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Saggi d'arte

While deep in sleep, we inhabit spaces where sounds, images and people around us appear vivid and tangible. But once we open our eyes, the spell lifts and these folly- and wonder-tainted visions turn out to be no more than a dream. Something similar also occurs during virtual reality simulations, those multisensorial experiences in which the course of events can be simply interrupted by removing the headset from one’s eyes, just like suddenly waking up. The world of dream and of virtual reality have far more in common than one would think: both revolve around a subjective point of view, and above all both engage an aesthetic relation with images, a dimension that begins to be investigated in the 1800s – a time that more than others focused on revealing the workings of our dreams – and that in the advent of digital technology has found its fullest and most complete realization. At the centre of this framework is cinema, the art that in the 20th century expressed and gave form to human fantasies and nightmares, channelling the immersive experience out of the rigid bidimensional quality of the screen, “piercing” its surface like Buster Keaton in one of his most famous films. This book sheds light on what the early sensational landscapes and cycloramas have in common with the new media art of Zoe Beloff and Char Davies, on how Mickey Mouse goes hand in hand with Cocteau and Kurosawa, and on how modern VR devices can be considered an evolution of sleep masks: the author presents us with an archaeological approach to the history of media and to the concept of immersivity inviting us to recognise a new type of artistic horizon, projected beyond mere visual data.
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La notte dei simulacri

Sogno, cinema, realtà virtuale

Giancarlo Grossi

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 197 pagine

While deep in sleep, we inhabit spaces where sounds, images and people around us appear vivid and tangible. But once we open our eyes, the spell lifts and these folly- and wonder-tainted visions turn out to be no more than a dream. Something similar also occurs during virtual reality simulations, those multisensorial experiences in which the course
An insatiable reader, Vincent van Gogh found a source of inspiration as well as a safe haven from storms in books and devoured hundreds during his short life. The authors that captivated him include Dickens, Zola, Maupassant and the Goncourt brothers, whose pages he reread with passionate intensity, meditating on every line to the point of establishing a constant mental dialogue with the writer. Part of the energy and the creative drive that animate his painting drew vital sustenance precisely from thus irresistible passion. In any case, painting with the brush or with words was the same thing for Van Gogh, who shared with the great family of his favourites the precise ideal of art as something for everyone and that everyone must be able to understand. Driven by the intuitive insight that Van Gogh’s life can be explored through the books he loved, Mariella Guzzoni displays great narrative flair in revealing previously unknown details concealed in the nooks and crannies of his art. From Still Life with a Bible to Woman Reading a Novel, the many works by the Dutch genius connected with books and reading are examined in a new light. In employing his letters, presented here in a new Italian translation, as the primary tool of investigation, the author paints a full picture of an artist fascinated not only by a number of recurrent themes but also and above all by the moral and intellectual stature of the writers he loved most. Translated into five languages and richly illustrated, the essay encompasses both the great masterpieces and the minor works of Van Gogh, showing how the man, his work and his books are interwoven in an indivisible whole. As the artist himself said, “Books, reality and art are one thing for me.”
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I libri di Vincent

Van Gogh e gli scrittori che lo hanno ispirato

Mariella Guzzoni

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 232 pagine

An insatiable reader, Vincent van Gogh found a source of inspiration as well as a safe haven from storms in books and devoured hundreds during his short life. The authors that captivated him include Dickens, Zola, Maupassant and the Goncourt brothers, whose pages he reread with passionate intensity, meditating on every line to the point of establis
It is 1947, Han van Meegeren went on trial for high treason, accused of having sold a piece of Dutch cultural heritage to Nazi bigwig Hermann Göring during the war. He risked execution, even though the “Vermeer” in question was one he painted himself. Nobody believed him. To prove it, he was asked to make a copy right there and then. Van Meegeren’s contemptuous response was not long in coming: “In all my career, I have never painted a copy! But I will paint you a new Vermeer. I’ll paint you a masterpiece!” The psychological motivations that prompt such a brilliant hand to commit this kind of crime are incredibly varied: simple money-making speculation, anger at the artistic establishment, or to bamboozle so-called expert eyes... While copying the works of the great masters has long been a widespread custom, some have continued to practice it not just out of simple pleasure but to provoke, earning the self-satisfaction of men who measure themselves against the giants of art history. Noah Charney takes us on an adventurous expedition through history, psychology and science, revealing the dramas and intrigues that surround the most famous art forgeries: from Marcantonio Raimondi’s “non-original copies” of Dürer to the golden goblet made by master goldsmith Reinhold Vasters, which ended up at the Metropolitan as a work by Benvenuto Cellini, to Wolfgang Beltracchi, a true genius of the scam, who created an incalculable number of counterfeit masterpieces, and even starred in his own successful documentary. The public, after all, is always fascinated by these shady characters, especially when criminals often pass themselves off as heroes. With their shadowy charm, consumed by the hubris of rewriting history, forgers create perfect deceptions to prove their own brilliance. Which, in many cases, truly exists.
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L'arte del falso

