07 Feb - 31 Mar 2008
7 Feb - 31 Mar 2008
Works by Domenico Bianchi, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Paolo Canevari, Günther Förg, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Giulio Paolini, Giuseppe Penone, Bernard Roig, Remo Salvatori, Thomas Schütte, Christopher Wool, Peter Wüthrich, Gilberto Zorio On Thursday February 7th the Cardi gallery will be inaugurating the show “... di carta”, (... from Paper), a selection of works either made from paper or which originate from paper. These are not works that result from being reproduced on paper by drawing or printing – in fact we are not dealing with images fixed on a sheet of paper because here there is a different way of using the medium and the materials, of which paper is just one. Some of the artists – Boetti or Paolini, Calzolari or Zorio, Merz or Penone, for example – use the virgin paper material in a different way to the one which tradition has assigned it and have given it a new role: now we are dealing with something far more complex, something used as a medium insofar as it has far different possibilities from the traditional ones. Paper is not only a white surface on which to draw in order to produce a more or less figurative mark on the infinite empty space of the inviolate page (or the infinite fullness of its almost impalpable dimension). Paper, as used by the artists in this show, is not even the unique, ideal support for an etching, the humble, docile sheet, to be compressed by the printing press in order to reproduce the outlines engraved by the burin. For Mario Merz, for example, many kinds of paper exist or, rather, sheets used like paper: acetate, synthetics, newsprint, and other kinds. These are all materials on which he could act, almost in a performance, like action painting, forcing the mark into an ancestral maze of colours with all the energy and divining capacity of a shaman. Because Merz, by walking in a cosmological future, discovered through art the principle path to truly living here on the earth as a primordial artist. Thanks to Merz, our experiences of time and of life seem freer (to range outside history and news) more remote and larger (like those of a gecko or a spiral) and, therefore, more menacing. For Christopher Wool a sheet of paper is a cliff to be climbed or a virtual place. The drawing (or, rather, a sign, a logo or an emblem in the place of drawing) can then travel the world like a postage stamp and challenge the physical laws that usually regulate earthly life. The paper chosen by Mimmo Paladino is not paper: it is, if anything, a portion of wall as old as the country soil. Or, perhaps better, it is like a clod of earth (and in this case we are perhaps dealing with a necropolis and in the presence of the rediscovered remains of some royal tomb) or a fragment of a cavern: a magic circle where there accumulate the remains and traces of people and other fossilised beings, symbols in the shape of a cross or ordered religiously. Pier Paolo Calzolari transforms paper into three-dimensional sculptures: what is usually slender and light reappears as something solid, heavy, bulky. It becomes a mountain around which a train now travels. Perhaps we are looking at an Alpine landscape: bristling with hills, rocky spurs, huge viaducts. The relationship, however, is that between the vague and indefinite space of the block, white as a marble cube (though scattered over with buttons and stars) and circular time, the time of a journey around a white sky embroidered with distant stars and planets. This is, perhaps, an infinite and indefinite journey through time such as those undertaken by an idea or image in the mind of the artist. Calzolari follows the paths of the invisible by joining them to those of the visible: the poetry of the infinite in everyday reality. For Domenico Bianchi paper is only apparently a surface on which to spread colours and trace out lines. In fact, the dimension that this Roman artist aims to create through a close organisation of planes and geometric sections is a physical as well as symbolic dimension. The picture – or sheet of paper – is never simply a picture or sheet of paper. The work is something that travels through symbolic space or traditional mimetic strategies (such as perspective or naturalism), follows along the principle paths of modernism (abstraction and minimalism) in order to arrive beyond Arte Povera (the material poetics of which he is the interpreter) through his highly personal understanding of painting. An understanding that is resolved artistically by the science of the heart and mind. Bianchi’s is a visual technique – and typically Italian – that first destabilises and then hurls the viewer into remoteness and infinity, into both the microcosm and the macrocosm. A work by Bianchi always produces a visual proximity and a symbolic distance (or vice versa): a contact that is absolutely a-typical and in no way coldly virtual. Right from the start of the nineteen-fifties paper