Angelo Musco (visual artist)
Angelo Musco (born 3 February 1973) is an Italian contemporary artist, best known for photographic surreal landscapes built by thousands of nude bodies, where the natural architectures and visionary landscapes are filled with the haunting mysticism of his own origins.
Musco was born in Naples, Italy, but has lived and worked in New York City and has since 1997. The youngest of five children, Angelo weighed in at 6.5 kilos (approximately 14.3 lbs.) when he was born after spending 11 months in the womb. A home birth to a child of this size was complicated; Angelo became stuck and turned blue, and the midwife panicked. Her determined extraction caused serious damage to both mother and baby. The newborn was rushed to the hospital, being in a critical state, and was stripped of his baby clothes. Musco's aunt, uncle, and father returned to the household with the soiled clothes, upon seeing which, Angelo's mother fell into a state of shock, thinking the child had died. The extreme stress spoilt her breast milk. Both mother and son survived, but young Musco was paralyzed on his right side for the first years of his life.
Musco's birth injury is called Erb's Palsy, a tearing of the neck, arm and shoulder nerves. It causes permanent damage and diminishes the function of the affected side of the body. An operation to fix the damage was scheduled, but when an illness impeded Angelo's participation on the scheduled day, his superstitious mother translated the sickness as an omen not to have the risky procedure. Instead, Angelo spent the first ten years of his life in physical therapy, to strengthen and restore the injured side of his body.
His early years were spent in school or at his father’s grocery store helping deliver the daily orders in the neighborhood Barra, just east of Naples. His parents sent him to a private Catholic school because they felt Angelo would need special attention. The school was situated on the water, and he was often entertained by high-speed boat chases as the police hunted down smugglers with black-market contraband. He would draw the boats not realizing how emblematic it was of the dangerous environment of living in Naples in the 1970s. He started university at the Academia Di Belle Arti in Naples and took a small apartment in the historic part of the city, which was very dangerous at that time. This new home was located next to the Napoli Sotteranea, a subterranean second city. The mysticism, history and legends of this old city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius were an ongoing fascination for the young artist.
For two semesters Musco lived in Granada, Spain as an exchange student. The school was well funded with wonderful labs and equipment for students to use. Musco was not well funded and work serving tea at night in an old Arab teteria to make money to survive since his family could only afford to cover his rent. Because purchasing materials for painting was also expensive, he started experimenting with installations and different materials such as fire, stones and the bodies of his colleagues. This was the first approach towards using the human body to create artistic forms. Musco visited New York City a few times for artistic research, and moved to the U.S. December 8, 1997. This date holds symbolic significance because it is the Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a public holiday in Italy.
Recurring themes relate to his difficult birth, such as confinement, subterranean worlds, and natural architecture. The human body has taken more and more space in his work, often weaving and connecting masses of nude bodies in mosaics creating constructions that are literal or symbolic representations of eggs, nests, amniotic fluid and other inspirations from the miracle of procreation.
Since arriving in the States, Musco has held photo shoots in private and public spaces and are increasingly more complicated (Production Video). A photo shoot can become an event onto itself, involving volunteers, models, businesses and government institutions.
His work and research has evolved over the years. Musco’s investigation into the power of aggregations found in nature such as sperm during egg fertilization, an ant colony, beehive or a school of fish has fueled his most recent works. His visionary translation of such aggregation on a massive scale is not only visible in his work but is also palpable during his photo shoots.
Musco conducted his first large nude photo shoot outside of the United States in October 2013 in London,England. Future international shoots are planned for spring 2014 in Buenos Aires followed by Berlin and Amsterdam.
While researching ideas of pre-birth in 2005, Musco realized New York and Naples were on the same latitude. Wanting to explore this coincidence he conceived of an installation of short videos with a recurring script happening in eleven different cities around the world all on the 41st parallel. The number eleven relates to the number of months his mother carried him in the womb. An exhaustive trip was mapped out from NYC to Viseu, Portugal; Madrid, Spain; Naples, Italy; Istanbul, Turkey; Baku, Azerbaijan; Beijing, China; Aomori, Japan; Redwood National Park, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; and Lincoln, NE. Unique experiences included filming in the Forbidden City, the threat of a religious commission at the Blue Mosque, and seeing firsthand the shocking existence of families living in the oilfields of Baku. The video debuted as a VIP collateral event at the Spring 2012 Armory Show in New York City.
In 2010, Musco presented his first solo show in the United States at the Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago. A short video documentary was made showing the complicated installation. The title piece, Tehom–an underwater world populated with tens of thousands of nude bodies, is made up of 22 individual panels measuring a total of 12' x 48'. “The dialogue between classic forms of art and contemporary expression is only one aspect of Musco’s work that speaks to me,” said Carrie Secrist, “and using mosaic type panels or photo pieces will allow the artist to make the entire gallery a unique underwater world experience.” Etymologically, tehom is derived from Hebrew, meaning “deep” or “abyss,” a reference to the biblical primordial waters of creation found in the opening verses of the Book of Genesis. Musco’s Tehom incorporates deep heavenly waters bursting with life and dark spirals of humanity propelled together with grace and tension–some floating and others fighting to make contact and engage the viewer. Two years in production, the show includes Musco’s photo installation Hadal (which was shown at the 53rd Annual Venice Biennale in 2009, presented by the Moscow Museum of Modern Art), a swirling vortex of two thousand bodies reminiscent of a floating nest or a school of fish, each a recurring theme of his work; Avernus, which explores human forms in natural constructions and depicts not the vast open sea but rather an inland lake, one supposed by the Romans to be the entrance to Hades; Progeny, an 8’ x 8’ bundle of limbs and torsos floating like a giant human egg; and Sibille, a triptych of eleven women breaking the surface of the water with an otherworldly attitude that directly references not only Greek mythology, but Musco’s numerological reference to his time in the womb. Since its debut, Tehom has been internationally exhibited and admired, and its first edition is now part of the permanent collection of Maison Particulière Art Centre in Brussels, Belgium.
