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Critics

Il Novecento di Baudelaire

L'arte evanescente

Adolfo Tura

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 120 pages

The focus of this essay is an evolutionary moment in painting driven by the modern age which Charles Baudelaire contributed to ushering in. In his insightful observations on culture, he did not simply admire and comment on many of the leading painters of his day, but also foresaw, and even encouraged, a new art whose first audacious manifestations
Following the showing of Seurat’s ground-breaking La Grande-Jatte at the last impressionist exhibition, an unknown Dutchman by the name of Vincent van Gogh arrived in Paris, eager to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the city’s ferment to anyone willing to strike out on new paths. The year was 1886, and Cézanne, Bernard, Pissarro, Redon, Seurat and Signac, all driven by their impetuous yearning for an independent style, were exploring new visions by forsaking naturalism for daring colours and a more abstract, symbolist outlook.Here begins John Rewald’s exploration, which sets off on a number of paths as it follows a generation of painters, the postimpressionists, who turned their backs on the heritage of their immediate past. Standing out from the rest were Van Gogh and Gauguin, to whom the author gives a leading role in his kaleidoscopic overview, as letters, first-hand accounts and reviews of the time offer a vivid, intense look at their existential and artistic arcs, their friendship and their clashes, their demons and their ideals, presenting the reader with all the splendour and fury of a fatal but enthralling moment.A fitting sequel to his acclaimed The History of Impressionism, John Rewald’s historical account concludes in 1893, with the return of Gauguin from his first trip to Tahiti. Paris is the same tumultuous city that had welcomed Van Gogh seven years earlier, and Gauguin once again dives into its vibrant atmosphere, drawing on all his courage to face the new challenges of the future, at the start of an era which does not hesitate to announce the dawn of 20th-century art.
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Gli anni di Van Gogh e Gauguin

Una storia del Postimpressionismo

John Rewald

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 624 pages

Following the showing of Seurat’s ground-breaking La Grande-Jatte at the last impressionist exhibition, an unknown Dutchman by the name of Vincent van Gogh arrived in Paris, eager to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the city’s ferment to anyone willing to strike out on new paths. The year was 1886, and Cézanne, Bernard, Pissarro,
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 pages

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 pages + 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
A virus has been spreading through the art world for some time now: the politically correct. Shaped like a tyrannical and moralistic power, it takes root at biennials, festivals and cultural events increasingly devoted to anti-globalist, environmentalist and feminist themes. Such militant art is shadowed by new forms of censorship of artistic output deemed to be offensive to public morality. The petition to remove Balthus’ painting Thérèse rêvant from a museum’s walls and the addition of cover-up banners on Egon Schiele’s nudes in the subway are but the most sensational cases. Having abandoned all provocative and subversive ambition, art today has become the banner of social struggles, while artists allow themselves to be cotton-woolled in do-gooder critique. Often lacking specific skills, artists willingly don the garments of the archivist, historian or activist to make projects that leave ample space for documents, testimonies and densely didactic and sententious scaffolding. But if the intrinsic value of the work takes second place to the content and cause it promotes, what about the strength and autonomy that Modernity assigned to it? The thing that is endangered, in truth, is not only the notion of art: the very idea of ethics is paradoxically fragmented into myriad categories – as many as there are claims to identity – potentially in conflict with one another. In this short and highly polemical non-fiction work, Talon-Hugon retraces the stages of the delicate relationship between art and ethics, comparing them with what is happening today: censorship is being exercised not for the good of humanity as a whole but for the benefit of individual categories or communities, to the detriment of artists and their modus vivendi.
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L'arte sotto controllo

Nuova agenda sociale e censure militanti

Carole Talon-Hugon

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 110 pages

A virus has been spreading through the art world for some time now: the politically correct. Shaped like a tyrannical and moralistic power, it takes root at biennials, festivals and cultural events increasingly devoted to anti-globalist, environmentalist and feminist themes. Such militant art is shadowed by new forms of censorship of artistic outpu
When the first edition appeared in 1946, The History of Impressionism was immediately celebrated for the extraordinary simplicity of its layout, its use of primary sources and, by drilling down to the smallest detail, its ability to reconstruct the events that culminated in the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874. Covering a total timespan of some thirty years, from 1855 to 1886, the volume chronicles a strenuous battle made up of triumphs and defeats, integrity and perseverance, in the slow and contorted process of knocking down the wall of dissenting critics and bourgeois prejudices. The revolt’s leaders were Monet, Bazille, Manet, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley, Gauguin, Morisot, Redon, Seurat and Signac, who, devoted to painting en plein air and impatient with traditional forms of representation, created canvases that were held up to public contempt, and then turned a journalist’s derisory epithet – “painters of impression” – into their banner. In this astute blend of scientific rigour and public accessibility, John Rewald gracefully offers critical insight without ever ceding to the pitfalls of technical jargon. The result is a narrative that exerts a strong grip on the reader. This book is the most accurate account of a key period in art history, evoking the climate, aromas, friendships and nuances of the various personalities by reconstructing the artists’ dialogues and daily lives. The wealth of quotations Rewald amassed from surviving witnesses is of vital importance, gathered in the knowledge that this would be the last chance to fix them in time. The author continued to enrich his seminal text of research into Impressionism over the years until 1973. It is that version that we republish here, with a new colour image layout that pays homage to these artists whose work was, above all, a revolution in light and colour.
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La storia dell'Impressionismo

