Critics’ Picks

Vincenzo Agnetti, L’Età media di A (The Average Age of A), 1973, mixed media, india ink, 40 x 57".

Vincenzo Agnetti, L’Età media di A (The Average Age of A), 1973, mixed media, india ink, 40 x 57".


Vincenzo Agnetti—Autoritratti Ritratti, Scrivere—Enrico Castellani Piero Manzoni

Via Monte di Pietà 23
October 23, 2019–January 18, 2020

This exhibition addresses portraiture as a profound subtraction, a situation in which one extracts in order to restore. Curator Giovanni Iovane has enriched his selection of Vincenzo Agnetti’s works, which are spread over the gallery’s three floors and all date to between 1959 and 1981, by including graphic pieces by Enrico Castellani and Pietro Manzoni, whom Agnetti became friends with in the 1960s. Of the twelve of Agnetti’s displayed felt pieces, centrally inscribed with precise, direct writing, some are extremely rare—see Ritratto di amante (Portrait of Lover), 1970, in red and gold, and the 1971 Ritratto (Portrait), in black and silver. The artist employed this practice not only to represent our shared human condition in textual form, but also to introduce the words of others into his oeuvre. One such phrase, from Ritratto di ignoto (Portrait of an Unknown Person), 1971, reads: “Sempre arrivava avvolto da una trasparenza impenetrabile” (He always arrived enveloped in an impenetrable transparency).

This eclectic homage to representation continues with photographic works. Agnetti executed Elisabetta d’Inghilterra (Elizabeth of England), 1976, a six-panel portrait of the titular queen, by using a complex technique of applying emulsion to canvas. L’Età media di A (The Average Age of A), 1973, a collage in which images of a woman’s face, documented at four different ages, are layered into a single physiognomic composite, is an obvious reference to that universal theme: temporality. The show concludes with a selection of ephemera from Agnetti’s life, a prized collection of books, photos, and handwritten texts that reveal, even more than the works of art, his commitment to writing in-depth analyses of his artistic colleagues—demonstrating a talent for metalanguage that extends far beyond the canvas’s edge.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.