Reggio Emilia

Flavio de Marco, Paesaggio con veduta (Roma I) (Landscape with View [Rome I]), 2010, acrylic and digital print on canvas, 70 7/8 x 117 1/4".

Flavio de Marco, Paesaggio con veduta (Roma I) (Landscape with View [Rome I]), 2010, acrylic and digital print on canvas, 70 7/8 x 117 1/4".

Flavio de Marco

Collezione Maramotti

Flavio de Marco, Paesaggio con veduta (Roma I) (Landscape with View [Rome I]), 2010, acrylic and digital print on canvas, 70 7/8 x 117 1/4".

Flavio de Marco’s grand tour includes six cities where he has lived: Lecce, Bologna, Rome, and Milan, as well as London and Berlin. They are the subject of six large canvases and eighteen small, postcard-size ones, created in 2009 and 2010, which make up the project titled “Vedute” (Views). Its subject, as this title suggests, is not so much individual cities as it is views of the cities, as filtered through the traditions of painting and, more recently, the specific genre of the tourist postcard. De Marco begins with two questions: What can the experience of landscape, in this case urban landscape, be today, mediated as it is by the pictorial image? What ways of seeing it are possible today?

De Marco portrays his cities through isolated and sometimes enlarged details, which are conveyed through a process of abstraction that cools them, removing their narrative or evocative capacities. The works are all titled Paesaggio con veduta (Landscape with View). The city and series number are specified in parentheses; for example, Paesaggio con veduta (Berlino II) (Landscape with View [Berlin II]), 2009. This piece is a detail of a seat on the Berlin subway, whose enlargement transforms the seat’s colored upholstery into a Fauvist pattern whose original function and location are no longer recognizable.

De Marco’s views are always obtained through fragments; they are puzzle images that derive from advertising posters, tourist leaflets, photographs, maps, and satellite images, which he combines with various art-historical styles—abstraction, Expressionism, Impressionism, etc. Some works evoke the naive landscape paintings found at yard sales, in keeping with a citationist practice that does not pay heed to the status of its sources. The artist proposes an eclectic system of references that ironically invokes the clichés of painting; he mixes formats, materials, and techniques (acrylic, felt-tip pen, pastel, collage, spray paint) and shifts registers between the cultivated and the popular. No style appears more authentic than or predominant over others. If a landscape seems to escape recognition, the role of painting as a cognitive tool serving to create a representation of reality is also continuously questioned.

Synecdoche—the part for the whole—is the rhetorical figure that underlies the structure of these works, but the whole is no longer imaginable. Any original experience of place is similarly unattainable, as place is always mediated through symbolic systems of representation. Between the hand of the artist and the landscape there are stratifications created by clichés that prevent direct contact. Susan Sontag, in On Photography (1977), writes that, for the tourist, travel means not getting to know a place but seeing it through the camera. The picturesque image becomes a tourist postcard, as de Marco reminds us, and this, in turn, influences tourist photography. Images are no longer records of experiences, but objects to collect.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.