Rini Hurkmans mainly works with the concepts of absence and loss, in relation to ethics and politics. In her artistic practice she explores how an artwork can raise ethical questions in society. In the exhibition Pietà, A Reconsideration of the Gesture, she presents works that she developed during her working period as Artist in Residence at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR). Her research into the press photo of the moment just after Michelangelo's Pietà was attacked in 1972 serves as the starting point for her new work that also builds upon earlier work inspired by this photo since she acquired it in 1992.
The Pietà is a religious image of a mother with her dead son on her lap. It is an icon that depicts general emotions of human suffering in which loss, love, and grief come together and therefore the theme extends beyond the Christian belief. In 1972, the Pietà (1499) in the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was attacked by Laszlo Toth who destroyed the left arm. Consequently, the initial gesture that reaches out to the public to engage with the theme of the Pietà was annihilated. The gesture and the press photo are multi-interpretable and carry a duality that challenges the viewer to consider ethical issues about justice and injustice, vulnerability and strength, perpetrator and victim. In the press photo, the Pietà as well as the attacker Toth are represented as victim, which Hurkmans investigates through the stop-motion film Motet. In a visual-textual work, she analyzes the photo in-depth by means of the various forms of loss that it represents since the attack.
At the KNIR, Hurkmans researched the restoration of the left arm of Michelangelo’s Pietà and now the gesture is recreated it is again an invitation for engagement. Paradoxically, the sculpture is placed behind a glass wall to be protected against another attack, which makes it impossible to experience the sculpture in its proximity apart from zooming in via a camera. When Hurkmans visited the marble quarry and the sculpting workshop Cave Michelangelo in Carrara, experts made an exact marble copy of the Pietà’s left arm. After she visited the restoration studio of the Vatican museum, the director suggested to commission another copy at the FeliceCalchi workshop. Apart from the two copies, impressions of both processes of copying are part of the exhibition. The first, marble copy that is exhibited at Lumen Travo makes the gesture approachable in a new setting. The second, fake marble copy changes settings by traveling from home to home. In both cases, the new context allows to question and relate to the gesture in one’s own way. The exhibition invites to reconsider the gesture, its engaging role that might include an awareness of communality, closeness, sensibility, and intuition, but might also involve gestures that disrupt, destroy, conceal, and condemn. As such, a redefinition of the gesture is always urgent to give form to the way we want to live together.
Image: Forms of Loss 2020©rinihurkmans
Edition Amsterdam Art Gallery Weekend
A Reconsideration of the Gesture
By Rini Hurkmans (NL, 1954)
The photo work A Reconsideration of the Gesture shows two left hands made from marble. One depicts a deceased hand, while the other expresses an active gesture reaching out. The apparatus measures the different points of the inviting hand, offering a tactile experience that activates an awareness of our sense of touch.
Edition of 10 + 2 Artist Proofs
Price: €450 excl. VAT
Size: 50 x 28 cm
The Edition of the Amsterdam Gallery Weekend can be purchased online via the gallery. Please see their contact information listed on the right side of this page.