Milan/Turin/Genoa/Paris

Mario Nigro and Gae Aulenti, Dennis Oppenheim, Lawrence Weiner, Guilio Paolini, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz

Pavilion of Contemporary Art, Milan/Francoise Lambert Gallery/Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris/Samangallery/Studio Marconi/Christian Stein Gallery/Franco Toselli Gallery

The PAC, the Pavilion of Contemporary Art in Milan, now in its second year, has opened the season with a show of the painter MARIO NIGRO and the architect GAE AULENTI.

Mario Nigro has been doing structural research in abstract art since the end of the ’40s, combining linear elements according to the interrelationship between form and content, space and time. The show is very essential in the sense that it is a very strict selection of works (around 15). Each of the works underlines a different stage of the steps towards a further definition of non-objective linear expression. The first works (1949–1966) tend towards a definition of geometric forms in space (Total Space—Spazio Totale). From that point on the work has become more related to time (Total Time—Tempo Totale) and the “line” has progressively become loser and more fragmentary.

Gae Aulenti has been working as architect, designer, scene designer and urban planner for twenty years. This show includes her drawings, projects, small models, photos and objects. The quality of her work has influenced Italian design and architecture a great deal: the Olivetti shops in Paris and Buenos Aires, 1966 and 1967, furniture for Kartell industry; set designs with Luca Ronconi; and participation in the review Casabelli.

The first works of importance date around the beginning of the ’60s: The Unfamiliar House, 1959, The House in the Woods, 1963, which together with The Hotel for Young People at Tonale remain only at project level. This work revealed a new vision and the application of new expressive laws as she broke with the traditional purist and gestalt rules.

Diamond Cutter Wedding is the installation DENNIS OPPENHEIM built in the Gallery of Francoise Lambert in Milan; a physically and mechanically complex machine, it covers almost the entire surface of the gallery space. It is made of heavy materials such as iron, coal and wood, and operates on thermal and electrical energy. He defines these types of works as factories; in fact, their dynamic aspect may allow us to imagine a possible functional productivity (or output); in reality, Diamond Cutter Wedding is a complex machine “functioning” primarily by intellect.

In a one-man show at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, ARC 2, Oppenheim presented various installations of this kind such as Land Crab, Ghost Town, and Cornered Journey. It is clear from the evolution of his work that the artist has given a determining priority to the mental rather than the formal aspects. The energy and the dynamism that derive from these constructions becomes the attempt to reflect thinking energy in concrete form; the formal expression is elevated to the level which has generated it: Oppenheim says “the spirit.”

To approach LAWRENCE WEINER’s work, it is necessary to accept the presumption that his work is never directly about esthetic execution. His work, set free by language, can deal with any material situation formulated by the statements themselves. Weiner divided the space of the Samangallery both conceptually and physically with a rope which separated the Italian section from the English one.

The statement: BLOCKED OFF WITH, CLOSED OFF WITH, DIVERTED WITH, written in capital letters (red for the Italian and black for the English), appeared at the bottom of each of the four walls. The language of this representation conveys a contradictory assertion: the presentation is physically modulated, but the entire space is used visually as a means—in fact, the artist states that it has been done in collaboration with the gallery and that his own will was not imposed.

“One act: three representations” is the title of the work GIULIO PAOLINI presented in Milan in the three floor space of Studio Marconi. “Place” and “space” are the essential premises for the development of the work.

Each floor corresponds to a different scene under a different title: Parnaso, De Pictura and Liber Veritatis. These representations play on the construction and deconstruction of the figure of Apollo—(Art as absolute). Nine small studies (on the first and second floors) introduce the two first scenes, becoming a sort of ironic metaphor for artistic process.

In the last passage Liber Veritatis becomes a super metaphor for the unsolved question of our existence.

JANNIS KOUNELLIS’ series of sketches of human faces traced on the black background of a smoked paper hang in an arch shape on the wall of the first room; a corner of a city is simply and unpretentiously traced in a big scale on the wall of the second room. There are a few houses standing in a very deserted environment. The atmosphere is mysterious, forsaken and almost decadent. The only watchmen are two dead ravens stuck on the white sky above the roofs. Nothing here is alive, and although the vocabulary is still “naturalistic” in the formal sense, it is lacking the vital and living essence which has previously characterized Kounellis’ previous production. This work, like the one at Ala’s (the sailing mast with black-smoke traces behind it) is characterized by a progressive reduction of formal aspects in favor of immediate expression shown through a simple and evocative sign.

In the putting together of raw materials, MARIO MERZ will never cease to surprise. The materials he uses are almost always repeated, but in continuously varied associations, creating new “sense groups” where the force of the intrinsic qualities of the entity are intensified and underlined. In the show at Franco Toselli we find again his Fibonacci, his hoarded fagots, his neon lights, but the central theme seems to be a new iconographic representation of “naturalistic” elements such as prehistoric animals (which might be dinosaurs) drawn in different scales on free canvases intersected by long tubes of neon lights. The presence of drawing corresponds to a new linguistic expression, and the choice of subject tends to metaphorically reinforce a specific interest in content. Once again Merz has created an architectonic whole of non sense and non-functional elements associated as a global unity spreading energy from the inside.

Isabella Puliafito