Courtesy of Alejandro Nodarse

In the Ezra Stiles Art Gallery, Yalies can now find “(de)positions: an homage to pontormo,” an exhibit of works produced by Alejandro Nodarse ’19 put on display last Friday. Nodarse primarily creates sculptures and works under the guidance of Martin Kersels, the director of graduate studies in sculpture at the Yale School of Art.

“(de)positions,” which will be on display for two weeks, is an homage to 16th-century Florentine artist Jacopo Pontormo and engages with the painter’s altarpiece “The Deposition from the Cross,” in which vibrantly colored bodies twist around a representation of Jesus Christ. Yet the exhibit’s aim is not to simply reproduce Pontormo’s well-known painting. According to Nodarse, “(de)positions” considers the paradoxical tensions he sees as underlying the 16th-century work.

“Images like [“The Deposition from the Cross”] can seem so foreign because we’re not steeped in that moment of image-making,” Nodarse said. “Most people don’t even know who Pontormo is. But when you go back and think about the maker of the work, it sparks this empathetic connection — he was invested in creating this beautiful image. From an artistic standpoint, I’m interested in the process of creating work that involves one’s ability to transcend daily trauma and create something beautiful.”

Nodarse, an art history major, first encountered Pontormo’s work in a high school art history class. But he only saw reproductions of the work until the summer of 2018, when he visited Florence while doing thesis research in Italy. Encountering the original work compelled him further due to what he described as the “rawness of the colors” and the emotion expressed in the figures.

“I was also drawn to the bodies and the motion they expressed,” Nodarse said. “You see a lot of the trauma and suffering they undergo as individuals through their motion and weight.”

Nodarse considered these ideas of motion and weight while creating the work on display at the exhibit. The walls of the gallery exhibit a series of photographs — depicting Nodarse and Kevin Koste ’19 and taken by Alexandros Koutsogeorgas ’19 — in which bodies turned away from the camera are sheathed in taut, sheer fabric. The team created these images by capturing Nodarse and Koste in motion as they stretched and pulled a sheet of raincoat fabric.

Nodarse said he was interested in the ways Pontormo’s use of fabric abstracts the bodies depicted, while also communicating stress. The performers described being physically exhausted and sore following the photography sessions, as they moved and created the tension in the fabric throughout.

The exhibit also contains a collection of sculptures made of clay, metal, rope and fruit, assembled without glue or other binding agents. The sculptures are influenced by the text of Pontormo’s diary, in which he recorded a variety of thoughts, from his artistic output to his diet.

Pontormo’s diary served as a grounding treatment for a progressive mental illness. Nodarse combines the themes Pontormo discusses in one of the exhibition’s sculptures by covering an apple in hardware nails and pieces of clay “skin.”

“The idea is that because the sculptures are balanced in this way, the actual decomposition of the fruit will destroy the sculpture,” Nodarse said. “So there’s a time limit to the piece itself. I’m interested in the way the form is dependent on this fragile thing that we know will decompose.”

The multi-medium nature of the exhibit extends to written work. Margaret Grabar-Sage ’19, a literature major and close friend of Nodarse, wrote a poem entitled “From Pontormo” that accompanies the exhibit. Grabar-Sage said that she spent many hours studying the painting before she began writing.

The elements of the painting that intrigued her the most were the bodies, which Grabar-Sage described as “loosely leaning together in an almost architectural way” and the curious positioning of the hands. Therefore, she decided to focus her poem on corporeal suspension. Grabar-Sage said that when she wrote the final lines of her poem, she imagined someone who perceives the world as fluid but still feels constrained by material concerns.

“I think that Pontormo is expressing the dream-like quality of this shocking transitional moment,” Grabar-Sage said. “The people in the painting are obviously distraught, but they’re also failing to connect with each other, failing to commune with each other in grief and whatever else they may be feeling, despite how interconnected they are. To me it’s an image of isolation in the midst of people, which I think is how a lot of people deal — poorly — with difficult emotions.”

The Ezra Stiles Art Gallery is located on the ground floor of the college, across from the common room.

Rianna Turner |