Noah Charney

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 293 pagine

It is 1947, Han van Meegeren went on trial for high treason, accused of having sold a piece of Dutch cultural heritage to Nazi bigwig Hermann Göring during the war. He risked execution, even though the “Vermeer” in question was one he painted himself. Nobody believed him. To prove it, he was asked to make a copy right there and then. Van Meege
An anomalous figure on the Italian and international scene and a pioneering experimenter in the fields of painting, photography and cinema, Paolo Gioli (b. 1942) creates timeless images, concentrating a vast iconography into a series of virtuoso operations with artistic and photographic techniques. His work shatters all disciplinary constraints and develops like a complex of interweaving reflections that involve numerous fields. From the painting and nude studies of the early 1960s in Venice and the discovery of the artistic avant-garde, photography and experimental cinema after a stay in the United States all the way through over half a century of prolific and magmatic activity, Gioli has always operated as a kind of media archaeologist, combining the study of images and observation of the human body in its anatomical, aesthetic, ideological and erotic aspects. While his early films establish an essential analogy between celluloid and skin as a sensitive interface between the self and the world outside, his Polaroid transfers use the body and parts of it as a way of examining the history and theoretical foundations of photography. Other cycles of works – like the self-portraits, the “unknowns” and the “dissolute” and “luminescent” figures – blaze an existential and narrative trail that crosses the boundaries into cinema in the same way as some of his film, e.g. the “stenopeic” and “contact” series, are photographic operations in terms of conception and structure. This study retraces Gioli’s activities from the beginning to the present, systematically investigating their complex ramifications in terms of media and interweaving historical and theoretical reflections with the artist’s analytical description of his working methods.
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Paolo Gioli

Cronologie

Giacomo Daniele Fragapane

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 142 pagine

An anomalous figure on the Italian and international scene and a pioneering experimenter in the fields of painting, photography and cinema, Paolo Gioli (b. 1942) creates timeless images, concentrating a vast iconography into a series of virtuoso operations with artistic and photographic techniques. His work shatters all disciplinary constraints and
One day, between three and two and a half million years ago, an Australopithecus was wandering in the Makapan valley in South Africa when something suddenly caught his attention. It was a pebble of jasper, whose appearance, shaped by the work of natural agents, made it look like a human skull. Three cavities on a rounded surface and lo, a face appeared: in a world that until then had been limited to pure existence, this was the first “image” ever to be born. Our ability to see figures in stones or clouds presupposes an innate faculty in man: to misinterpret reality wisely in order to give it meaning. Since the Paleolithic period, this delirium of interpretation, to cite Dalí, has never ceased to have repercussions on artistic production, making those who practice it a “seer”. But if it is true that from the sputum on the walls of a hospital Piero di Cosimo could make out battle scenes, the twentieth century also produced a counter-movement: allowing a figure to degenerate into a stain, the doors of anti-clairvoyance swung open. Max Ernst’s obsession with cracks in the shapeless, living material of wood for his famous frottages, and Pierre Bonnard’s predilection for domestic scenes in which the usual contours dissolve into illegibility thus reveal themselves to be two sides of the same coin. These two trends are linked to Jean Dubuffet’s work, which with its imprints, the result of the random impression of crumbs, salt and dust on a slab, and his textures – in which even a beard ends up becoming an incongruous visual experience – have given substance to the propensity of contemporary art to disrupt our gaze on reality. Making Dubuffet his fil rouge, in his acute yet unpredictable way Adolfo Tura pursues the thousand paths of art, philosophy and literature (to name but a few) in which clairvoyance and anti-clairvoyance emerge as apparently antithetical tools that are capable of whispering answers to the same twentieth-century anxieties.
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Breve storia delle macchie sui muri