John Rewald

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 606 pages

When the first edition appeared in 1946, The History of Impressionism was immediately celebrated for the extraordinary simplicity of its layout, its use of primary sources and, by drilling down to the smallest detail, its ability to reconstruct the events that culminated in the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874. Covering a total timespan of so
Contemporary churches often resemble industrial buildings, swimming pools, bars or garages. They rarely have a façade and bell towers are just a fleeting memory. Their interiors are disorienting and aseptic like waiting rooms and the dome has been replaced by a ceiling that doesn’t make one think of God, but of the tenant upstairs. The rose windows have been replaced by skylights and the sacred images by anodyne abstract artworks that evoke a vague spirituality lacking in transcendency. In homage to minimalism, the altars look like they’ve come out of an Ikea catalogue. The horror of the new holy buildings is the price the Church pays contemporary society. Following the Second Vatican Council, it did away with traditional forms in favour of more daring architectural eccentricity or, worse still, joyfully adhering to the bureaucracy of town planning committees. And yet new, magniloquent cathedrals are springing up everywhere: they are the museums designed by famous architects, driving forces behind tourism and multi-million euro investments, places destined not to conserve memories any more but to act as luxury packaging for contemporary art, themselves works of art, icons, places where the culture that is becoming a religion can be experienced. Throngs of the faithful set off in pilgrimage: just as they once headed to Chartres, now they visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao or the Tate Modern in London to worship the idols and relics of the contemporary age. Angelo Crespi takes a fun, light-hearted look at ugly churches, comparing them to the rules set for architects by the Italian Episcopal Conference in a comic little manual that is not the result of faith, but a sort of post-Council ‘pauperistic’ moralism. He compares them to the designs for Deconstructionist museums, huge alien spaceships made from glass, iron and concrete, which increasingly often determine the city landscape, fun houses and factories of meaning and consensus.
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Costruito da dio

Perché le chiese contemporanee sono brutte e i musei sono diventati le nuove cattedrali

Angelo Crespi

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 140 pages

Contemporary churches often resemble industrial buildings, swimming pools, bars or garages. They rarely have a façade and bell towers are just a fleeting memory. Their interiors are disorienting and aseptic like waiting rooms and the dome has been replaced by a ceiling that doesn’t make one think of God, but of the tenant upstairs. The rose wind
Every phenomenon is the material trace of the invisible forces that generated it, the inseparable fusion of content and form, of internal and external elements. This is how such painting should be understood, a form of painting freed from figurative intentions, which aspires to embody sensations, emotions and passions: in a word, the intimate essence of life. This was the sense of the revolution brought about at the dawn of the last century by Kandinsky, the founder of abstract painting. It is the subject examined in this essay by Michel Henry, whose ideas on phenomenology all hinge on the theme of life, the life that the “pioneer of pioneers” aimed to represent pictorially in his pulsating invisibility. It was no longer a question of “abstracting from” some element of the visible world, nor of grasping an external appearance already constituted to give it back in the form of a more or less mimetic image. The challenge was to bring to light something that did not previously exist except in a secret dimension. But if the art of painting, by his own definition, is display of the visible that is shown in shapes and colours, how can it give shape to a reality hidden from view? Based on an analysis of the theoretical literature that has accompanied the development of Kandinsky’s abstract art and which provides an excellent route to understanding his work, Henry shows how the artist separates colour and line from the constraints of the visible form: every line is the product of a force, every colour is linked to an affective tone, an inner sonority. If we are essentially force and affect, then lines and colours allow our deepest inner self to emerge.   Rather than underpinning a simple art movement, Kandinsky’s abstraction therefore reveals to us the profound truth of art, which to a certain extent is all abstract, freed from having to stick to the external world. Grasping the principles of this revolution is equivalent to understanding that art is the highest expression of the potency of life and, ultimately, its most exemplary objectivization.
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Vedere l'invisibile

