curated by Monica Trigona
United Nations Headquarters, Delegates’ Entrance
Monday 5 - Friday 16 December 2022
The United Nations Headquarters is the venue for Sabrina Rocca’s new solo exhibition. This follows the success of the Italian artist’s 2021 exhibition on the UN Campus in Turin (Italy); subject: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - 17 interconnected objectives, defined in the UN’s 2030 Agenda as a strategy “to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”.
“Go Goals Together”, the title of the exhibition, is therefore particularly relevant, clearly referring to the action programme endorsed in September 2015 by the UN Member States. Sabrina Rocca’s paintings take visitors on a journey in which her subjects interact with the Goals. In some cases, the viewer’s reactions are triggered by emotional cues, in others we are made to reflect on solutions that each individual might adopt as a contribution to achieving the Goal concerned, all as part of a collective commitment.
The artist approaches our times with curiosity and an open mind, living art as a social commitment. She draws from web images and gives shape to news items, using them to create "pictorial posters" with a strong aesthetic and emotional impact. Her compositions reveal an aptitude to convey in beautiful painting - hyper-realistic in style - an iconographic repertoire inspired by the urban context as well as her personal vision of globalized, multi-ethnic contemporaneity.
Her “graphic frivolities”, borrowed from comics and reminiscent of fly-posters, reinforce the written messages, so lapidary and true, that appear in her paintings. The artist’s images, many of which connect to the world of childhood and its innocence of expression, convey messages in praise of a society that is responsible, fair, peaceful and inclusive; proactive in promoting technical and scientific innovation, while standing against human and environmental exploitation, violence and all types of inequality.
The references to the SDGs are evident in the minimal gestures, simple poses and unambiguous attitudes assumed by children or seemingly vulnerable individuals. The veteran in a wheelchair making the sign of peace and the boy offering hugs are two sides of the same coin, as life presents many of us with privilege and opportunities while denying them to others. Like hunger and malnutrition, limited or zero access to schooling is the result of poverty, as is social exclusion. Sabrina Rocca’s young girls hold on tightly to newspapers, because information and knowledge, the direct consequence of literacy campaigns, are true human rights.
Other young subjects of different ethnic origins peep out from backgrounds that recall American Pop Art, the world of comic strips and superheroes that were all the rage in the post-war period. That “golden age” was characterized by Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, Hawkman, Aquaman and many others. All were engaged in fighting crime. Their daring deeds and feats of heroism were matched by alluring graphics, consisting of starbursts, thunderbolts, puffs of cloud and rays of coloured light.
Here in the exhibition, the same fireworks erupt from the centre of the compositions to lend dynamism to today’s slogans and consecrate new heroes. The ironic and carefree activism of children who believe in gender equality, cooperation among nations, saving the planet and social justice, all seasoned with an undertone of bitter clarity, permeates these compositions with a brazen sweetness that can be as incisive as a photo. The bitter note, although not disclosed, is tacitly the background to every representation.
In Sabrina Rocca's artworks, perspective backgrounds are replaced by pictorial screensavers, giving them a poster-like feel. Her careful hand, emulating the structure of advertisements, arranges the internal elements to create lively and detailed compositions. The uncanny sense of finding oneself in front of a canvas or photomontage is reinforced by the artist’s skill in rendering facial morphology.
The bright colours, the centrality of the main subject and the attention to details signal a stance that leaves no room for interpretation. She takes up the challenge of today's art without compromise: her images are intended to leave a mark that persists between one show and another. Her paintings speak directly to the visitor and translate the Sustainable Development Goals into something that can be immediately understood, apparently with a smile.
(The exhibition is co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Italy for the United Nations in NY and by the ITCILO – International Training Centre of the ILO)