Veggenza e anti-veggenza in Jean Dubuffet e altro Novecento

Adolfo Tura

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 111 pagine + 4 (inserto)

One day, between three and two and a half million years ago, an Australopithecus was wandering in the Makapan valley in South Africa when something suddenly caught his attention. It was a pebble of jasper, whose appearance, shaped by the work of natural agents, made it look like a human skull. Three cavities on a rounded surface and lo, a face appe
We are more likely to glean an idea of the universe by creating infinitesimal objects than by remaking the whole sky. Sculptor Alberto Giacometti put it like this: in order to grasp the truth and give it tangible form, he often ended up reducing the scale of what was around him. It must be said, shrunken objects have profoundly revealing qualities: from childhood, we manipulate small cars, little men and bricks, creating miniature empires that we can dominate, putting us on a par with an adult, perhaps even a giant. This aspiration does not always end after we’ve grow up; indeed, it can sometimes turn into total dedication to the most eccentric endeavours. This was the case of Edwin Lutyens, who in the 1920s meticulously designed a dolls’ house for Queen Mary, equipping it with teeny tiny objects, all perfectly functional, created by the most famous artists and craftsmen of the day. Simon Garfield moves through time and space to discover a microcosm populated by collectors, model-makers and diehard enthusiasts. He celebrates its punctiliousness and obsession, investigates the origin of this universe, and manages to find unlikely worlds in the eye of a needle. Prepare to meet incredibly skillful circus fleas, microscopic Lilliputian city dwellers, a lady from Chicago who reconstructs crime scenes the size of a nutshell, and the Chapman brothers’ army of thousands of tiny Hitlers. We should not forget, the miniature intersects with the world of art, broadening the perception of what our mind already believes it knows to give us deep, enlightening insights into the full-scale world around us.
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In miniatura

Perché le cose piccole illuminano il mondo

Simon Garfield

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 216 pagine

We are more likely to glean an idea of the universe by creating infinitesimal objects than by remaking the whole sky. Sculptor Alberto Giacometti put it like this: in order to grasp the truth and give it tangible form, he often ended up reducing the scale of what was around him. It must be said, shrunken objects have profoundly revealing qualities
Imagine a space designed to host all of the works of art lost to us. Such a place would be by far the most immense museum on earth, where masterpieces of every era would be displayed side by side, indeed more than the number of works in all the collections now on earth put together. Greek and Roman statues would stand beside Byzantine icons and paintings burned in Savonarola’s bonfires alongside thousands of works confiscated and destroyed by the Nazis and monuments reduced to dust by ISIS militants. First of all, however, it would compile a complete catalogue of the motives for which art disappears from circulation – theft or bombardment, natural catastrophe or shipwreck, vandalism or even the artist’s own hand rejecting his work or programming its decay, as certain Land Art works designed to be consumed by time and the elements. A museum of this sort would serve as a warning, a tangible image of the transient nature of all human creations. Emblematic of this curious aspect of art history are the ill-fated adventures of paintings such as Courbet’s The Stone Breakers, rescued along with other treasures from a tower of the castle in Dresden only moments before the castle was bombed to the ground by Allied forces, or the mysterious fate of works stolen from the Stuart Gardner collection and never seen again. On the other hand, there are happier stories such as that of a de Kooning stolen from a museum and found thirty years later hanging in a suburban bedroom or that of the spectacular gold mosaics covering Santa Sophia in Istanbul today which had previously lain hidden under white plaster for four hundred years. Finally, where luck or investigation has been unable to find lost works, today we have science. Thus, thanks to X-rays and other sophisticated technologies, lost masterpieces by Goya, Picasso and Malevich have been discovered under successive layers of paint. Noah Charney suggests that these episodes open a window of hope, reminding us that everything is not lost, not forever. The vast repertoire of belated discoveries, miraculous rescues and unexpected recognition of works whose identity had long been obscure serves to confirm that saying “lost” is like saying “waiting to be brought back to light”.
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Il museo dell'arte perduta