Saggio su Kandinsky

Michel Henry

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 176 pages

Every phenomenon is the material trace of the invisible forces that generated it, the inseparable fusion of content and form, of internal and external elements. This is how such painting should be understood, a form of painting freed from figurative intentions, which aspires to embody sensations, emotions and passions: in a word, the intimate essen
If we know what we know about the extraordinary art revolution of the second half of the sixties, about Arte Povera, Conceptural Art, Process Art and Land Art; if we now see in Boetti, Pistoletto and Zorio some of the most important exponents of their generation; if we know what Lucio Fontana’s last comments were or we have read about recently discovered figures such as the ones by Agnetti, Baruchello, Dadamaino, Mulas and Griffa, it is also thanks to the news reports, the reviews, the essays, and the publishing and teaching work of Tommaso Trini (Sanremo, 1937). This anthology fills a gap that has long needed to be filled and contributes to drawing up a more accurate map of the panorama of Italian art criticism, leaving aside tired polarized ways of thinking.  Through painstaking research and discussion carried out by Luca Cerizza in conversation with the author, the book brings together for the first time a selection of Trini’s art criticism: from pioneering texts dedicated to the future protagonists of Arte Povera, to the series of in-depth descriptions of other key figures in the post-war years, as well as newspaper reports and analyses – some of the earliest international ones – that define in real time the characteristics of the post-minimalist art movements that shook up the second half of the sixties. Trini is revealed here to be a keen-eyed witness and a perceptive interpreter of much of the best art in this half-century. This book gives art lovers (but also the general reader) sparkling well-paced criticism written with intelligence, where the “militant” stance never strays into sectarian or ideological positions.
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Mezzo secolo di arte intera

Scritti 1964-2014

Tommaso Trini

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 356 pages

If we know what we know about the extraordinary art revolution of the second half of the sixties, about Arte Povera, Conceptural Art, Process Art and Land Art; if we now see in Boetti, Pistoletto and Zorio some of the most important exponents of their generation; if we know what Lucio Fontana’s last comments were or we have read about recently di
What are we speaking of when we speak of “primitive art”? What parameters do we use to define and evaluate works that have been captured, like African objects during the slave trade years, wrested from their original socio-cultural context and transplanted in strange lands where they appear in new contexts in order to satisfy the economic, ideological and cultural demands of an educated elite? Sally Price draws on an extraordinary variety of sources, including fashion advertising, cinema, anthropology and comics, to lead us in an investigation of tribal art and the misunderstandings that plague it in the West, whose “civilized” observers view distant cultures through a dense web of preconceptions and convictions that such products are the fruit of irrational urges, supported by religious rites and social dynamics utterly unlike their own. The long-standing opposition between an ethnographic object and a work of art – along with that between primitive and civilized – is consigned to history as the author sheds light upon the darkness obscuring primitive artists. In the end, she succeeds in invalidating the common belief that such primitive artists operate anonymously while the cult of individual expression is the exclusive prerogative of “our” artists. This mistaken presumption has contributed to an acceptance of the dehumanization of primitive art, that is, the refusal to acknowledge the intellectual environment in which these objects are created. Through interviews with museum curators, ethnologists and private collectors, bolstered by rewarding incursions into the world of art dealers, Price seeks to definitively demolish the framework of traditional anthropology and its paradigms of interpretation. According to the author, these paradigms form the bedrock of the persistent incomprehension of tribal creations and the long failure to adequately describe these societies and their cultural patrimony.
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I primitivi traditi

L'arte dei "selvaggi" e la presunzione occidentale

Sally Price

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 192 pages

What are we speaking of when we speak of “primitive art”? What parameters do we use to define and evaluate works that have been captured, like African objects during the slave trade years, wrested from their original socio-cultural context and transplanted in strange lands where they appear in new contexts in order to satisfy the economic, ideo
Devoid of ascertainable origins, freed from the sequentiality of a before and after, the work of art demolishes the barriers of time and projects us into a space extraneous to progress. That art does not evolve, that is, it does not proceed by means of a linear temporal development but is instead capable of introducing new ideas not even hinted at before, is the thesis of this essay on the poetics of immortality in Gino De Dominicis. It is an investigation of a mystery – creation ex nihilo – and a meditation on the origin of all things. Guercio’s starting point is the artist’s most emblematic and controversial work, Second solution of immortality: the universe is immobile, exhibited in 1972 at the Venice Biennale in a room that is the summation of De Dominicis’ reflections and caused such a sensation that it was immediately closed to the public. The reason for the scandal was the presence of a young Venetian man with Down’s syndrome. Positioned facing three objects on the floor – a stone, a rubber ball and the outline of a white square – Paolo Rosa was not merely a provocation as the most reactionary thought, but the fulcrum around which the other elements are arranged, the key to the whole grouping. The multiple dynamics created by this figure allowed the artist to endow the work with an unprecedented power: to open a breach in eternity. Is it possible to read into De Dominicis’ Second Solution a paradigm of immortality that functions outside the closed system of his work? That is, can we establish a link between artistic creation in its broader sense and the search for immortality? This question, posed at the opening of the essay, engages the reader, drawing us into a complete examination of the artist’s themes, pointing up the ones that can support a presumption of contemporaneity over the present period, such as the primacy of the image over the word and the power of discontinuity when faced with a viral proliferation of connections.
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L'arte non evolve

L'universo immobile di Gino De Dominicis

Gabriele Guercio

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 128 pages

Devoid of ascertainable origins, freed from the sequentiality of a before and after, the work of art demolishes the barriers of time and projects us into a space extraneous to progress. That art does not evolve, that is, it does not proceed by means of a linear temporal development but is instead capable of introducing new ideas not even hinted at

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