Exhibition — Episodes of art in Milan – Artists’ books and editorials from the Seventies

Photo by Alessandro Lui

Vin­cenzo Agnetti, Libro quasi dimentic­ato a memor­ia, 1970 (Photo by Aless­andro Lui)

Until Septem­ber 2nd 2012 you can vist the exhib­i­tion “Epis­odes of art in Mil­an – Artists’ books and edit­or­i­als from the Sev­en­ties” – cur­ated by Gior­gio Maf­fei – at 900 Museo del Nove­cento in Mil­an (Italy)…
Dur­ing the Sev­en­ties Mil­an was a cross­roads for many var­ied artist­ic exper­i­ences. People, express­ive styles and exhib­i­tion activ­it­ies reshuffled the extraordin­ary inven­tions of the pre­ced­ing dec­ades with the urgent sense of renew­al in the arts that was expressed in the city dur­ing those years.

Giv­en the com­plex­ity of the genres and events in hand, nar­rat­ing this peri­od in art his­tory through oth­er media – such as artists’ books, magazines, posters, pho­to­graphs, cata­logues and doc­u­ments – implied the anxious fear of incom­plete­ness and the weighty respons­ib­il­ity of choices to be made.

The selec­tion of mater­i­als was there­fore often biased and par­tial, and linked to only some of the epis­odes that appeared to inter­pret the era best and aspired to an ori­gin­al pro­cess of renov­a­tion in artist­ic lan­guages.

At this time, the intru­sion of the ‘concept and ideas’ into the con­crete exist­ence of art, accom­pan­ied by a cool­ing of emo­tion­al con­tent, would sub­sti­tute the aes­thet­ic and per­cept­ive value of the art­work or objet-d’art that had dom­in­ated the art scene in pre­ced­ing dec­ades.

The advent of Con­cep­tu­al Art developed both crit­ic­ally and as move­ments such as Arte Povera, Arte Pro­ces­suale, Min­im­al, Body Art, Flux­us. These move­ments ten­ded towards a viol­ent break with pre­ced­ing express­ive forms without yield­ing to the con­tinu­ity of the artist­ic pro­cess. At the same time, Poetry and Lit­er­at­ure main­tained their inher­ent nar­rat­ive func­tion, but included visu­al ele­ments with dis­con­cert­ing aes­thet­ic effic­acy.

The rar­efac­tion of the object there­fore lent itself to a broad­en­ing of the dis­cip­lines and their fruit­ful inter­sec­tion. Archi­tects renounced the prac­tic­al applic­a­tions of their pro­fes­sion in favour of uto­pi­an pro­jects in which they found a nat­ur­al equi­val­ent in fig­ur­at­ive art. Rad­ic­al Design over­turned the tra­di­tion of con­struc­tion and demol­ished its tight bound­ar­ies. The same pro­cess would assail the world of Cinema which, in its boldly exper­i­ment­al expres­sions, would go bey­ond cinema halls and enter into the world of art gal­ler­ies.

The Sev­en­ties also rep­res­ent the era in which social respons­ib­il­ity would be engaged. Polit­ic­al prac­tice – which was some­times sub­vers­ive – gen­er­ated an ant­ag­on­ist­ic trend that used, and often fol­lowed artist­ic lan­guages. Through the organ­iz­a­tion of visu­al mater­i­als with a low tech­nic­al qual­ity but great express­ive and com­mu­nic­at­ive impact, the cre­at­ive wing of this Counter-cul­ture amal­gam­ated ingredi­ents, intro­du­cing new sug­gest­ive uses of music, graph­ics, car­toons, the body itself and sexu­al­ity – as well as new com­munity based beha­vi­or­al mod­els to which aes­thet­ic research is not estranged –, into art and civil soci­ety.

Dur­ing these years artists ten­ded to take advant­age of any occa­sion to have prin­ted mater­i­al pro­duced (and often pro­duced it them­selves) with the con­scious ambi­tion of pin­ning down ideas and defin­ing the­or­et­ic­al fron­ti­ers and pro­mot­ing their wide­spread dis­tri­bu­tion. The artist no longer accep­ted his role as a del­eg­ate and took con­trol over the entire pro­cess, design­ing his own books and posters or cur­at­ing his own journ­al. Artists found the neces­sary resources for the inter­pret­a­tion of each and every pas­sage of this extraordin­ary game of inven­tion thanks to prot­ag­on­ists of the art world such as gal­ler­ists, edit­ors, crit­ics, cur­at­ors and col­lect­ors, who pro­moted this trans­form­a­tion by dis­mant­ling the now obsol­ete con­form­ism of the gal­lery or museum.

Mil­an – equalled by only a few oth­er cit­ies dur­ing this his­tor­ic peri­od –, hos­ted and nur­tured the events whose his­tory is revealed by the prin­ted works on exhib­i­tion here. Some of these edit­or­i­al mater­i­als can be con­sidered works of art (artists’ books), how­ever often they are simply com­mu­nic­a­tions tools (cata­logues, magazines, posters). This exhib­i­tion aims to cre­ate a visu­al dia­logue that divides where the bound­ary between dif­fer­ent edit­or­i­al typo­lo­gies and the dif­fer­ent express­ive means of their real­iz­a­tion tends to evap­or­ate in an unset­tling inver­sion of genres and roles.”
 — Mousse

900 Museo del Nove­cento
Palazzo dell’Arengario
Mil­an, Italy

June 28th till Septem­ber 2nd, 2012