Corrado Levi, “New Polverone

Castello di Volpaia

The site was a Tuscan country house from the period between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a place of bare spaces and materials that don’t accumulate, neither modifying or interfering with each other nor integrating in a way that betrays and hides their original meaning. There is an articulation of relationships that neither dominates nor transcends those who make use of or cross through them; but they are to scale, to the scale of man. Within this environment was set a dissemination of concrete signs, neither decorative nor clearly symbolic: small, germinal nuclei, slender and multiple concretions of a sensibility, words and figures that expressed the intervening relationships among a sensitive author, a detail. and an active total reality.

In substance, this was the “New Polverone” (New dust cloud) whipped up by Corrado Levi in the Castello di Volpaia, in the heart of the Chianti region.

Levi is a strange figure within the panorama of Italian art, a collector, instructor, theoretician, working artist, and organizer of shows receptive to the new youthful intersubjectivity between Milan and New York. It was while wearing this last hat that he organized this show in Volpaia, pairing, among others, Rodney Alan Greenblat and Luigi Stoisa, David Wojnarowicz and Carlo Guaita, Keiko Bonk and Pierluigi Pusole, Judy Rifka and himself. Aside from some miraculously successful works, such as Greenblat’s Sleeping Ship, 1985, and Stoisa’s Sú giú (Back and forth, 1986), what emerged was the animus of Levi himself, a light breath like a breeze that “you feel after it has entered you?”

If Levi’s declared instruments are the joke, the paradox, nonsense. the results appear to be something else entirely They seemed marked by a macroscopic difference, almost as if each thing or element, to reach its own apex and achieve its absolute meaningfulness, must run in a contrary direction—must, for its own sense of identity, draw from its opposite. This process has a lot to do with that particular type of eroticism in which the desire for similarity is satisfied by obtaining the opposite and the desire for one different from oneself is satisfied by the recognition of what is similar; what is patent is denied by what is latent, which explodes with all its compressed, destructive, and victorious energy. Perspicacious attention springs forth from the joke, two-faced truth from paradox, “an instance devoid of contents but full of hope” from nonsense.

And so within the empty silent spaces of Volpaia these brief, separate tones arose, as in modern music from Anton Webern to early John Cage, where individual echoes have time to die away before the next one reverberates. Levi’s tension, then, ends up being completely oriented toward a search for a suspended state in which, beyond the hubbub of the world, it is possible to take in the imperceptible sounds of internal mutation. This is not so much opposed to the linguistic bedlam and constant clamor of the shouters of messages as it is an attempt to identify a punctiform subjectivity distinguished from the linearity of movements and from the magmatic expansion of reality, not completely removed, but rather participating without being negated.

The figure of Levi, then, takes its distance from its specific roles (collector, instructor, theoretician, artist, curator). This show, one of Levi’s best, doesn’t stop with the indication/presentation of certain works but is itself a work, without reducing individual elements to instruments or elaborating a discourse for which they might individually be exemplary illustrations. This work rests on a subtle aleatory sensibility: painting expands into tenuous stratifications from which the profile of figures can emerge through its abrasive substance, the final layer, the inevitable background; the sculpture is a condensation of materials and gestures in peremptory yet fragile forms; the art is this sharpening of the sensibility that produces objects and memories, small punctiform formations that, as in the universe of the ancient atomists, are the network of the world.

Pier Luigi Tazzi

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.