Curated by Daniela Ferrari, art historian and curator, the exhibition will include, Vincenzo Agnetti (1926-1981), Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994), Dadamaino (1930-2004), Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Emilio Isgrò (b. 1937), Piero Manzoni (1933-1963), Gastone Novelli (1925-1968), Mimmo Rotella (1918-2006), Salvo (1947-2015) and Mario Schifano (1934-1998), alongside Cy Twombly (1928-2011), Joseph Kosuth (b. 1945), Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017), Mel Bochner (b.1940), John Baldessari (b.1931) and Tracey Emin (b.1963). Focusing on creative output from 1958 onwards, the exhibition will feature over 30 works in various media including painting, photography, collage and neon.
The word represents an essential expressive vehicle: words or letters are an integral part of the apparatus of contemporary art, although the practice has its origins in antiquity and took on particular importance in the historic twentieth century avant-garde movements. Within the broad and complex system of verbal-visual research, which comprises more circumscribed areas of investigation such as concrete poetry, visual poetry and narrative art, the experience that has expanded its horizons furthest has without doubt been that of Conceptual Art. The artists included in the exhibition are brought together by certain key concerns – concept – light – dictionary – pop – time – philosophy – chirography - which allow us to identify affinities, following the fil rouge that unites them. Drawing on life and the kaleidoscope of verbal, literary, philosophical and poetic communication, each artist has succeeded in conferring upon the word a power that goes beyond mere meaning: more than words!
“I believe that the foundation of my practice is the creation of meaning”, says Kosuth. It is the very value of the concept, of the meaning expressed in the work that this exhibition intends to highlight: the word as question and statement, as revealed by the verification of thought. Kosuth’s neon work #II49. (On Color/Multi #9),1991, will be included to exemplify his critical position in the canon of conceptual art. Bochner, a similarly key figure working since the 1960s, has devoted himself to investigating various expressive forms, including text phrases in diverse languages or vernaculars, amplifying thereby the confines of language to include expressions that have entered the spoken language and which belong to the so-called sphere of the meaningless. His work ‘The Joys of Yiddish’, a screenprint on felt from 2014 will demonstrate this enduring practice.
The series of “arazzi” or embroidered grids of coloured letters conveying puzzles of short phrases, inverted sayings or wordplays, conceived by Boetti in the 1970s (exemplified here by a work from 1989), were realised by artisans in Afganistan and Pakistan, often over many months. The time of making and reading also regulate the asemantic writings of Dadamaino: her Alfabeti della mente transformed into I fatti della vita exhibited at the 39th Venice Biennale. She will be represented by a triptych from the Alfabeti cycle, whereby she invented her own personal and distinct alphabet between 1976-1979; on show will be Letters 4, 7 and 10, from 1979. Manzoni had also focused part of his research on the sequence of the letters of the alphabet. The “alphabet of prime images” to which he aspired finds a possible conjugation in the work Alfabeto, exhibited, composed of the letters ABCD in three columns painted with ink and kaolin on canvas, while the painting-writing experience of Novelli, is related to the Informal trend developed both in Europe and America, taking up the legacy of Surrealist “automatic writing", that is also represented in the exhibition by Twombly.
Words come into play that have been chosen for their conceptual value or philosophical weight (Agnetti), for the meaningfulness or the irony of the message transmitted (Salvo), for the expressiveness of the content communicated or for its absence (Isgrò): words deleted that through this negation of appearances become all the more powerful. The world of the Pop image is in turn represented in the exhibition by Schifano and Rotella, both aware of the power of advertising, of logos, of lettering, of poster messages of contemporary culture that are combined with cult images from the history of art.
Two younger artists David Reimondo (b.1973) and Rebecca Moccia (b.1992), catapult the word into the most contemporary artistic cycle, pulling together the threads of historical research through to the present day. The exhibition, though by no means exhaustive, thus presents a rich and broad survey of the strategies employed by artists in utilising text and the written word in modern and contemporary art practice since the 1960s.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Daniela Ferrari.
Mazzoleni was founded in Turin in 1986 and opened a Mayfair-based London gallery in October 2014. Over the past three decades Mazzoleni has organised solo and group exhibitions of more than 150 prominent Italian and international artists from across the 20th century. Recent critically acclaimed exhibitions have included the major solo Alberto Burri exhibition in 2015, ‘Piero Manzoni. Achromes: Linea Infinita’, curated by Gaspare Luigi Marcone in collaboration with the Piero Manzoni Foundation, ‘Fontana/Melotti. Angelic Spaces and Infinite Geometries’, ‘Colour in Contextual Play, an installation by Joseph Kosuth’, ‘UnComfort Zone’ with Dimore Gallery, and ‘Light in motion: Balla Dorazio Zappettini’. All exhibitions are accompanied by fully illustrated monographs, often featuring newly commissioned research contributing to current critical and art historical discourse. Mazzoleni is present at international art fairs, across London, Basel, Hong Kong, New York and Miami.