Public days:

Step 01

PROMETEO GALLERY IDA PISANI

Corridor Orange 2 and Red 1

Discover it at 03:42

Step 02

RICHARD SALTOUN

Back to the Future BTTF 10

Discover it at 06:55

Step 03

LAYR

Present Future PF 1

Discover it at 11:02

Step 04

ANA MAS PROJECTS

Disegni DS 2

Discover it at 14:53

Step 05

MASSIMOLIGREGGI

Corridor Grey 10

Discover it at 18:22

Transcript

Introduction

Hello! We welcome you to Artissima 2022. This is the AudioGuide project and you are listening to route number 4 entitled Pictures never die and dedicated to exploring the practice of artists who are working on the subject of the image. Human beings have always expressed themselves through images and are influenced by them in every area of their lives, from rituals to everyday life. The peculiar nature of images has therefore been the subject of numerous practices since antiquity, as well as reflections on its meaning: Plato, for example, saw the image as imitation, thus criticising its distance from the truth and the world of ideas, while Aristotle argued that for man the image was the means by which he came to understand abstract concepts. Undoubtedly in the West, the main channel of image production and dissemination has for a very long time been what we identify as art. Through images, the ruling classes and religious structures have educated, influenced and subjugated the population by promoting their own idea of the world. However, art was also a document, a testimony and a vehicle for messages, cultural content and free expression. The image, which not by chance is a privileged tool of propaganda and advertising, has the power to act on us in a less mediated way than written and spoken language, ending up producing strong conditioning, but also equally strong reactions. Even in the contemporary era, images are constantly being exploited, debated and attacked, one thinks of the use of social media, censorship, the tearing down of monuments, the damaging of the Pietà and the Mona Lisa, or the very recent activist demonstrations concerning the works of Constable, Monet and Van Gogh. In his seminal essay entitled 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', written in 1935, Benjamin argued that the reproduction of the artistic image deprives the work of its authenticity and thus of its original power, which the author called 'aura'. In more recent times, studies in aesthetics, semiotics and anthropology have tended instead to focus on how any image is a device endowed with vitality and has always derived from this what Freedberg called 'The Power of Images', the subject of an illuminating treatise he published in 1989. Although we can consider most artistic production as the production of images, contemporary art, first with abstractionism and then with conceptual and installation art, often seems to have focused on a move away from the world of the image. However, the figurative has never really lost its power and since the 1980s, with the works of Richard Prince and Sherry Levine, art has also opened up a new type of relationship with the image based on appropriation, a modality that, through the taking of images produced by others, challenges the concept of authenticity. Our journey today will take us to investigate the extent to which the image, in its being powerful and replicable, is still at the centre of a great deal of very different artistic research. I am Sergio Manca and I will accompany you on this journey. We are ready to go. Pause your player and head for the Prometeo Gallery located at number 1 in the Red corridor, where we will begin our tour. Press play once you are there.

Step 01

We begin our journey at Ida Pisani's Prometeo Gallery. Here we encounter the work of an artist from the Marche region born in 1983, who already has more than a decade of an important artistic career behind him, always supported by the gallery. The artist with whom we are confronted is Fabrizio Cotognini, who has based his research on the relationship with images of the past, applying to them a study that is at once archaeological, art-historical and anthropological. Art history is made up of patterns that are transmitted in space and time: these can be iconographic, compositional and stylistic. For centuries, before the advent of photography, the preferred means of transmitting images and models were prints. First wood and copper engravings and then, from the beginning of the 19th century, lithographs. It is precisely from their ability to disseminate models and, with them, ideas, values and stories, that Cotognini's fascination begins. He studies them, collects them and appropriates them, transforming them through extremely layered interventions. Within his work, different practices of action make their way: one example is the use of gold leaf, which intervenes on the image by enriching and concealing details, in a process that has something alchemical about it, but which also finds reference in the art of the Middle Ages, in the abstract richness of 13th- and 14th-century altarpieces. Added to the gold is the painterly approach, the use of colour and white lead, through which Cotognini censors or highlights specific areas of the image, changing the power relations within the composition. Everything is then linked by the graphic gesture, which the artist uses to draw lines and patterns that seem to bring out hidden spatial structures and internal relationships, which are also investigated by an extensive series of handwritten markings. This sort of note apparently helps us decode symbolic links and values, but in reality ends up increasing the character of mystery that cloaks the image in its being a vehicle of messages and content. It is precisely the reasoning behind this potentiality of images, which makes them alive, eternal and continually interpretable, that leads the artist to insert another type of intervention: the compositions are populated with drawn subjects that intervene from outside, from other worlds, such as birds, flowers or symbols of contemporaneity. These figures invite us to a further level of reading based as much on free associations as on the awareness of being observers from another time. We cannot help but question the meanings of an image, the reasoning that led to its creation and how it can be a tool used for interpreting our dimension. We have finished our first stop. Pause your player and head for the Saltoun Gallery, in the Back to the Future section, at the BTTF10 stand, on the Black corridor. Press play once you are there. I'll be waiting for you!

Step 02

We now come to the London gallery Richard Saltoun. We find ourselves in the curated section "Back to the Future", which, playing on the title of the famous film of the same name, offers a selection of historicised research each year and, in this edition, allows us to rediscover some artists who have created works from the 1960s to around the year 2000. The artist we are dealing with was born in 1935 and was a leading name in the feminist art scene in the United States; her name is Eleanor Antin. Among her most famous works are "Carving", a long sequence of photographs depicting herself naked in 1973, during a period of time in which her body was being reshaped by dieting, and "100 Boots", which began as a mail art project in 1971 and saw the artist make numerous postcards with photographs of 50 pairs of boots, each arranged in different formations in various American locations between New York and California, the two places where the artist lived and worked. Two themes constantly return in Antin's subsequent research: the interest in images of the past and interpretation, understood in a theatrical and cinematic sense. Over the years, the artist has created several alter egos, which have led her to play the role of characters of different genders, ethnicities, statuses and historical eras, allowing her to re-read events far removed from her own and to declare how many of our cultural labels are in fact extremely fluid. Through a wide variety of practices, Antin approaches history, literature, film, theatre and photography. At the beginning of the 2000s, the artist embarked on a new line of research, which led her to reinterpret Western antiquity and produced three large-format photographic series entitled 'The Last Days of Pompeii', 'Helen's Odyssey' and 'Roman Allegories', some of which are on display at the art fair. The images have been constructed like a film set, with the use of sets, costumes and actors, and depict scenes related to ancient Rome, into which, however, contemporary elements often creep in. These photographed tableaux vivants compare today's society with that of antiquity, reflecting on certain dynamics repeated throughout history, for example how the United States is in modern global politics a parallel to the Roman Empire that arose two thousand years ago. Decadence and being on the verge of the decline are well manifested in Last Days of Pompeii, prophetically realised a month before 9/11, while in the Roman allegories, everything is pervaded by a more melancholic sense and a reflection on the relationship with death, also linked to the artist's loss of her sister. The visual references chosen by Eleanor Antin for these series are the paintings of 19th century painters such as Gêrome, Couture and Alma Tadema, as well as a Triumph of Pan by Poussin cited almost literally. In doing so, the artist creates a path that unites the ancient and the contemporary, crossing through a society of the past, that of the 19th century, which had produced an idea of the ancient mediated by the sensitivity of its own time. The paintings taken as inspiration are chosen as images bearing stratified values, whose reworking and re-presentation open up multiple horizons of interpretation of universal themes of an aesthetic, existential, historical and political nature. This is where our second stop ends. Pause your player and head for the Layr Gallery, in the Present Future section, at stand PF1, on the White corridor. Press play once you are there. I'll be waiting for you!

Step 03

We’ve moved a few steps further and have entered into the Present Future section, dedicated to young artists and new trends in the international art scene. The Layr Gallery in Vienna is exhibiting a series of paintings by an artist born in Innsbruck in 1990 who lives and works in Berlin. His name is Matthias Noggler. Although he belongs to a totally different generation and geographical area, his research has some interesting points of contact with that of Eleanor Antin, even if at first glance one would not think so. Both artists look to the art of the past to talk about the present. Noggler's works are not large photographs, but small-format paintings, created on board or paper using the gouache technique: a special type of tempera made more opaque and heavy by the addition of gesso or white lead and a natural glue compound. This painting technique was particularly popular in the 19th century and was used by painters such as Turner and the Impressionists. Noggler's painting in recent years has often varied in format and approach: his pictures painted between 2015 and 2018 were characterised by very bright colours and a decidedly grotesque tone. Using an old-fashioned way of painting, the painter depicted scenes of everyday life related to contemporary social conditions, often shot through with a sense of unease, with a cheeky tone that was echoed in advertising graphics and in caricature. The repertoire of images from which the artist drew was that of social networks, news programmes and lifestyle reports, but the situations of degradation he composed were so extreme and redundant as to be absurd, without ever being comical. The works on show at Artissima, created in 2022, on the other hand, have a more intimate tone and calmer rhythms. The use of colours and the delineation of figures immediately recall expressionist painting and the German New Objectivity. However, the relationship with the art of previous centuries is more subtle than it appears and is not limited to this stylistic fact. The series on display revolves around a recurring theme, which is alcohol abuse. One can see how images of goblets, glasses and bottles return again and again, in various forms. What is not easy to notice, however, is that Noggler hides references to specific works of Renaissance painting history in these paintings. The iconography of the Lamentation is recalled in the work entitled 'The First Poisoning', and by looking at the position of the three figures in a work on the shorter wall, a trained eye will recognise a famous Pietà by Giovanni Bellini preserved in the Brera Art Gallery. The choice to refer to Christian iconographies derived from the paintings of the great Old Masters cannot be just a conventional citation. The artist is not even simply declaring what his sources of inspiration are. Here, however, the image seems to be reproposed as a vehicle of universal values: the suffering of Christ, the representations of which Western society is visually accustomed, is taken as a paradigm of human suffering and the reference to the past acts on us in an almost subliminal way. This is where our third stop ends. Pause your player and head for the Ana Mas Projects Gallery, in the Drawings section, at stand DS2, staying on the White corridor. Press play once you are there. I'll be waiting for you!

Step 04

We are now in another of the art fair’s curated sections, namely Drawings, created in 2017 and entirely dedicated to graphic production and works on paper. We are at the Ana Mas Projects gallery, opened in Barcelona seven years ago and also active in Puerto Rico, which is exhibiting a selection of works by Catalan artist Regina Gimenez. Among the moments that have most shaken the world of images in the history of art is undoubtedly the distancing from figurative represntation that occurred in the 1910s with Kandinsky's early abstract research. The world is confronted with a new type of image and a practice that will maintain its own autonomy from then on and will be expressed in many different ways. The works by Regina Gimenez that we see are certainly abstract productions, based on relationships between colours and geometric shapes, mainly originating from the circular motif. The elegance and balance of the composition, as well as the careful colour selection make these works immediately attractive and satisfying, while awakening something intimately familiar in us. This effect is due to Gimenez's relationship with the image, which is from the outset more complex than it might appear. The artist, an omnivorous researcher of forms, who has devoted part of her production to collages that include photographs found in magazines and geographical maps, finds inspiration in the comparison of image sources that are also very distant from each other. In her works we can see references that are almost quotations from the abstract painting of the historical avant-gardes, with points of contact with Miró, the Constructivists and Sonia Delaunay, who had an essential formative experience in Spain. It is no coincidence that the works of Gimenez and Delaunay were exhibited in dialogue in an exhibition at the Patio Herreriano in Valladolid in 2021. But the source material on which the Catalan artist imagines her compositions also has a completely different origin, outside the world of institutional art. For many years, Gimenez has in fact based her graphic reflections on atlases, textbooks used for teaching science subjects in schools and popular astronomy texts. Her work often starts precisely from her fascination with the illustrated plates of these publications, on which she works an action of extraction and reduction, bringing the pure forms with their relationships of proportions and distances back into painting. Here, those circles evoke something in us, the memory of different visual experiences, lived as much in museum halls as in school desks: originally they were planets in a book and then they intersected with art-historical memory to come down to us as personal works of an artist. With Gimenez, we are therefore confronted with two phenomena that are interesting for our journey: a look at historicised contemporary art and an interest in images from popular contexts. Pause your player and head for the Massimoligreggi gallery, at number 10 on the Grey corridor. Press play once you are there. I'll be waiting for you!

