Laura Grisi, Sunset Light, 1967, neon, Plexiglas, 86 1⁄4 x 11 7/8 x 11 7/8".

Laura Grisi, Sunset Light, 1967, neon, Plexiglas, 86 1⁄4 x 11 7/8 x 11 7/8".

Laura Grisi

Laura Grisi, Sunset Light, 1967, neon, Plexiglas, 86 1⁄4 x 11 7/8 x 11 7/8".

Laura Grisi had her last solo show in 1995, having exhibited with the likes of Leo Castelli and Konrad Fischer since the mid-1960s. “Hypothesis on Infinity,” a fine-tuned exhibition of seven works dated from between 1966 and 1981, casts new light on the complex work of this now somewhat overlooked artist, who passed away last year at the age of seventy-eight. Avoiding any one category, her reflective and poetic art is rooted in a personal and singular interpretation of Pop and kinetic art, expanding toward conceptual and process-related ways of working.

The earliest work on view here is Seascape, 1966, a painting-object composed of three sliding panels, featuring the sea, clouds, and a window. The seascape is made up of “typical images” that evoke the playful imagination of childhood. Nature and time stimulate a gaze that, in this Pop-inflected phase, allows emotional notes to surface; in subsequent works these would be channeled into serial conceptual structures or filtered through the adoption of technological materials such as neon. In Sunset Light, 1967, tubes of colored light inhabit a Plexiglas column, transforming the Minimalist parallelepiped into a perceptual experience that evokes a sunset. Sunset Light reveals an artist interested in condensing the experience of nature without rendering it literally, through the employment of a technological medium. Grisi proclaims the artificial dimension of this experience, showing her openness to new sensory and aesthetic conditions offered by science and technology. She turned kinetic art away from abstraction, using it to reflect on the relationship between people and nature. The low metal basin full of water that constitutes Drops of Water, 1968, is periodically enlivened by a globule that falls from above onto a chance point, articulating time with sound and creating moments of suspended expectation.

In the film The Measuring of Time, 1969, the artist sits on a beach, counting grains of sand. Starting from the palm of her hand, a single-plane sequence expands in a spiral around her body, enveloping it in a circular movement until it ends up back at the point of departure. The action is endless, like time. Grisi recapitulates the limit of the human condition in an action destined to fail, in the conscious impossibility of seeing its conclusion. Her body becomes a hinge, a measure of space and time that unfolds and winds back in a cyclical motion, for which the spiral becomes a symbolic figure. A philosophical approach to the notion of limit is also apparent in the most recent work in the show, Blue Triangles, 1981, composed of a series of fields set within abutted triangular frames, which in turn are divided into ever-smaller triangles. In some of these fields, the artist has inserted the photographic image of a bird in flight. The creature takes on the dimensions of the triangle that contains it—large, small, increasingly small—as if captured within this enigmatic network, prevented from exiting a space that is constantly breaking down into smaller units. This kind of combinatory calculation is a matrix for the action the artist carries out to arrange four different stones according to a principle of permutation (From One to Four Pebbles, 1972). This repeated gesture is further pursued in a suite of 150 color photographs in which five stones are aligned in all possible combinations (Pebbles, 1973). Moving from the intensification of sensory experiences to mental practices, Grisi uses logical mathematical order to draw attention to the substance of time and explore the interface between rule and variation, employing simple systems to evoke the countless combinations offered by life, but she never gives up the meditative approach of Seascape, with its window open onto the marine horizon.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.