Venice

View of “Stop Painting,” 2021. Left wall, from left: Michael Krebber, MK.163, 2011; Asger Jorn, La Dolce Vita II, 1962. Foreground: Marcel Broodthaers, Dix-neuf petits tableaux en pile (Nineteen Small Paintings in a Pile), 1973. Far right: Kurt Schwitters, Still Life with Brass Pot, Bottle, and Dead Magpie, 1915. Photo: Marco Cappelletti.

View of “Stop Painting,” 2021. Left wall, from left: Michael Krebber, MK.163, 2011; Asger Jorn, La Dolce Vita II, 1962. Foreground: Marcel Broodthaers, Dix-neuf petits tableaux en pile (Nineteen Small Paintings in a Pile), 1973. Far right: Kurt Schwitters, Still Life with Brass Pot, Bottle, and Dead Magpie, 1915. Photo: Marco Cappelletti.

“Stop Painting”

Fondazione Prada | Venice

Around 1840, on seeing an early daguerreotype, French painter Paul Delaroche is famously supposed to have declared, “From today, painting is dead.” In 2021, Swiss artist Peter Fischli pensively replies, “And yet . . .”Stop Painting,” the “panoptic exhibition” of works by more than eighty artists that he has curated for Fondazione Prada in Venice, offers what he calls a “kaleidoscope of repudiated gestures, including the critique of those repudiated gestures.”

This brainy enterprise threads a story full of plots and subplots through a mental and visual itinerary that opens up the usually rigid room structure of Ca’ Corner della Regina, using temporary walls to disrupt the natural progression from room to room and elide any attempt to look at art history as if it were a progressive one-way unambiguous evolution. Even more than a narrative that “chases its own tail,” as Fischli describes it, the show functions as a series of wormholes, linking artists and works and attitudes and forms in a complex but enjoyable epistemological structure.

The tale of deaths, denials, and rebirths is organized around five major breaking points: the birth of photography, the invention of the readymade and the collage, the death of the author, the rise of the idea of the “extended art concept,” and the crisis of criticism in so-called late capitalist society.

Some 120 works from the 1830s to the 2020s are grouped by the way they respond to each crisis or rework the resulting debris. Some embody acts of aggression: Robert Rauschenberg erasing a drawing by Willem de Kooning in 1953; Henry Flynt and Jack Smith protesting at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1963 while wearing signs reading DEMOLISH SERIOUS CULTURE! and DEMOLISH ART MUSEUMS!; Alberto Burri burning plastic sheets in 1962; David Hammons pissing on the Cor-Ten steel of a Richard Serra sculpture in 1981; Boris Lurie screaming ONONONONONONON in stencils on canvas in 1969; Merlin Carpenter using a 2009 painting to tell everyone to STOP ART immediately, without even taking the time to cross the final T. Others contain moments of irony and sarcasm, among them Gene Beery’s painting Out of Style, 1961, inscribed SORRY THIS PAINTING TEMPORARILY OUT OF STYLE CLOSED FOR UPDATING WATCH FOR AESTHETIC REOPENING; John Baldessari’s What Is Painting, 1966–68; and innumerable works by Carla Accardi, Lutz Bacher, Alighiero Boetti, Lucio Fontana, Wade Guyton, Jörg Immendorff, Karen Kilimnik, Piero Manzoni, Pino Pascali, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Carol Rama, Gerhard Richter, and others.

What starts out as a “necrophilic topic,” in Fischli’s words, ends up being a hats off to the persistence of the canvas as an unavoidable creative space: Paintings are escorted in their funeral in Honoré Daumier’s Marche funèbre!! (Funeral Procession!!), 1855; stacked up by Marcel Broodthaers in Dix-neufs petits tableaux en pile (Nineteen Small Paintings in a Pile), 1973; and hidden (and saved) by Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen in Orgonkiste bei Nacht (Orgone Box by Night), 1982, a structure from which canvases will clearly reemerge full of health and vitality.

The exhibition includes Fischli’s Modellone, 2020–21, a one-to-eight scale model, more than twenty feet long, of the palazzo’s piano nobile, which takes us behind the scenes at the museum and inside the thought process of the artist-curator by breaking the fifth wall—that is, the ceiling. Fischli also presents video slideshows pertaining to the making of the exhibition, featuring a spoken collage of his writing about the show and (more interestingly for our voyeuristic souls) images from his phone. Here we see pics of the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, screenshots revealing his decisions and indecisions regarding works and loans, images of his water-taxi rides in Covid Venice, and boats arriving on the Grand Canal to deliver the paintings.