Mark Robbins
Fragments and Layers

Rome is a city of fragments and layers, evoking romantic visions of a distant past. Tourist souvenir books with acetate overleaves offer complete scenes, presenting images of the original states of buildings, structures, statuary, and open spaces fixed in time. Though a single composed view of the past is compelling, cities like Rome are more complex in experience and in our mind’s eye. Its landscape of fragments offers evidence that invites interpretation that continues to fuel the work of scholars and artists. It is an iterative process permitting new narratives to inform or supersede earlier ones.

This year’s theme for the Academy is “Ethics,” which suits an era in which ideas about truth and goodness seem to be relative commodities. Objects provide evidence of culture and are open to assessments of worth. As fragments are severed from their original context, the understanding of their initial uses or ritual associations can be lost and changed. Choices about what is preserved and displayed reflect a system of values that can reinforce or upend ideas about the past.

The international group of artists in Regeneration variously play with aspects of natural decay, decomposition, or violence. Their work suggests alternative readings of value and order, critically revealing hidden or suppressed histories while proposing a simultaneity of possible meanings.

I want to thank the curators of this exhibition, Lindsay Harris and Elizabeth Rodini, for their elegant and powerful thesis, the participating artists who were generous in their contributions, as well as the remarkable team who helped bring this show into being. I especially want to thank the Board of Trustees and the Academy’s many supporters who sustain the overall work of the Academy.

Mark Robbins has served as president and CEO of the American Academy in Rome since 2014. An artist, architect, educator, and longtime advocate for the arts and design, he has held positions at the International Center of Photography, Syracuse University, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Wexner Center for the Arts. His work deals with the intersection of public space, art, and urban design. Robbins was the Marion O. and Maximilian E. Hoffman Foundation Rome Prize Fellow in Design in 1997 and curator of AAR’s 2019 exhibition, The Academic Body.