Emilio Isgrò

VAR VE YOK – Ottoman codices by Emilio Isgrò
Fondazione Marconi Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
23 May – 27 July 2012

Emilio Isgrò
On May, 23 Fondazione Marconi is pleased to announce the exhibition dedicated to Emilio Isgrò “Var Ve Yok”, which in turkish means “there is and there is not”.

The exhibition presents for the first time in Italy – after a stage at the Fondazione Boghossian in Bruxelles – the fourteen ottoman codices which the artist made especially for the city of Istanbul (nominated in 2010 european capital of culture) on the occasion of an important retrospective that the Taksim Sanat Galerisi dedicated to the italian master in 2010.

The exhibition traced the most important phases of Emilio’s work. It was curated by Marco Bazzini with essays by the curator and by Achille Bonito Oliva, promoted by the University of Aydin in Istanbul and by Coppem (Permanent Committee for the Euromediterranean partnership of local and regional authorities) and organized by the Luigi Pecci Center for Contemporary Art in Prato.

Emilio Isgrò is considered, with Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni, one of the innovators of the artistic language during the postwar years in Italy. He is known as the father of deletion, a practice that he started at the beginning of the Sixties that is still lively and creative.

Isgrò says about deletion: “In the beginning it was probably nothing but a gesture: one of those many gestures artists once made in order to leave a trace in the course of life and of the world. Then he goes on: “ In fact deletion shape shifted in my hands year after year, minute after minute, giving in to my artistic wishes even better than I wanted or hoped for”.

It was 1964 when the artist started making his first works covering manually the pages of books: words were covered by a thick mark and just one word or little fragments of the phrase were readable.

Afterwards he applied deletion also on maps, telex, cinemas, music papers, being ahead of the times of conceptual art, he made installations and, during the Eighties moving from black to white, as Marco Bazzini writes, “deletion, a prohibitively popular and pictorially inhibiting gesture, has reached pictorial results without giving in to painting”.

The act of deleting is a paradoxical destruction-reconstruction gesture. Words and images are not outraged by deletion: through it they bring lifeblood to a new message carrying essential meanings: the useless is swept away.

Deletion becomes the unmistakable language of Isgrò’s artistic exploration.

The artist using this technique can delete a whole exhibition, as he did in Istabul. Hence the title Var ve yok can be roughly translated as exists and does not exist.

This ambiguous valence, between presence and absence, it’s not just the source of the act by Isgrò, but we also find it in the body of art as a poetic representation where the subjective and objective dimensions act.

Isgrò, during this time, has been indipendent of the artworld as all the main characters do. He didn’t hesitate to denying himself when, in 1971, he made Dichiaro di non essere Emilio Isgrò, to reappear thirtyseven years later with Dichiaro di essere Emilio Isgrò, title of the big retrospective held at the Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato in 2008 and of the huge deletion in the collection of the museum.

The work Il sorriso di Atatürk stands out among the works made for the Istanbul show. The artist writes on this work: “it was an homage to a laic ‘deleter’, averse to any religious or cultural fundamentalism, who we feel close to us, but who is turkish to the core, in love with his country and maybe also with his contradictions”. Then he goes on: “Even an act as controversial as the full deleting starts a dialectical and vital process between the being and not being of things, between death and life of words. Even the Ottoman language, once annihilated, is in someways preserved by the coating of colours that cover it, until it resurfaces with the disarming monitus by Pasolini: ‘Just the revolution will save the past’. As to say that some times it is necessary to shake the basis of the world in order to save it (not only Europe and the country around it as Turkey and Russia)”.

The Milan exhibition is identified by Istanbul (2010) a large map of Turkey where all the place names have been deleted aside Bosforo’s capital, an alternative way to freeze the image of this nation in our memory. The curating at Fondazione Marconi marks the close bond between Isgrò and the dimension of books.