shift in register
Antonio Catelani, Stefano Arienti, Daniela De Lorenzo
In the first of a series of three exhibitions, WeGallery engages in a concentrated investigation of Italian art from the nineteen-eighties. The intention is to acquaint Berlin and international audiences with the work of a nucleus of artists, particularly active today and are among those, who made their debut starting in the mid ‘Eighties’. A selection has been made representative of the period of this generation, who could be defined as a “halfway generation”.
The generation of artists who are credited for moving sharply away from the painterly expressionism of the early ‘Eighties’ and situating themselves in a dialectical approach of continuity/discontinuity with the art of the ‘Seventies’, were reintroducing an awareness of its prerogatives.
Having adopted as their shared characteristic a stance “of softness”, their artistic practice introduced a new complexity and plurality, marking the difference from previous currents, Trans-avant-garde and similar mindsets, thus, generating a true and proper shift. This was made possible due to their having usefully introjected within their works, formal and structural language, already offered by the “post-modern” trends that architecture and art had started in the previous decade. Freed from unitary, ideological or stylistic accents, the works of these artists do not show any implied or ulterior motive deriving from the modernist statute. Instead, they opened the way for a new phase of experimentalism, preluding to “the possible”, in an incessant regeneration that goes beyond any finalism. They do not pursue a unitary theoretical formal code that is consistant and required. This may be deduced by the absence of a specific common “style”, sought by the group or the community of this generation, which is no longer necessary or opportune. They opted instead for a camouflaged complex progression. This often resulted in a corpus of works that is not homogeneous, but distinct cycles appearing distant and antithetical, making it difficult to decode or characterise them within a common definition as a “school” or movement.
“The multiple”, “the possible” escape definition. It is therefore not possible to apply prefixes such as “neo” or “post” because the concept of style implodes and evolves into an accumulation of possibilities, into a co-presence and “democracy of styles”.
The trait d’union therefore is to be sought in the conceptual substratum that governs syntax. This set of significant relationships that arise between elements of the artistic oeuvre, as well as in the shared digressive practice, incessantly redefines the statute of the work in its links and boundaries. An aptitude for de-construction becomes a chance to regenerate the traits of the disciplines, by shifting the “normative centre” towards an instability of “the canon”.
Hence the value of doubt and the loss of certainties as well as defined roles, assumes a fundamental importance in the artistic practice. An art object may be seen as ‘reduced’ or ‘diminished’, yet, it is a conscious loss that has occurred. The theme of the advancement of art being characteristic of the first and second avant-garde, is no longer present. Abdicating all programmatic thought, frees the artist from convention and licenced aesthetic, fruitful to pursue an “other” aesthetic, which subverts the rules and metonymically transmits sense.
Art is an arbitrary practice. In a society widely aestheticized according to the last legacy of the Avant-garde, the new practice is therefore that of an art ‘diminished’ in its form and role. This totally new way, or habitus, was widely spread in the ‘nineties’, but it was inaugurated by the ‘halfway generation’ considered here.
Thirty years after their first appearance, it is necessary to attempt a redefinition and repositioning of these artists’ work in the temporal and historical continuum, their shared cultural roots and in relation to national and international artistic and theoretic thought. We may also allow ourselves to define these artists as the last generation of specifically “Italian” artists.