Contemporary art has always had an irresistible charm for me. Between the famous Gallery that collects the greatest works ever made, and an equivalent that incorporates the best of the last generations, I would be thrilled by the second.
Not all contemporary art exhibitions excite me in the same way: some even leave me indifferent, for most of them I need an explanation. Yet when they do, they involve me far more than all the sacred monsters of the past do.
Above all, I like to experience different emotions: kidnapping, admiration, surprise, disgust, confusion, fun … they open up a range of ideas and possibilities, as a new song could do, a text that speaks about ourselves. You never know what awaits you.
To understand it even better, I was looking for a book that did not stop – like most art history courses – at 60s Pop Art. It was a coincidence that I bought Denys Riout‘s text, entitled “Qu’est-ce que l’art moderne?“, and translated in Italian as “The art of the twentieth century”. I was actually looking for a volume of Dorfles, or Vettese. Yet it was there, 50%, in a cute library in Bologna, how not to try it?
It is not a textbook in the classic sense: no pictures on the side, you need to have patience and Google in front of you to look for the works of each artist. Sometimes it is abstruse too, but fortunately it does not last long.
But the beautiful thing, very beautiful, is that the trends do not appear as isolated cases, as exhibited in the shop window. They are not approximately contextualized, just to say that they have respected the dogma of contextualization. Trends slide into each other, are shown in their entire evolution, you see them almost changing shape before your eyes.
With most textbooks, on the other hand, I always had the feeling of being accompanied by a tour guide, a little wise but quick: “this is abstractionism, which becomes more and more minimal, here optical exponents playing on the perception of the retina, and yes, art was in crisis and, well, there you can find the hall of the realists“. Of course, it is a book that requires more effort and time, certainly.
I was interested in works from the 60s onwards, but the nice thing is that even before reading about Pop Art, this text is describing a world and a complexity that I never imagined. From Malevich’s square to Fontana’s cuts, you don’t get there for two artists who threw two minimal colored paintings there: there are hundreds of artists, many micro-currents and a real slow evolution – unlike what is often hurriedly described.
And above all, he gave me one of the most beautiful definitions of abstract art. Page 109 (cut and abbreviated enough, I will spare you all the brackets and mini inclusions):
Both, figurative works and abstract works, contribute to a knowledge of the world.
Abstract art offers the artist the possibility of making perceptible realities that we cannot see or describe but whose existence we can intuit.
Abstraction is in fact the last refuge of an aspiration to spirituality. It did not repudiate mimesis to satisfy a desire for rupture: on the contrary, it is rather an attempt – no matter if confident and enthusiastic, or nostalgic skeptical and mocking – to preserve the ambitions, also of various kinds, of the art of the past.