Alfredo Pirri

Alfredo Pirri’s exhibition was entitled “PER NOI” (For us), implying a dedication, and a prayer. In fact, the work resonates with the Catholic invocation ora pro nobis. However this symbolic reference was tied not to stately places of ritual, but to moments of private reflection, and thus maintained a certain correspondence with the various “stations” of the cross. These appeared as metaphors in the perspectival space constructed by Pirri. In each room of the gallery, the artist traced a rhythmic scansion that produced an overall visual intimacy. At the same time, each work was composed of a series of internal “stations” that marked the temporal and spatial rhythm of the image.

The first room contained three works or “sets,” using this term more in the sense of the stage. In fact, each piece could be interpreted as the construction of a visual text, within which the individual modules functioned as staged paintings of the text. On one wall were two large grid paintings made up of 100 equal elements that alluded to a sheet of writing paper. They formed a harmonious visual text. In order to see the subtle internal differences, one had to abandon the view of the whole and draw closer to decipher the variations. In the first piece, inside the frame and protected by a sheet of milky glass, were various quantities of powdered pigment. Each individual module had different tonalities. The pieces of glass were misted over, creating a strangely humid image, an interior mist from which the outlines of impalpable landscapes emerged—sometimes aquatic, sometimes atmospheric. In the second piece one could glimpse a text written on colored sheets, also protected by a piece of glass. The words were not immediately decipherable; one could see and read some hand-traced writing. In the reciprocal transparency of color and writing, the text was presented like an intimate message specifically for us. Each reader gleaned whatever he or she could, reading the individual modules, from top to bottom, from left to right, or from right to left, according to his or her movements in front of the grid.

The adjacent wall held another work that was the key to the show. Here too, the artist resorted to a modular composition, but it was no longer enclosed in a single grid, rather, it was arranged freely on the wall. It was made up of six wood planks, covered in gesso and white pigment, and supporting several rubber masks based on a cast of the artist’s face. Drops of paint spurted from the eye sockets, perhaps intended as tears, but perhaps as throbbing arteries. In every “station” along this compositional path, the position and the number of masks changed. And from one painting to another, the topology of the mask changed as well. Bit by bit, the features changed, became more simplified, and at the sixth “station” the mask was anonymous. In fact, these masks were presented not to hide physical reality, rather, they related to the long journey that each of us completes as we materially realize our own consciousness.

The masks, variably ordered, crowd every painting, both from the point of view of perspective (sometimes they occupy the surface in regular lines, sometimes in lines broken by empty spaces), and from the point of view of color (sometimes the paint that drips from the sockets has clear passages from one color to another, from one mask to another; sometimes the colors in an individual mask are combined in free fashion, without reference to earlier passages). The mask doesn’t appear as the critical registration of contemporary reality but as an experiential state.

Pirri warns of the necessity of finding a tie with the emotions that accompany our lives, even if at times these are so impalpable they resemble shadows, so secret they seem like masks.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.