An artist who values colorful news
Middletown sculptor creates with newsprint, glue
Middletown sculptor Riccardo Berlingeri burst onto the local art scene only few years ago, a colorful, newsworthy man in his own right. He was ready to share a lifetime full of images that intertwined the nature he studied and worshipped with his passion for ecology and the printed word. And he created an unprecedented art medium to do so.
Raised on the Italian island of Capri, Berlingeri spent much of his life studying its natural wonders as well as the manmade art in the great cathedrals of Rome. The never-too-late blooming teacher-turned artist, who, for the most part, uses only newsprint and glue to craft his pieces, began his trek into the United States in 1997 and Monmouth County world of arts a decade later, in 2007.
It was then that, after visiting the metropolitan area and becoming fascinated with the contemporary art world in New York City, he ended up moving to Cranberry, where he had friends and worked as an art teacher in the city. Berlingeri’s own arts news story began in 2007 when he lost his teaching job in New York.
As with most, if not all, creative innovations, his ideas crystallized when he had the time and space to play with them. The need for creative expression and the pressure of seeing his newspapers piling up for recycling came together in ways that can only be labeled inspired.
To say only that this artist creates his sculptures out of newsprint is like saying that renowned metal sculptor Alexander Calder created his smaller works out of sheet metal without explaining how luminous they are when hanging on the wall or from a ceiling.
Berlingeri transforms the pages of the New York Times into large, colorful paper sculptures. It is his way of recycling the newspapers, transforming his anxiety over his concern for the environment, and making something beautiful with his creative energy.
Constantly inspired, the sculptor works tirelessly in his basement with classical music urging him to completion. He is surrounded by newspaper pages that are stacked according to the color of the ads on the page. There are piles of greens, reds, yellows and blues along with the Elmer’s glue that holds his designs together.
He builds his sculptures according to an image that takes shape in his mind. First he decides on the color scheme and then he rolls each paper square into sticks and builds the sculpture up piece by piece on a canvas base.
Berlingeri has created a large body of work in the short span of just more than three years. “I treat it like a full-time job with a schedule and organization,” he said.
In that short time, the arts spotlight has shone on him Monmouth County’s creative circles and beyond.
In the past year alone, his unique, intricate sculptures have been shown at the Middletown Public Library, and the Monmouth Museum, on Lincroft’s Brookdale Community College Campus, where he was one of six emerging artists given his own show. Currently, a solo show of his work can be seen through Feb. 28 at the Jewish Community Center Gallery on Grant Avenue in Deal.
Most of Berlingeri’s wall sculptures are round, but lately he has branched out into shapes, like the cocoon sculpture that sits on a floor stand or the aforementioned Brainstorm, a vertical piece that seems to be delicately balanced on a stand, but is really supported by an invisible piece of wire.
One of his early pieces, called 2005 is the closest he comes to a literal translation of the news. Using the front page of every New York Times issue that year, he painstakingly created 12 fan-like sections with 28, 30 and 31 rolled pieces, each showing the date of the page. “It’s a continuous wave of news,” he said.
Another of his combination sculptures is made up of five round shapes. Called Rose Windows, they were inspired by the rose windows that he has seen in medieval cathedrals while doing restoration work there.
“They are also a symbol of the beauty of the divine,” he said, adding, “There is a black space in the center of my rose windows, a negative space. The darkness is outside so that we cannot see the divine.”
Outside of his Monmouth County notoriety, “I am particularly excited about a piece that I made for the lobby of the ‘green building’ that hosts the Arts Council of the Morris Area and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation,” he said. “I call it Ode to a Dear Old Friend.”
The sculpture strongly addresses environmental concerns and embraces the “theme of the building,” he said, adding that Ode to a Dear Old Friend has a double meaning: “It refers not only to mother nature, but also to the newspaper, which quite often shapes our environmental awareness”
Berlingeri said he created the piece after the Executive Director, Anne Aronovitch, of the Arts Council of the Morris Area selected his sculpture Brainstorm for the Whimsy Exhibition and had also seen his other work on his web site, www.riccardoberlingeri.com.
“The exposure that my work will get there will be invaluable since there are a variety of foundations with offices there, especially the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation which is a huge supporter of the arts and hosts many conferences in the building,” he said.
According to the artist, people often want to know where he got the idea for his sculptures. He said he doesn’t really know how to answer them, other than that they were borne out of his life's passions. He'll tell you that he is just grateful that people respond to his work and galleries are offering him space to exhibit.