Noah Charney

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 296 pagine

Imagine a space designed to host all of the works of art lost to us. Such a place would be by far the most immense museum on earth, where masterpieces of every era would be displayed side by side, indeed more than the number of works in all the collections now on earth put together. Greek and Roman statues would stand beside Byzantine icons and pai
In 1937, Spain was in the midst of a devastating civil war. In July, a special report in Life magazine gave a tragic account of the lives cut short in one year of combat. The article was accompanied by Robert Capa’s The Falling Soldier, a photograph destined to become an icon of republican heroism known around the world. The image places viewers in the very moment of the death of a soldier struck in the face by enemy fire. But was that really what happened? As we know, at the height of a conflict so ideologically radicalized, the gaze of war correspondents is necessarily biased. Beginning in the 70s, commentators on this image began to express suspicion and increasing doubt about its veracity; some even claimed that it was deliberately staged. Does that mean that the image that gave birth to the myth of the war photojournalist diving into the fray with the Leica around his neck is false? Such questions triggered a full-blown “Capa affair”, in which photojournalism was put on trial in episodes, with accusers and defenders arguing heatedly about the place of the tragedy, the identity of the soldier and the sequence of the photographs. At the heart of the arguments advanced by both sides lies the question of authenticity, that sacred obligation of photojournalism. With all the ingenuity of a detective, Vincent Lavoie assembles a mosaic of eye-witness testimonies, relevant documents and criminal findings, along with incongruities, falsified negatives and misleading diversions. In this way, he has produced a vivid, persuasive investigation of truthfulness in photography that retraces the steps of this momentous controversy. In these times of “fake news” and endless manipulation of images, Lavoie’s book proves to be startlingly relevant
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L'affaire Capa

Processo a un'icona

Vincent Lavoie

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 167 pagine

In 1937, Spain was in the midst of a devastating civil war. In July, a special report in Life magazine gave a tragic account of the lives cut short in one year of combat. The article was accompanied by Robert Capa’s The Falling Soldier, a photograph destined to become an icon of republican heroism known around the world. The image places viewers
The history of art, as Benjamin wrote, is a history of prophecies. Certain works of art can only be understood when the circumstances that they anticipated have matured. The century of the avant-garde movements was teeming with subversive enterprises, but there are some whose telluric power jolted modernity forever, creating a new paradigm to fill in the cracks. In fact, the seed of the contemporary first took root in one precise moment: the exhibition of Duchamp’s Fountain. The artist had bought a typical urinal in a plumbing supply shop in New York and sent it to the Society of Independent Artists exhibit in 1917, paying six dollars for the privilege to exhibit. The radical break was visible to all: indeed, the very nature of art was being brought into question. After this “alien spore” of non-art, the movement mushroomed through the continuous and systematic transgression of the limits of art. Exploring – to use Arthur Danto’s term – the art world of the dramatic catastrophes of the 20th century, this book recounts the stories behind revolutionary works, inseparable from the personalities and ideas of their authors, precariously balanced between provocation and prophecy. We learn, for instance, that the disconcerting rigour of Cage’s 4'33' of silence has everything to do with the emphasis on the conceptual and the obliteration of the boundary between art and life; that the impetuous Klein’s experiments with the void and Manzoni’s acerbic paradoxical works inaugurate the practice of constructing the myth of the artist, which becomes a work of art in and of itself, and that Warhol’s iconic Brillo Box upends the modernist hierarchies, spectacularly manifesting the cultural turning point that would come to be known as the postmodern. Luigi Bonfante reveals the importance of a retroactive vision able to recognize the most relevant characteristics of the contemporary in these fractures while simultaneously interpreting the ambiguity of the present, without being seduced by the unsolvable question dominating today’s aesthetic: Are we on the brink of an apocalypse or a regeneration?
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Catastrofi d'arte

