Stefano Arienti

Massimo De Carlo, Studio Guenzani

In these two shows, Stefano Arienti clarified his approach to art, and his withdrawal from it. In the De Carlo gallery he showed five posters that represented five fragments of Monet’s Water Lilies, 1904. Arienti retraces the colors with “brushstrokes” of Plasticine, so that the flat surface of the reproduction is enlivened and takes on a three-dimensionality. The treated surface becomes a place of memory, for the measurements of the reproduction never correspond to those of the real painting—at times they are magnified, at times reduced. In fact, the reproduced, fragmented image is always distanced from the original, modifying the perception of color and the reality of the surface. Along with the Monet, there is a Corot and three Van Goghs. Following the title of Walter Benjamin’s famous essay, mightn’t we wonder if the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction isn’t destined to be buried in the mire of popular posters and reproductions? Arienti poses the question but doesn’t offer a clear answer since his works are so far removed from the originals.

Arienti utilizes a range of images that constitute the panorama of visual culture, relying on the relationship between high and popular culture. He delineates one possible response in the show about the mire of visual images at the Guenzani gallery, where books rested on the tables that were surrounded by chairs. A notice at the entrance invited visitors to sit down and leaf through the books. Arienti’s intervention is not merely the choice of the books; it is concentrated, rather, in the individual pages—it hides within them. With the precision of a miniaturist, Arienti erases text and titles, lightly scraping off the characters and restoring the original white of the paper; or he cuts out entire texts, as in the case of a volume on Rembrandt; or he tears and reglues pages, as in a book on Canova. The choice of books in his imaginary library varies from art books to collections of nature images. But what they all have in common is a predominance of photographic images that lead us to think about the multiplicity of technologized and immaterial images, and about their power to tell us about the world of nature.

Arienti indicates that the creative gesture must take into account the alienation created by the current landslide of images. In a much more convincing fashion in the second show, he demonstrates the necessity of interfering with the media, and distancing oneself from them. With an almost maniacal insistence on manipulation—the way, with which he erases and confuses the surface that the image industry furnishes—Arienti focuses on the physicality of the artistic gesture and emphasizes its primacy.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.