In memoriam – “I am meticulous and have a strong personality. I always say what I have to say. And I am proud.” Said Nanda Vigo in an interview on Domus magazine. “Remind that I was born – as many others – in a culture dominated by men. There wasn’t another way: you either developed a strong character or nothing. And I developed it for the love of my work.” Added the architect and artist known for sculpting spaces with cosmogonies of light.
“We must follow light without resisting. It will enlighten us.” Said once Vigo. “Light is crucial for me in how it shapes objects creating an atmosphere. It both has and does not have dimension but it can travel far away.” Her work ranges from product design such as the Golden Gate lamp to major exhibitions across the globe.
During her carrier from the ’60s until today. Nanda Vigo – or ‘Vigour’ as someone nicknamed her for her determination – has teamed up with some of the most prominent Milanese intellectuals including architect Giò Ponti and artists Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni – who became her companion in art and life.
Born in Milan in 1936, Nanda Vigo graduated from the Institut Polytechnique in Lausanne and began to work in San Francisco. But the fascination for light and architecture struck her as a child when she discovered La Casa del Fascio, a 1930’s light filled building by Giuseppe Terragni in the city of Como. “As a child, at the age of seven, I used to read Flash Gordon comics. I had these cities, all these completely different ways of living, stuck in my head. And I became a sci-fi fan. I’d rather travel on the Enterprise and work on my future job as a space archeologist.”
Indeed, in her work, Vigo explored a transcultural cosmogony of universal geometries that have shaped the way humans from all cultures and eras narrated the world around them. Through light and colours, her triangles, squares and sinuous lines have become a distinctive alphabet connecting ancient times with future worlds from galaxies far far away.
In 1959, she opened her own studio in Milan – since then, the essential theme of her art becomes the conflict/harmony between light and space. In the 60s she used to frequent the studio of artist Lucio Fontana, and then she approached the artists who founded the gallery Azimut in Milan: Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani.
At that time, among the several trips for exhibitions across Europe, Nanda Vigo got to know the artists of the ZERO Group in Germany, Holland and France who focused on light and space. Led by Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker, the movement wanted to de-emphasize the role of the artist’s and create art that was purely about the work’s materials and the world in which those materials exist.
Between 1964 and 1966 she participated in at least thirteen ZERO exhibitions, including NUL 65 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and ZERO: An Exhibition of European Experimental Art at the Gallery of Modern Art in Washington DC. In 1965 she curated the legendary exhibition ZERO avant-garde shows in the studio of Lucio Fontana in Milan, with the participation of over 28 artists.
Between 1965 and 1968 she collaborated with Gio Ponti and she worked with Lucio Fontana at the Triennale in Milan. Since 2006, the works of Nanda Vigo are permanently exhibited at the Triennale Design Museum. In 1982, the artist participated in the 40th Venice Biennale.
Among her latest projects the exhibition the Arch/arcology installation at Rome MAXXI Museum and the solo exhibition Nanda Vigo. Light Project at Milan Palazzo Reale. On May 20, MACTE, Termoli Museum of Contemporary Art, will reopen to the public after the lockdown with the solo exhibition Nanda Vigo LIGHT PROJECT 2020.
Her message for future generations? “If you work on a computer as kids do nowadays, thinking to get something out of it… A computer can’t give you that much. The architect’s tool is the pencil, a pen, something you can jot things down with. Once an idea has started devloping, only then it is ok to use a computer.” Said Nanda Vigo in an interview to director Nicoló Terraneo.
All photos: courtesy of Archivio Nanda Vigo.