Home Magazine Traditions and Myths in Maria Lai's world now at MAXXI...

Art as something that can bring our mind wherever. Art as something that can stimulate our fantasy by changing the way we look at our daily life. Art as something magic that can generate infinite possibilities...

It’s still possible to find some “pure artists”, somebody who is far away from financial interests. Why? Because for these artists, art is urgency, art is a therapy, art is a true obsession... Among these artists, the name of Maria Lai stands out. The Sardinian artist who left us in 2013 at the age of 94, it’s experiencing an incredible recognition. After numerous of initiatives devoted to her works as at Documenta 14 and the 2017 edition of the Venice Biennale, now it’s possible see her major retrospective at the MAXXI (National Museum of XXI Century Arts) in Rome, curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi and Luigia Lonardelli,  “Maria Lai. Tenendo per mano il sole”


Telaio del meriggio, 1967 wood, twine, canvas, paint  cm 100 x 153 x 20  Collezione Fondazione Stazione dell’Arte . Photo credit Tiziano Canu.  
Courtesy Fondazione Stazione dell’Arte  © Archivio Maria Lai by SIAE 2019      


Best known for her famous sewn canvas, Maria Lai (Ulassai, Nuoro 1919 - Cardedu, Nuoro 2013) was a versatile artist that has never stopped to experience with different media and by finding new ways to generate art, also thanks to the human interaction. Maria Lai studied art in Rome Art School, and then, from 1942 to 1945, she moved to Venice at the Academy of Fine Arts where she attended the sculpture course held by Arturo Martini. Evident talent since her youth, Maria Lai has exposed in different art exhibitions with wide intervals of time, and she never ceased to tap into Sardinian traditions and myths.


Maria Lai, Ciò che non so, 1984  thread, cloth, paint  cm 20 x 15. Private collection, Milano. Courtesy Nuova Galleria Morone and Archivio Maria Lai  © Archivio Maria Lai by SIAE 2019   


Maria Lai, Fiabe intrecciate, metal, 2007, La Stazione dell’Arte, Ulassai. Photo Elisabetta Loi, Sergio Melis, Arasolè. Courtesy Fondazione Stazione dell'Arte © Archivio Maria Lai by SIAE 2019


From the seventies the artist has developed an original language in the production of sewn canvas with unreadable and material writings, that evoke mood and thoughts. The communication with the viewer is entrusted to the feelings generate by the weft described by the wires and the contact with the cloth, in a direct passage from the creator (artist) and the reader-interlocutor. Starting from the eighties, her artistic research has been mainly directed to intervention on landscape, as in the case of the performance “Legarsi alla montagna” (1981). Read more on Maria Lai - Atelier Sul Mare...


I played with great dedication, and at a certain point, they called my games art... 

(Maria Lai)


Produced in a collaboration with the Archivio Maria Lai and Fondazione Stazione dell’Arte, with the patronage of the Municipality of Ulassai and the support of the Fondazione di Sardegna, this exhibition aim to present diverse aspects of her artworks. The display involves 200 artworks including sewn books, sculptures, Geographies, public works, and her celebrated Looms, many of them previously unseen. The show is structured in five sections which take their name from citations or titles of works by Lai, while the subtitle describes the typical methods of her research; the voice of Maria Lai accompanies each section through a montage of previously unseen material compiled by the director Francesco Casu. There is also a final section that documenting the works of environmental art realised by the artist, in particular in the Ogliastra region. The title refers of her first Sewn Fable, from which it is possible see many elements typical of Lai’s research: her interest in poetry, language and the word; the cosmogony of her geographies evoked by the sun; the pedagogical vocation implicit in that “taking by the hand”. 

"Maria Lai. Tenendo per mano il sole" at MAXXI,  from 19 June 2019 to 12 January 2020.

Cover images: Maria Lai, Photo Pietro Paolo Pinna - Maria Lai, Tenendo per mano il sole 1984-2004 thread, cloth, velvet cm 33 x 63 Private collection Photo credit Francesco Casu Courtesy Archivio Maria Lai © Archivio Maria Lai by SIAE 2019.


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