rather than the more appropriate “channel,” practically emphasizing the artificial
nature of the supposed structures. Schiaparelli ran away from later oppositions, even those which were less favorable to
his own work, and he became one of the foremost experts on Mars. Powerful because of
this position, he was able to have an even more powerful refractor telescope installed
on the roofs of the Brera, enriching his planisphere even further. He observed the
precise evolution of the canals, especially some doubling, which he defined as
“germinations,” which, to those who already believed in the artificial nature of these
structures, only came as further confirmation of their hypothesis. It got to the point
where anyone skeptical of this interpretation was automatically condemned to a
Percival Lowell, amongst others, fed into and defended this idea of artificiality,
responding energetically to any argument to the contrary. Despite the fact that this
illusion had to come to an end.
There would certainly be some fascinating stories to tell about these events, but for us
it is enough to remember how astronomer Vincenzo Cerulli, who had created a precious
and well-equipped specular in Teramo, began carefully studying the difficulties of
perceiving things with the eye when confined to scrutinizing details found at the limits
of visibility. In fact, he realized that the canals were nothing more than a synthesis
based on the poor information the brain was receiving from the eye in “difficult” cases
such as the Mars observation. To the point that less capable tools were able to show
them better, due to the difficulties of vision. In this sense Eugène Michel Antoniadi was
also important, using the large refractor a the Meudon Observatory in Paris, giving the
death blow to the fantastical hypothesis of a Martian civilization, observing that people
were seeing an optical illusion, not irrigation canals.
The famous “Martian” face, photographed already forty years ago by the Viking 1 probe
seemed to resurrect that dream, despite the fact that it was just the play of shadows on
the superficial structure of the planet. We wanted to repropose in its entirety this fascinating affair in order to underline, as
noted previously, how deep the roots between humans and Mars actually are,
representing that transversal symbol between science and knowledge of what has been
said. A connection that today we find frequently degraded to the level of fake news
which still captured our attention in the media, taken as reliable by those who confuse
popularity with credibility (and Mars reminds us that the two terms are not
Certainly, science revealed a different planet, inhospitable and deserted, despite
certain suggestive analogies with Earth that insist on making it something familiar:
Mars has an atmosphere (even if it is quite different from that of Earth), a cycle of
seasons, immense canyons and imposing extinguished volcanoes, at one time it was
home to a notable quantity of water (today we find just a modest amount in the form of
ice). Spontaneously then, the question arises, if, whether at some point there was life,
even elementary life. The desire to respond to this and other questions transformed
Mars into the emblem of space discovery of our time, as well as the subject for many
very successful films.
The red planet is certainly the most studied planet today, frequent destination of
missions of every kind, with spectacular landinds that arrive to “deposit” remote
operated rovers from Earth onto the Martian soil, like NASA’s extraordinary, advanced
“Curiosity,” that investigates Mars’s nature and past from close up. Studies that will
turn out to be extremely precious some day, when finally space ships with human
crews will set sail for the planet.
Because, after all, this remains our greatest ambition. After having walked on the
Moon, half a century ago, and having set aside, the banner of human flight in space will
have the vermillion colors of that fascinating and long-enticing planet. We will disembark on that world, we will walk the lengths and widths of its dusty
surface. We will be the Martians, like Ray Bradbury imagined in “Martian Chronacles”
While we wait, there are the works of Leonardo Petrucci to carry us towards that world
overflowing with wonder and mystery, “aboard” a carpet, antique symbol of journeys
and adventures beyond the possible. Once again, therefore, it is art that overcomes
physical distances and brings us to the sensations and visions that further feed the
desires and the objectives of science. There is nothing left but to wish ourselves a safe
Astrophysicist, Virtual Telescope Project
Exhibition: 5th of April - 5th of May 2018
Monday to Friday : 10 -12 am/ 3-6pm
Saturday: by appointment
Opening times during artmonte-carlo and Monaco Art Week:
Monday 23 - Tuesday 24 April: 10 am-6 pm
Wednesday 25 – Saturday 29 April: 10 am -7 pm