Paris

Piero Manzoni, Pino Pascali, Ettore Spalletti

This show did not sanction a linear historical development but focused on an individual view of each of these three artists. The exhibition’s continuity was developed by means of a thread that didn’t obfuscate the differences among them, but exalted them, giving voice to the dialogue of constant contemporaneity. Contemporaneity is renewed in the moment that—as Piero Manzoni would say—we recognize the necessity to assume responsibility for our own actions. Isolating each artist’s work in terms of his individual development renews our debt to their innovations because it opens a dialogue with the present, removing any static historical classifications.

In Manzoni’s “achromes” (roughly, “without color”), the whites of the kaolin, of the wads of cotton, and of the skeins of steel wool, present the material basis on which his entire oeuvre is built. The series of “line” drawings, as well as Base del mondo (Base of the world, 1961), Merda d’artista (Artist’s shit, 1961), and Fiato d’artista (Artist’s breath, 1959) are not simply disruptive gestures, but focus, rather, on the question of how we can unify the perception of mind and body.

This is a question that also reverberates in Pino Pascali’s work, the vehicle for the great energy of a playful Eros. 32m2 circa di mare (Circa 32 square meters of sea, 1967) brings to the surface the mystery of the sea’s unfathomable depths in square containers of aluminum filled with blue dyes of various tonalities. Plush material gives body to an immense spider in Vedova blu (Blue widow, 1968), steel wool constructs an extraordinary aerial Ponte (Bridge, 1968). Using cardboard, wood, old tires, and other recycled materials, Pascali constructed almost-real weapons, mocking the power of war irreverently. He transferred the inexhaustible creativity of child’s play into the adult energy of form, into an interest in the sensual corporeality of the image, into the demanding fascination of the fable.

Ettore Spalletti’s work carries on a dialogue with that of Manzoni and Pascali. Spalletti indicates a path: it is connected to the way in which his work was installed, in a genealogical rather than a chronological manner. At the entrance, his works were concentrated together, mixing dates and ideas. To the right and left of the large curved hall, the paintings Tutto tondo (In full relief, 1968), Aurora, 1975, and Sogno dispari (Uneven dream, 1983) hung on the walls, attached in slightly oblique fashion, thus giving circularity to the perception of the center and the edges of each piece. These led toward Corridoio (Corridor, 1990), constructed specifically for this exhibition, which brought the viewer to the center of a room. There, two large blue gessoed walls met at a brass arch: the blue was reflected both inside and out. Spalletti’s sculptures and paintings are enveloped in color. They have a particular skin, which Spalletti obtains with a mixture of gesso and pigment that, after being spread in thick coats on the surface, is delicately scraped away. The gesso is liberated and the color takes on a porous dustiness. Blue, pink, and gray return cyclically, bearing witness to a fusion of surface and color. Spalletti places the viewer in a continual relationship to the solid and the void, a territory where the artist’s ideas take shape, and thus he projects us into his own world.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.