Luigi Carboni

Alberto Weber

Luigi Carboni’s recent exhibition confirms his commitment to the painterly discoveries of optical experience. Here, as in his earlier works, Carboni’s production seems to lie between the geometricized, antimimetic, and antinatural realm of Modern art and the desire to communicate via direct, naturalistic, quasi-linguistic means. In Carboni’s earlier paintings, the dichotomy between the visual and the narrative is evident in his juxtaposition of various combinations of numbers and letters set on monochromatic grounds, with the simple grids, squares, and circles in which they were presented. While the numbers and letters refer to an abstracted and distanced notion of communication, Carboni’s current linguistic appropriations have taken on a more direct stance. Here, too, the grids have moved from the subtle intervention of geometry toward complex illusionistic manipulations.

In Luoghi Comuni (Common places, 1988–89), complex geometric arrangements in fields of bright yellow and orange form orderly systems of overlapping grids. Hovering on the surface of the canvas is an orderly text of mechanically formed black letters, which clearly resembles an optician’s eye chart. Similar letter-texts lie on the surfaces of many of Carboni’s recent works; they seem to function as indecipherable sets of instructions. In Annunciazione (Annunciation, 1988), a sea of collaged fragments, drawn from advertisements or billboards, lies just under the work’s complex vivid pink and red surfaces. Here, Carboni adds varying dot patterns to the sets of concentric circles and checkered patterns, forming a dynamic system of overlapping forms.

Riflesso (Reflection) and Vasche (Tanks), both 1988, consist of glass boxes suspended on the walls. Vasche contains colored fluorescent lamps; Riflesso employs note pads with suction cups, the kind designed to adhere to the dashboards or windshields of cars. On the interior glass surfaces of both of these works, Carboni has stenciled in black the same simulacra of eye charts used in his other works. Here he seems not only to have abandoned the search for an essential image, but to have embraced a sterile notion of construction and invention. He is most successful when attempting to stimulate our desire to look and discover, while questioning our ability to perceive. Yet he abandons the viewer, at one end, within a muted Modernist structure hostile to the introduction of discourse, and at the other, within a banal conceptualization of the beauty of vision.

Anthony Iannacci