has been considered a material in the same way as iron or charcoal, but also an object for exchange such as the classical Ready-made, and, lastly, as something similar to a sheet on which are imprinted the traces of physical contact. The paper has been cut, shredded, pulverised, burnt, crumpled, rolled up, piled up; paper was seen scattered around, and heaped in blocks and columns. All this is the outcome of a transformation of art language at the beginning of the twentieth century: when paper was no longer a surface chosen to be drawn on or etched. It is enough to think of Picasso or Schwitters, Dada, Cornell, and then Rauschenberg or Gutai. With Arte Povera the world was suddenly invaded by living and cumbersome materials, the source of energy, materials able to be continually transformed, materials chosen even for their intrinsic history – but a history related to news, to collective and universal experience rather than to what is personal. Paper was one of these humble materials, together with wood and iron, fire and wax. Each time that Jannis Kounellis gets near to paper he seems to burn it because each mark he makes is a flame to illuminate the night. Paper is a space available to the artist in order for him to occupy it physically and then, with the tragic language of life and history, give back a sense of stability to art and to actual life (and in this we see Kounellis’s Caravaggio- and Courbet-like realism). Skulls have been accumulated, not in an iconographic way (as though in a “vanitas”), but constructively and archaically (as in Cézanne). Skulls abandoned by progress on the stage of History, where the tragedy of progress, as described by Walter Benjamin, is acted out. Giulio Paolini is able to balance the language of art and each of its instruments; in fact he suspends both language and the viewer between modernity and classicism. Each of his works is a highly sophisticated mechanism from a conceptual and a poetic point of view, even when it is at its most simple and minimal, on the verge of the inexistent. A displaced or crumpled sheet of paper is both an evocation and a physical check on eternal and universal laws about the history of art, the history of earth, and also of the infinite universe. The artist, in fact, aims at informing us of events and of infinite and infinitesimal measures, and at guiding us to the very threshold of some amazing occurrence: the appearance of the doppelganger, the birth of a myth, the reappearance of a goddess, the opening of a door onto endlessness, involvement with a labyrinth, perspective’s extension to infinity, a secret appointment with melancholy, the vague wanderings of memory. Or else the image is a black hole, the big bang, the Milky Way. What is superhuman and immeasurable seems offered to the gaze of the viewers, whether they are aware of it or not. The image aids us in this shipwreck. Even when we are dealing with a sheet of paper and a handful of drawing pins, or playing cards and torn and cut up pages thrown almost casually on the floor. Almost a classical work, almost a contemporary work. Always it is concerned with the nature of the sublime or of intelligible beauty. The images drawn and painted by Thomas Schütte and Remo Salvadori are not simply images or icons because they are the result both of an experience and of the incomplete datum of a process that has been underway for a long time, if not for eternity. This is alchemical and symbolic in the case of Remo Salvadori, and mnemonic and allegorical in that of Schütte. Gilberto Zorio invests his paper with the effects of alchemical experiments, the main significance of which, however, is also ethical and, we might even say, political. And lastly, paper is Peter Wüthrich’s basic element whether taken from books, magazines or catalogues: it is like a brick or a beam used by the artist in order to construct buildings or design objects that are almost habitable or usable. So, in the beginning was the cavern or perhaps even the skin of the body. And then came paper. And so drawing was born. And a further action by the artist on the medium generated the ghostly communication of art. Paper offered itself as a second skin and, at the same time, as a screen. Paper, used for drawing or printing reminds us of this remote origin. And then it moved away. Only to return in ways that were different and unexpected with regard to its origins. So paper, in the hands of an artist, restores a primordial or even poetical experience, one which is classical because it is timeless and universal. Or else it is also a testimony to and an endorsement of the birth of art for all, available to everyone. Just a piece of paper and lots of imagination (not only conceptual) is enough, as can be seen in the work of Alighiero Boetti, even though drawing today is perhaps an excessively sophisticated expressive form, one enjoyed by a few exceptional and special art lovers. And just imagine when a work is made only... from paper and little more.