Storie di opere che hanno diviso il Novecento

Luigi Bonfante

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 184 pagine

The history of art, as Benjamin wrote, is a history of prophecies. Certain works of art can only be understood when the circumstances that they anticipated have matured. The century of the avant-garde movements was teeming with subversive enterprises, but there are some whose telluric power jolted modernity forever, creating a new paradigm to fill
October 1937. As a fruitful conversation at the White House between President Roosevelt and Vittorio Mussolini was drawing to a close, the former expressed the hope that he would meet Vittorio’s father: “One day we must meet”. These were encouraging words for Mussolini’s son, dazzled by the American way of life and there to represent the younger modernist spirit of Fascism.  At the time, the “great country” was becoming ever more frequently a key mediator at the centre of the dense network that was parallel diplomacy. Modern art and architecture were used persistently and pervasively by the Fascist government as cultural ambassadors to create myths that would seduce the masses and win over public opinion. It was a practice that created opportunities and tangible results: on one hand, the imposing national pavilions built for the iconic 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, on the other, the great exhibitions of contemporary art – Casorati, Sironi, Levi, Carrà and de Chirico, among others – alongside the celebrated old masters, whose artworks were sent on daring transatlantic journeys thanks to the enterprising spirit of the likes of Dario Sabatello, Mimì Pecci Blunt and Giulio Carlo Argan.Sergio Cortesini focusses appropriately on the re-evocation of place and on the lively cultural climate of the period. He draws on hundreds of previously unpublished documents to look back at the course of Italian modern art in America between 1933 and 1941. From the early successes he goes on to describe the steady deterioration in political relations up to the final tragic moment when Italy entered the war. This event marked the end of all illusions of grandeur: the pavilions were demolished and the artwork was put into storage. For those who sincerely believed in an Italianismo that could be expressed through the forms of modern aesthetics and the renewed communicative power of national art, Roosevelt’s words were destined to be lost in translation.
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One day we must meet

Le sfide dell’arte e dell’architettura italiane in America (1933-1941)

Sergio Cortesini

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 325 pagine

October 1937. As a fruitful conversation at the White House between President Roosevelt and Vittorio Mussolini was drawing to a close, the former expressed the hope that he would meet Vittorio’s father: “One day we must meet”. These were encouraging words for Mussolini’s son, dazzled by the American way of life and there to represent the yo
The legend of the Etruscans has stood the test of time over centuries. Since the 15th century, when Leon Battista Alberti was one of the first to reassess the Tuscan order, to more recent years that saw the first major exhibitions, interest in this enigmatic civilization has never faltered. It has, however, been fed by such very different instances – depending on whether the point of view was that of academics or of artists and writers – that one can talk of two distinct Etrurias: a “scientific” one, which from the 19th century and with the important excavations of the early 20th century became ever more precisely and clearly defined, and an “evoked”, imagined Etruria, as fantastical as it was irretrievable.This is the Etruria of painters and sculptors: of Enrico Prampolini, who lent his avant-garde skills to a magazine on the subject; of Arturo Martini, Massimo Campigli and Marino Marini, who, each with their own accents, claimed direct descent; of artists apparently remote from this world, such as the French Edgar Degas and the English Henry Moore; and of figures that occupied what were considered marginal territory (e.g. ceramics) such as Gio Ponti and Roberto Sebastian Matta.Martina Corgnati takes the reader on a long well-structured journey from the end of the 19th century to the threshold of the 21st century, through hybridization and rewriting of the past, adopting more or less explicit suggestion and precise references. There are also forays into the literary debate, particularly lively in Italy, where a foundation myth more authentically italic in respect of Greek or Roman ones has always been fertile terrain. Through the prism of the “Etruscan phenomenon” one can see the art of the 20th century in a new light, exploring the various paths in the shadow of this ancient people.
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L'ombra lunga degli etruschi

Echi e suggestioni nell'arte del Novecento

Martina Corgnati

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 240 pagine

The legend of the Etruscans has stood the test of time over centuries. Since the 15th century, when Leon Battista Alberti was one of the first to reassess the Tuscan order, to more recent years that saw the first major exhibitions, interest in this enigmatic civilization has never faltered. It has, however, been fed by such very different instances

Duty Free Art

L'arte nell'epoca della guerra civile planetaria

Hito Steyerl

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 212 pagine

Gigantic secret museums crop up nowadays in no-man’s-lands that circumvent national sovereignties and are closed to the public. They are duty-free storage facilities where works of art – albeit sealed in their packing cases – are used as alternative currency for the circulation of assets worth billions from one end of the world to the other:

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