The Double Soul

Caitlin Johnson


This past Sunday the GRAPHITE team along with other members of HSA (Hammer Student Association) had the opportunity to explore Simon Toparovsky and Ariel Soulé’s A Letter from the Renaissance: The Double Soul, which is currently on display in the UCLA Library’s Department of Special Collections. After being bused to the Getty Center where we got a 60 minute crash course on 16th century Italian history and portraiture, we were fortunate to have one of the artists, Simon Toparovsky, give us a personal tour of the exhibition in Special Collections

This letter fragment attributed to the hand of Michelanglo casually states:

In one thousand five hundred thirty-three I record that today 22 September I went to Santo Miniato al Tedesco to talk to Pope Clement who was going to Nice and on the same day Brother Sebastiano del Piombo left a horse of his for me.

The fragment awakens an awareness of times long past, while not saying very much at all. And, it is this single fragment housed at the UCLA Library Special Collections that connects all the dual elements at play in A Letter from the Renaissance.

Nestled between shelves of Special Collections’ tattered edged tomes, the display cases of Toparovsky and Soulé seem to illiterate the history, recordings and mood of all that could be contained between a dated cover, a string of words, or a letter fragment. While a library may not be everyone’s idea of dynamic space, A Letter from the Renaissance highlights the push-and-pull between text and the visual, the profound and the mundane, sculpture and painting, artist and artist, permanence and impermanence, the complete and the fragment, past and present, and our perceptions and projections thereof. Yet for all its depth and dynamism, the installations seem to find a more delicate, even vulnerable expression. Maybe these contemporary installations have more in common with the library after all.

A Letter from the Renaissance will be up through December 17th in UCLA Library Special Collections.