Thomaz Rosa at Castiglioni / Milan

Thomaz Rosa  
Um de um par / Uno di una coppia

September 20 – November 20, 2023

Via Giuseppe Luosi 30, 
Milan, Italy

All images courtesy and copyright of the artist and gallery.

It’s 7 in the morning, and the sun is already blazing on the windowpane. The chickens have been set free, the ducks are still asleep, the swallows circle in the air, and at the Lago delle Sirenette, the temperature is perfect. A hybrid of fish and woman guards each of the four ends of the Sirens’ Bridge in Parco Sempione: two original ones in cast iron and two bronze replicas. It’s Thomaz Rosa’s third solo exhibition at Castiglioni, which is almost 5 kilometers away from what was Italy’s first iron bridge.

Just like the curved line that connects two riverbanks or an airplane route connecting two continents is drawn, Rosa’s paintings establish connections between the history of art and his personal notebooks. Along the way, many eggs on the ground: the house has been invaded. They fell from the sky, that’s how the birds gave birth in the dream of the sirens. They fell and didn’t break, bouncing in the air and making a plastic ping-pong ball sound – a game for two, a game for four – and the asynchrony of marbles in cartoons. They were the eggs of the ducks in the Lake of Parco Sempione, always patiently waiting for tourists’ breadcrumbs.

Thomaz Rosa is painting skies, but not many, he says he paints only a few each year. During the move, he took out a slide box from a drawer, photos from an airplane window, some important journeys that someone wanted to remember forever. Multiple layers of clouds merging with goose feathers, egg yolk, and sun-yellow. Birds everywhere. And traces. His painting doesn’t allow for periods, he prefers commas, arrows, diagrams, open to the possibilities of long conversations that extend into the early morning hours. Thus, they get contaminated by other paintings, by the silence and movement of the Suprematists, by the mystery of uninhabited backgrounds in Warner Bros. Cartoons. His skies are echoes of other skies, and pairs are not copies. Overlaid in layers, the shapes only float on the surface of the canvas, and it’s uncertain how much weight they carry, perhaps the weight of history, hardened resin, or an empty egg.

As part of his research on the limits of perception, but still in pursuit of the infinite, Kazimir Malevich dedicated some time to the study of aerial photography. In 1915, he thought about the expressive power of squares and rectangles as the flight of an airplane in his “Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying,” presented at the Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10 (zero-ten) in present-day St. Petersburg. Before that, exploring the force of straight lines in multiple directions, he had thought about disasters caused by high speed, both on land and in the sky, in “Simultaneous Death in an Airplane and at the Railway” in 1913. But it was in 1918, in “Suprematist Composition: White on White,” that he approached a possible transcendence caused by aerial views: white on white, the absence of a horizon, the blinding light of the closer sun.

In “Uno di una coppia,” we find different ways to display and see a painting: on the wall, as traditionally exhibited, but also in less sanctified forms. On the floor, we encounter ping-pong balls painted in various shades of white. Malevich’s white on white, but also Robert Ryman’s, Agnes Martin’s, Robert Rauschenberg’s, or even the white of a whitewashed wall. Be careful not to step on the freshly hatched eggs as you walk through the space! Some elements that bring us closer to Rosa’s interests are placed on the surface of a table: small paintings that can now be seen from another perspective, drawings, collages, sculptures, and notes. On this same table is Luca and his computer, moved from his usual office to the middle of the exhibition. Luca now coordinates his daily life as a gallerist amidst landings and take-offs, between paintings and projections, among balls, slides, and emails. The table has always been a theme in the history of painting and Christianity, from reproductions of the “Last Supper,” so commonly found in grandmothers’ homes, to the frescoes in churches and palaces. Tables abound with food, moments of communion, and plans of betrayal. Business deals are closed at tables, flowers in their vases release their fragrance, and the sweat of elbows stains freshly laundered tablecloths yellow.

In still lifes, melons, rabbits, and wine bottles are depicted as pieces on a gastronomic board, where wooden tables sustain time and freeze the decay of food. What did Jesus and his apostles eat at the “Last Supper”? The most famous scene of this communion, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, is almost 5 kilometers away from Rosa’s table, in the refectory of the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The table is set, unleavened bread is distributed, and among the dishes and speculations, one hears, “Is it I, Rabbi?” Judas Iscariot cynically replies to Jesus’ comment, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” Someone was deceiving. A bitter taste filled every mouth.

From the top of the stairs at Via Giuseppe Luosi, number 30, the viewer can observe the many levels below their feet: the floor and the balls, the walls and the paintings, and the table, this organism with its internal logic of layers. An aerial view from a domestic scale and not from the awe of realizing oneself inside a machine floating above the clouds.
The singularity that each part of a pair holds, the emptiness or the space of the infinite, Rosa’s paintings, where references to art history and popular culture merge with layers of paint, planes, and textures in this exhibition, brings forth from the Lago delle Sirenette another Rosa, the same Rosa.


Julia Coelho & Renan Araujo