Mario Nigro

Studio Carlo Grossetti

Mario Nigro’s most recent exhibition displayed his talent for pure, uncontaminated painting. The visual field of the works in this show was more reduced than in the show before, which in its turn was already more basic than in the show that preceded it, and so on.

The line is the protagonist in Nigro’s process of pictorial radicalization. Starting with Terremoto. Analisi della linea (Earthquake. Analysis of line, 1980), the straight line undergoes irregularities, becoming a broken line; then the segments of the broken line are set at an angle, or at different angles; then each trace is a different color; finally, in the “Orizzonti” (Horizons) series, which Nigro began in 1984, each trace of color is separated and the line becomes an ensemble of colored points.

Nigro is part of the generation of the early ’50s. He started out as a kinetic artist, participating in the Movimento per l’Arrte Concreta (Concrete art movement) in Milan in 1949, and then, as a painter, followed a program of structural geometric abstraction, trying consistently to achieve the illusion of movement in painting from an orthodox kinetic viewpoint. Yet his work became more interesting as the kinetic movement waned and faded from the scene. In the ’60s and ’70s he took a stance against the prevailing tendencies, whether Minimal or neo-Dada or povera.

He continues to regard painting as a special form of dialogue with the dominant sense, sight. His background in structural geometric abstraction offers him the tools for engaging a retinal reaction through his work, but his paintings make no use of typical structural design, emphasizing instead the action of color on a pictorial field of transparent white. The meaning of this process of synthesis and reduction is very clear in this exhibition.

These paintings, similar but never exactly the same, feature horizontal trails of irregular dots of various colors at approximately the middle of the white canvas. The dots are more or less irregular, more or less small, more or less in a straight line. There are usually no more than three dots in a row of the same color; and the colors that Nigro uses here—green, light green, blue, light blue, yellow, red, brown—are colors that were used in other times for painting landscapes and skies. In fact, the titles speak of landscapes and skies: Autun’no (Autumn), Pianura (Plain), Memorie di un viaggio (Memories of a voyage), Mattutino (Morning), Campagna (Countryside), Un orizzonte lontano (A distant horizon), Alba (Dawn), II vento (The wind), all 1986. Because the visual field in these paintings is reduced to essentials (a luminous white ground and minuscule points of color), they are given added resonance by such titles, which echo with remembered images of nature.

One leaves this show with a feeling of honest pleasure from having seen works that evoke connections to the natural world without attempting either to imitate nature or to transcribe it photographically. The association with the landscape is an individual one, and the degree of beauty contained in these paintings depends on one’s individual capacity to invest them with beauty.

Jole de Sanna

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.