Nivola Study Day

September 25, 2021, 2:00-5:00pm

Join us at Magazzino Italian Art for a day of presentations and conversations in conjunction with Nivola: Sandscapes, a special exhibition, open until January 10, 2022, that features work by Sardinian artist Costantino Nivola, with a focus on his original sandcasting technique. 

The program will take place from 2:00–5:00 p.m. in Gallery 8 and will include three presentations that examine aspects of Nivola’s life, including the environment in which he lived and worked; his artistic friendships and collaborations; and contemporary perspectives on the legacy of this unique body of work. They will also aim to contextualize and illuminate the significance of the artist’s varied sandcast production. Following the presentations will be a brief Q&A and small reception. 

Seating is limited, so please be sure to reserve a spot by emailing RSVP@magazzino.art. Guests must be able to provide proof of vaccination in order to attend.

Alastair Gordon will speak about Nivola’s house and garden in Springs as an important cultural nexus for the postwar period of East End art. Lindsay Caplan will examine two of the Italian company Olivetti’s most iconic artistic interventions in New York: Nivola’s mural for their showroom, completed in 1954, and Ettore Sottsass’s “Information Machine” featured in the Information exhibition at MoMA in 1970 to explore how these artists reimagine the relationship between the natural and technological world. Roger Broome and Steven Hillyer will provide an overview of selected works by Nivola in New York City, highlighting the techniques utilized in their making and underscoring the need for the preservation of Nivola’s public art. 

Presentation 1

A Secret Garden

Alastair Gordon, critic, curator, cultural historian and author

Alastair Gordon will examine the Nivola garden in Springs, East Hampton, NY as an important cultural nexus for the postwar period of East End art. Having grown up in Amagansett and befriended the Nivola family, Gordon will trace the collaboration between Tino and various other artists and designers, including Le Corbusier who painted two murals in the house and Bernard Rudofsky who developed the concept of the outdoor room for modern architecture. This idea was translated into a series of garden enclosures, terraces and a solarium by Nivola, who divided up his backyard space with concrete walls, murals, fire pits, seating areas, wooden fences, pergolas, etc. The garden was also an expansion of Nivola’s studio practice and his ambition to bring the beach to the studio, as he created a large sand pit for making his castings.

Presentation 2

From Sand to Spaceship: Nivola, Sottsass, and Olivetti in New York

Lindsay Caplan, Assistant Professor of Art History at Brown University

This paper will examine two of the Olivetti Company’s most iconic artistic interventions in New York: Costantino Nivola’s mural for the Olivetti showroom, completed in 1954, and Ettore Sottsass’s “Information Machine” featured in the Information exhibition at MoMA in 1970. A mere sixteen years separate the works, yet nothing seems farther from Nivola’s rhythmically composed, sand-relief mural than Sottsass’s imposing, oblong viewing station for experimental cinema. Yet this paper will situate them in their respective historical contexts to account for how each artist engages with comparable conceptions of technology, craft, spectatorship, and public space. In so doing, this presentation will describe how these artists reimagine the relationship between the natural and technological world.

Presentation 3

Nivola in New York – Protecting and Preserving an Artistic Legacy

Roger Broome, architect and Steven Hillyer, Director of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive at The Cooper Union

This presentation, given jointly by Roger Broome and Steven Hillyer, will provide an overview of selected works by Costantino Nivola in New York City, highlighting the techniques utilized in their making and underscoring the need for the preservation of Nivola’s public art.

About the speakers

Alastair Gordon is an award-winning critic, curator, cultural historian and author. For more than twenty years, he wrote on art, architecture and the environment for the New York Times and in 2008 became Contributing Editor on design for WSJ., the Wall Street Journal Magazine, as well as launching and producing the popular “Wall-to-Wall” design blog on the Journal’s web site. Gordon’s essays have been widely published, including in Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, Le MondeArchitectural Record, New York Observer, House & Garden and Dwell. In addition to his critical journalism, Gordon has published more than thirty books on art, architecture and environment, including such critically acclaimed titles as Weekend Utopia, Naked Airport, Spaced OutTheater of ShoppingArquitectonica, Romantic Modernist and Wandering Forms. [See “Books” at https://alastairgordonwalltowall.com/]. In 2016, he launched “Poetics of Place,” the critical writing program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and has taught and lectured at many other institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, Columbia University, Yale University, Princeton University, the Wolfsonian Museum, Florida International University and the University of Miami. Earlier in his career, Gordon was General Editor of The Princeton Papers on Architecture and served as the Robert Lehman Curator at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, N.Y. He has received numerous prizes for his critical prose and scholarship, including research fellowships from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Macdowell Colony and received a special citation for ‘Excellence in Criticism’ from the American Institute of Architects. Alastair is also Co-Founder and Editorial Director of Gordon de Vries Studio, an imprint that specializes in books about the human environment. 

Dr. Lindsay Caplan is Assistant Professor of modern and contemporary art history at Brown University. She holds a PhD in Art History from The CUNY Graduate Center, where she also studied sociology (MA, 2009). Before joining Brown, she taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, Eugene Lang College, School of Visual Arts, Parsons, City University of New York, and the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. From 2010 to 2011, she was a Critical Studies participant at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She has received fellowships from The Center of the Humanities at The CUNY Graduate Center (2010-14) and the American Council for Learned Societies (2015-16). Her writing has appeared in edited collections, exhibition catalogues, magazines, and journals such as Grey Room, ARTMargins, e-flux, The Scholar and Feminist Online, and Art in America. Her book on the computer art and experimental design of Arte Programmata in 1960s Italy received a Millard Meiss Publication Grant from the College Art Association and is forthcoming from University of Minnesota Press (Fall 2022). 

Roger Broome is a licensed architect based in Brooklyn and Sullivan County, NY. He has developed a fluency in all aspects of design, from composing landscapes and structures to placement of artwork in an architectural context. As a child, he discovered the work of Costantino Nivola and, ever since, has been exploring the many paths that his art offers.

Steven Hillyer is the Director of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive at The Cooper Union. He has curated, designed, and installed numerous exhibitions at The Cooper Union and abroad, presenting the work of—and often working directly with—such distinguished architects as Raimund Abraham, John Hejduk, Bernhard Hoesli, Louis I. Kahn, Daniel Libeskind, Franco Purini, Carlo Scarpa, Massimo Scolari, Michael Webb, and Lebbeus Woods, as well as the artists Anthony Candido, Mary Kelly, Costantino Nivola, and Robert Slutzky. Hillyer’s international work includes exhibitions at Prague Castle, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture.