Themes and Variations: From the Mark to Zero / Exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
THEME & VARIATIONS. FROM THE MARK TO ZERO
Exhibition : March 21 > May 17, 2009
Peggy Guggenheim Collection presents Themes and Variations: From the Mark to Zero, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero.
Carlo Carrà – Maurizio Nannucci
From the left:
Carlo Carrà Interventionist Demonstration 1914,
Maurizio Nannucci Changing Place, Changing Time, Changing Thoughts, Changing Future, 2003
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This exhibition draws upon the museum’s permanent collections from the early 20th century to the post World War II period, enriched by loans from other collections. It charts the progress of the pictorial mark chronologically and thematically: from typography to collage, from letters to numbers, to the iteration of gesture, of signs, eventually sublimating into monochrome, beyond which the only possible condition is the void. As a ‘variation’ of this theme, the exhibition includes a one-man show of painting by British artist Jason Martin. Martin, one of the most creative young British artists of his generation, has been invited to interpret grade zero with a series of canvases specifically created for this exhibition. From the Mark to Zero benefits from the support of the Regione del Veneto.
Themes and Variations is a novel curatorial concept inaugurated by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in 2002 with a series of three exhibitions focusing on postwar art. Over a period of six months Luca Massimo Barbero curated changing installations and monographic rooms. Then and now the underlying ambition of the project is to increase our understanding of specific works in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection by placing them in a historical context and by setting up a dialogue with painting, sculpture and installations from other collections. Within the same rooms, masterpieces from the early 20th century avant-garde ‘rub shoulders’ thematically with works from the postwar, blurring the boundaries separating ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ and revealing the evolutions of the sign through new expressive forms.
Piet Mondrian – John McCracken
From the left:
Piet Mondrian Composition No. 1 with Grey and Red 1938 / Composition with Red 1939, 1938-39
John McCracken On the go, 1998
Changing Thoughts, Changing Future, 2003
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Works of Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism: within the radical experimentation of this explosive period, letters, numbers and the printed word participate as full players in the creative process—plucked from the real world, manipulated and then rendered with their original linguistic and communicative dimensions still intact. From Interventionist Demonstration by Carrà, to Merzbild by Schwitters, and Pharmacy by Cornell, to the new grammars of a similar language in the 50s by Rotella and Spoerri, the printed word structures and defines images but with a resonance that convulses the visual syntax. On the one hand language dialogues with matière and image, as in Braque’s multi-media works and the collages of Gris; on the other, the grid laid down by Mondrian’s repetitive marks creates the new space of Vantongerloo’s Neoplasticism, which in turn nourishes the minimal precision of John McCracken. Basic units of language evocatively colonize the surfaces of works by Tunnard, Licini and Bonfanti to the point they become mute writing. Sometimes the act of painting transforms into a form of scripture, on canvas or any other support, as in the works of Scanavino, Novelli, Mirko, and Pomodoro; at other times, artists investigate the foundations and responsiveness of different visual codes, such as in Manzoni’s Alphabets or Imprints, in Griffa’s lines, in the neon-lit phrases of Merz and Nannucci, Holzer’s benches and drawings by Tremlett.
Writing is also geometry, from Albers’ and Nigro’s primary elements to advanced research into visual perception by Morellet, Nangeroni, and Vasarely, down to the experiments of Gruppo Zero and kinetic art. The mark is also color, rendered in the lyrical, intermittent and visionary spaces of Tancredi, Tobey, Accardi, Dorazio, Ciussi, and Aricò. Elsewhere script and writing merge in an abstract and symbolic punctuation, expressed in apostrophes and dots that may visually or physically violate the support itself, with holes and cuts, as in the canvases of Fontana, Dadamaino, and Opalka and in the work of the most recent generation of artists, represented here by De Marchi and Arcangelo Sassolino.
The obsessive repetition of a symbol or a sign leads ultimately to a condition of zero, a kind of tabula rasa in which pure paint combines with a minimal and monochrome surface: from Castellani to Bonalumi, from Vianello to Charlton, the monochrome inscribes the infinite into the finite and is articulated in densely painted and plastic works with the concreteness and physicality that derive from their relation to surrounding space.
© The Peggy Guggenheim Collection
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