Critics’ Picks

Installing “Hammer of Sickle” at Galleria Milano, 1973. Pictured: Hammer and sickle, 1972–73, two-color silk-screened wool flag, 49 x 48". Photo: Aldo Ballo.

Installing “Hammer of Sickle” at Galleria Milano, 1973. Pictured: Hammer and sickle, 1972–73, two-color silk-screened wool flag, 49 x 48". Photo: Aldo Ballo.

Milan

Enzo Mari

Galleria Milano
via Manin 13
September 29, 2020–January 16, 2021

Triennale Milano’s exhibition for Enzo Mari, planned before the artist’s death last month at age eighty-eight, is joined by another unexpectedly commemorative show at Galleria Milano, its first conceptualized after the passing of Carla Pellegrini, who directed the space from 1965 to 2019. The exhibition, “Falce e Martello. Tre dei modi con cui un artista può contribuire alla lotta di classe” (“Hammer and Sickle. Three ways an artist can contribute to class struggle”), restages the 1973 exhibition that inaugurated the gallery’s current venue. A recently rediscovered film containing interviews about working-class conditions, a collection of data on the visual use of the hammer and sickle over the decades, and designs for a definitive “logo” of the proletariat symbol convey the titular ways in which an artist can (or could) contribute to class struggle: empathy with people, contextual awareness, and the ability to formulate something according to plan. The exhibition is a jubilation of hammers and sickles in photographs, linocuts, and textiles, and even a 3-D model constructed along the lines of Mari’s famous 1974 series of “self-produced objects” (it resembles the cross painted by Giotto in his thirteenth-century Greccio Nativity fresco). An invaluable anastatic reprint of the 1973 catalogue—published by Humboldt Books, edited by Nicola Pellegrini, with texts by Bianca Trevisan and Riccardo Venturi—round out the show.

Mari believed design to be a metaphor of society and the possibilities for human beings’ actions within it. His passion for leftist politics was matched only by his passion for design thinking. In showing how the artist saw these two things as inextricably bound, this exhibition provides not only a fitting farewell, but a call to continue the struggle he participated in throughout his life, in theory and in praxis.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.