Step 05

The gallery we now find ourselves in, for our last stop, is Massimoligreggi, a gallery in Catania, but the artist we are going to talk about was born in Cuba. Let us this time abandon the ways of engraving and painting to devote ourselves to the photographic image and its particular potential: the invention and spread of photography have in fact allowed the world to build a new, more commonplace relationship with images. Photography's ability to be continuously reproducible makes it an extremely powerful instrument of communication and thus of socio-cultural conditioning. With reportage and news publishing the media image was born. The relationship between the 20th century and photography has been at the centre of this artist's research for at least 30 years. His name is Antonio Eligio Fernández, he signs his name with the stage name Tonel, he has a past as a satirical cartoonist and today he is an artist, but also a critic and independent curator, as well as a lecturer at some important universities in North America. Tonel was born in Havana in 1958, just a few months before the revolutionaries overthrew Batista, marking a major turning point in the history of the last century. The Cuba in which young Antonio grows up is one that has to manage to survive and find a new identity, squeezed between US pressure, the desire for revolutionary reconstruction and the cumbersome presence of the Soviet Union, which, besides being the greatest communist power, was one of the few economies to commercially support the island by rejecting the US embargo. Seeing the 1960s and 1970s from this particular perspective leaves a strong impression on Tonel, who remains fascinated by the dynamics of the Cold War and the charged media produced by the powers for propaganda purposes. This is where the images that mark the artist's growth come into play and are layered in the visual memory of the world: photographs of American presidents and communist leaders, through newspapers and television reports, merge with those of the Vietnam War, the Berlin Wall and the space race. Everything is subject to the political rhetoric of the opposing blocs, from information to cinema to publishing, and the image is the privileged vehicle of communication, be it spectacular or subliminal. In his works, Tonel constantly reinterprets and reworks the second half of the 20th century, both by collecting and reusing images and through the tools of drawing, collage, the art book and sound. His history of the Cold War is constructed through historical facts, media filters, personal memories and fictional situations. The work we encounter is closely related to a large installation presented at the Berlin Biennale in 2014, entitled Commerce: a large quantity of produced and found materials, displayed in cases as in an archive or historical exhibition. Standing over everything was the Cyrillic inscription 'targovlia', i.e. 'trade' in Russian, made of concrete rods, and a series of ink portraits of the heads of the countries of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance, a communist trade organisation that Cuba joined in 1972, as a weak economy, thus inevitably dependent on the Soviet one. The drawings of the leaders are made by copying the outlines of some famous photos of them. In this case, however, the theme of the work is the long Angolan civil war, which began in 1975 and was fought by two factions: on the one hand the Popular Liberation Movement, supported by the Soviet Union and Cuba, and on the other the National Union for Total Independence supported by the United States, France, South Africa and the United Kingdom. It was a proxy war that involved half the world, presented here through facsimiles of the documents studied by the artist and the faces of the leaders of the countries that took part in it. With Tonel's works, the image becomes a witness to the past, but also an instrument of critical, in some cases satirical, reinterpretation of a historical reality that is now inseparable from its media manifestation. We have finished our fifth and final stop. We hope that this route has stimulated and intrigued you. If you'd like another perspective on the art fair, go back to the info point or the AudioGuides landing page and select another podcast! See you soon and enjoy Artissima!

Artissima Digital
powered by