Production began in the summer of 2010 for Xylem, the first work in the Cortex Project - an intricate and obsessively woven forest composed entirely of human bodies. Xylem stands in stark contrast from Tehom, which was inspired by the utter depths of water, the abyss. Xylem is a natural evolution from the former–the underworld projecting itself up, organically. The life-water of Tehom is being drawn into the structures that are Xylem. The word xylem itself is derivative from the Greek xylon, meaning wood, and references the vessels that transport water and soluble mineral nutrients from the roots throughout the plant. It is a vast arboreal vascular system that nurtures the tree.
Trees symbolize numerous aspects of life: Strength, fertility, interconnection, community, genealogy, etc., all of which is derivative of a tree’s actual form–the roots, firmly planted, draw up nutrients; the canopy draws energy from above; the trunk, a weathered body, provides material strength for the whole–and all parts are interconnected. These elements offer us a symbolism of feelings we seek in our individual landscapes, a sense of belonging, striving towards community. A tree’s roots symbolize an ongoing relationship with surroundings, as does our concept of ‘roots.’ Xylem draws from this symbolism.
The complete Cortex Project was presented as Musco's first solo show in Paris by Acte 2 Galerie, April 2013 and included Phloem, and the Ovum series of nests.
Fendi Baguette Sculpture
FENDI, the luxury brand commissioned the Angelo Musco Studio in 2013 to create Musco's interpretation of the iconic Fendi Baguette embracing all of the elements of the artist’s unique language. In his photographs millions of bodies come together illustrating the power of aggregation with thousands of elements coming together to create oneness. Symbolic and literal containers of life as well as amniotic fluid are represented to further his story of birth, nutrition and community with a unique aesthetic eye that is also inspired by the elements of nature combined with the hand of man and human industry. One of the most recognizable containers of life is the egg. The Baguette sculpture by Angelo Musco is delicately encrusted with thousands of eggshells, which play off the artist’s dialogue on the power of aggregation. By using the multitude of crushed shells, literal containers of life, their reconstitution as one covering builds a singular image that is both powerful and beautiful. Flecks of pure white shells dazzle like sequins of nature symbolizing purity, fertility, security and the origins of life. While the Baguette is beautiful in all of its incarnations, this one’s peaceful decent within an amniotic box is held, suspended, and transfixed in time. In life learning to “let go” and to find tranquility, peace and acceptance is a constant challenge for every individual. Letting go is a hard lesson and one the artist explores with the unsymmetrical placement within a perfectly etched box. Trusting in simplicity and in nature are equally challenging in today’s society. Musco joins an impressive list of artist such as Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Richard Prince who have also personalized the Fendi Baguette.
Documentary: Angelo Musco: Conception
Emmy-Award winning director Robert Jason became fascinated with Musco's art and process and followed him over 2013 creating a documentary that was presented at a private screening at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center, NYC. The film is called Conception and will be distributed in 2014. The documentary notes read: From painful physical therapy sessions in New York, to Naples, Italy the artist’s hometown and back, Jason peels back the layers of the artist and how he creates surreal landscapes of gigantic proportions and why. Musco’s artistic manipulation and weaving of the human body, a metaphor for his own physique, is elevated and transformed by the power of aggregation, the power to feel beyond our world to something greater, more beautiful–something outside the accepted limits of reality, a visionary dialogue that reaches from the most basic element of the nude body across a millennium of human evolution. What compels an artist to spend months or sometimes years working on a single artwork, compositing hundreds of thousands of human bodies, layer upon layer, charting a mosaic of infinite imagination? Jason asks this question and queries what drives the young artist to create his own vocabulary–an expression that is in essence so classical and yet so contemporary–and creating worlds at once evoking a dark foreboding and a lyrical lightness, tortured souls and innocence. A depiction of an artist’s life shaped by a traumatic birth, educated by the mysticism of an ancient city, and nurtured in one of the most energetic and dynamics cities in the world today, New York City, Angelo Musco: Conception depicts the beginning of this journey and introduces a means of understanding an expression that speaks to us all at our deepest emotional level: the level where all creation starts.
- Angelo Musco: Conception Documentary trailer
- Production Promo
- The Making of XYLEM
- Tehom, The Show
- Tehom Photo Shoot, NYC
- Asbury Park Shoot
- The Making of Murmek
- Operaprena (Charta 2003)
- Instant Book: Italian Artists New York (Charta 2009)
- Unconditional Love (Buro 17, 2009)
- Mattioli, Massimo. "Angelo Musco designed the new artist for Fendi Baguette. After Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Richard Prince, prestigious commission for the Italian artist here pictures". Atribune. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
- Time.com Lightbox, 2013
- ArtNet Interview 2013
- Huffington Post, 2012
- My Modern Met, 2012
- Frameweb, 2012
- Mail Online, 2012
- Don't Panic, 2012
- i-italy, 2012
- Miami Herald, 2011
- etoday, 2011
- Chicago Tribune July 2, 2010
- Huffington Post 2010
- Chicago Now, 2010
- New City Art, 2010
- Paper City
- Angelo Musco website
- Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago,IL
- Acte2 Galerie, Paris, France
- Maison Particulière