Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Friday, February 5, 2016
Rome Journal XVI: SPQR(ca)Vita
painting by Juan Francisco Casas (photograph by Hallie Cohen)
The pagan spirit never left Rome, despite the advent of
Christianity. There's probably no city on earth where the sacred and the
profane, religion and sacrilege co-exist so freely and openly. Donato
Bramante’s Tempietto is a jewel of Renaissance architecture, commemorating the
martyrdom of St Peter, on the grounds of the church of San Montorio in Pietro.
But you have to expand your notion of what constitutes a spiritual experience
if you attempt to see Bramante’s work anytime before February 16 as the façade
of entranceway, is now covered with a poster of a naked woman advertising “SPQR(ca)VITA," a show of sadomasochistic paintings and drawings by Juan
Francisco Casas. Granted the show is presented by the Spanish Academy, on
whose grounds both the church and Tempietto are situated, but a painting of
a woman on all fours, leashed, collared and licking a book on "Bernini" seems simpatico for Rome, particularly if you are caught up in the current resurgence
of interest in the transgressive Marxist Christian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. In
fact one of Casas' works, a painting of a bloodied cadaver entitled simply
“Pier Paolo,” obviously references the filmmaker’s violent death. Other
images in the exhibit include a topless woman with a bag over her head and a
naked woman whose body is inscribed with the words, “your eyes can be so cruel
just as I can be so cruel though I do believe in you.” Visitors to the Tempietto will
have their Augustinian moment when they choose to either turn left to
the City of God embodied by a reliquary or take a right turn toward the world
of flagellation and defilement of the flesh—which, one might argue, contains
its own version of the crucifixion.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.