Ma*Ga Museum Shows Its True Colors

The refreshed permanent collection and a new temporary exhibition at the museum of modern and contemporary art in Gallarate explore colours to rediscover artists under a new lens.

Along with its renovated permanent collection, the Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art in Gallarate, near Milan, presents an exhibition of works by Umberto Ciceri.

Colour has always been the protagonist in art history, and its different uses, adopted by artists over time, constantly gave life to new ways of approaching the creation of images.

At the MA*GA museum, in Gallarate, colour is the protagonist of the exhibition “La forma del ritmo (The Shape of Rhythm)” – until 4 December –  and in the renewed rooms of the permanent collection. Titled “I Colori Scappano Sempre (Colors Always Escape),” the new itinerary is articulated on two floors: one devoted to the relationship between geometric abstraction and design, and the other explores the idea of colours as a language.

The title of the exhibition stems from the work of design legend Ettore Sottsass who once wrote that “colours always run away from all sides, they run away in slow motion like words which always run away, like poetry that you can never hold in your hands, like beautiful stories, colours run away from all sides, you can never stop them.”

From this statement, curator Alessandro Castiglioni started to develop the exhibition. “He talks about colours, and after reading his thoughts, I started to focus on the element of colour and their possibility to use it as a language,” Mr Castiglioni said.

The exhibition highlights some pivotal episodes of Italian art history from the second half of the 20th century to the present day, featuring little-known and acclaimed artists shoulder to shoulder. A previously unknown large-scale work by Carol Rama opens the exhibition. The work appears as a diptych of which one half is occupied by a precious, finely decorated leather covering, the other is completely black and features a bicycle tire glued to the canvas.

The exhibition continues with an entire floor on geometry and its relationship with design, starting with the Concrete Art Movement and ending with the design masters of the 1950s and 1960s, featuring works by Soldati, Prampolini, Munari, Campi, Magistretti and Sottsass, just to name a few.

For the second part of the exhibition, the works selected from the 1970s explore how the analysis of the language of colour went through a series of philosophical questions. This is evident in the work “Untouchable Red” by Emilio Isgrò in which colour itself becomes language. This section also analyzes the more sign-like tendencies of that decade and the conceptual matrix of movements such as Analytical Painting, up to the more contemporary experiments by Giorgio Griffa, Irma Blank, and Luca Vitone.

“We decided to articulate a path that would allow visitors to discover some works that had been in storage for over twenty years,” Mr Castiglioni said. “On one hand, there is an idea of allowing a rotation of the more than six thousand works that characterize the collection without dwelling on hierarchy and ideology. On the other, we want to make people rediscover artists who are usually not the subject of analysis in recent years but who need to be studied, discovered and reevaluated in Italian art history” he added.

The recently inaugurated exhibition “The Rhythm’s Shape” – by artist Umberto Ciceri – delves further into colour, focusing on experiments on the use of lenticular surfaces. Mr Ciceri’s practice focuses on perceptual and chromatic studies around optics, the chemical structure of colours and the neurophysiological processes of receiving images.

“Visitors will move continuously, and will establish on their own the necessary associations,” Mr Ciceri said. “They will find their rhythm from the colours on the threshold of invisibility to the inlaid works composed according to contrapuntal rules, everything will resonate, proposing a contemplative and suspended perceptual atmosphere.”

The exhibition “I Colori Scappano Sempre” and “La Forma del Ritmo” are on view until 4 December at the MA*GA Museum, Gallarate.

Jessica Capretti is a frequent contributor to Milano Art Guide since 2021. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and has worked on several projects including “L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, in Paris. She lives and works in Milan.