Critics’ Picks

View of “Irma Blank: Life Line,” 2017.

Bologna

Irma Blank

P420
Via Azzo Gardino 9
January 28 - March 18

Irma Blank’s works—whether on paper or canvas, large or small—assert themselves in this Apollonian space invaded by light. “Life Line” includes fifteen pieces from her “Radical Writings” series, 1983–95, and three new works from “Global Writings,” 2016. While at first glance one might consider Blank’s art as visual poetry, closer examination reveals how her path is a solitary and existential journey that reflects a private quest, resulting in a complete identification between writing, artwork, and life. Here, Blank’s calligraphy completely loses legibility through an exhausting ritual dictated either by the physical space of her arm’s movement, from left to right, or by the time articulated by the rhythm of her breath.

Among the “Radical Writings,” seven Gesetztafel (Tables of the Law), each from 1993, stand out; these are unique monumental works on wooden supports, executed in an ultramarine blue in which, beginning in 1987, the artist began taking refuge. Their installation in this show makes it possible to reflect on the importance of Blank’s recurring association between paintings and books, which she suggests through the thick material density of color in each work. These pieces transport the viewer into another dimension, one that exceeds linguistic significance, where rules definitively lose meaning.

After a period of relative obscurity in the art world, it is important that Blank, now more than eighty years old, should be considered one of the leading figures in Italian art. It is no accident that she will be one of the few artists representing the country in the next Venice Biennale.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.