ITALIAN ARTIST EMILIO ISGRO and UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENTS:
THE RONAWEAVE REVOLUTION
by Rosanna Albertini
Emilio Isgrò, GRANDE DIZIONARIO ENCICLOPEDICO / GREAT ENCYCLOPEDIC DICTIONARY, 1969, Indian ink on printed book in box of wood and plexiglas 100x41x67 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano
Remaining words: “passando da 312.000 a 314.000″ ” going from 312.000 to 314.000″
“riprendendo le dottrine platoniche della reminiscenza e della trasmigrazione delle anime” “bringing back the platonic doctrines of reminescence and transmigration of the souls”*
Words, and the arts, he says, are the essence of democracy. Emilio Isgrò started erasing printed pages and images around fifty years ago. Lines and lines obnubilate the words that had covered the paper like legs of insects, calligraphic bodies of the most movable and fleeting of human activities: thinking and writing thoughts to reach other people who are not in the room, and never will be.
A few words remain. Some fragments of images still visible. “A word is a petal of the soul”, wrote Jabès. Isgrò saves very few of them in his garden. He plays with them and with language, art needs space, renovation, a long way of discoveries: words and images testing their limits, replacing each other, hiding, sometimes pretending an imaginary game: if you have two red squares, in which one is Trotsky going to fall, when he wears a red suit?
Emilio Isgrò, MANIFESTO COMUNALE / MUNICIPAL POSTER 1974, Indian ink on printed poster in box of wood and plexiglas, 100×76 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano
Emilio Isgrò, DOVE CADE TROTSKIJ / WHERE TROTSKY FALLS 1974, Acrylic on canvas mounted on wood, 59,7×104,5 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano
IN WHICH ONE OF THE TWO SQUARES DOES LEV DAVIDOVIC TROTSKIJ FALL WEARING A RED SUIT?
I have never met Emilio Isgrò, I wish I could. I want to talk to him. If, inspired by him, I erase the enormous volume of words and voices that try to describe and reasonably explain what’s happening today all over the world, I’d like to stop the flood, but I can only see something that is terrifying and spellbinding. A potential of liberation … spread by the ronaweave. And I am not able to send away the image of a gigantic specter made with numbers of sick or dead real humans. My daydreaming has the lightness of unreal things. When I see doctors at work in emergency rooms, and I am face to face with them, then I am in the belly of the monster. Nobody expected that nature herself might start erasing. “Natura matrigna,” wrote my grandchild from Pisa, determined to become a doctor. But your erasure is different, dear artist, it opens space for thinking as the art of desire, and art as the desire of a journey beyond codified ways of thinking.
Emilio Isgrò, HENRICUS KISSINGER, EX 1974 Emulsified canvas 125×160 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano
“HENRICUS KISSINGER, EX URBE PECHINO ADVENIENS, EX AEROPLANO DESCENDIT. SUB VESPERUM PRAESIDEM NIXON CUNCTA EDOCEBIT”
Emilio Isgrò, NEGLI OCCHI DI BEATRICE / IN THE EYES OF BEATRICE 1979 Acrylic on canvas
79×79 cm Photo Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano
Emilio Isgrò, PURGATORIO XXVI /PURGATORY XXVI 1983 Acrylic on printed book in box of wood and plexiglas 40×50 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano
“SODDOMA E GOMORRA!”; “VACCA” “SODDOMA AND GOMORRA!”; “COW”
Emilio Isgrò, BERTRAND BARERE DE VIEUZAC 1979, Acrylic on canvas 80×80 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano
“Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, detto l’Anacreonte della ghigliottina, muove un dito nel rosso vestito di rosso, con molta nostalgia del verde. Tarbes, 1841.” “Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, called the Anacreon of the guillotine, moves a finger in the red wearing red, with acute nostalgia for the green. Tarbes, 1841.”
The past is a quite recent shadow, a pillow left after the night, we can still feel it touching the skin. As I go out my steps are counted, I say hello to the dogs, my face is covered. Cars are back, two fire engines scream like red elephants, birds still fly in formation. Humans avoid contacts. Smog. The careless freedom of going and doing has been erased. It was nice to be spensierati. No equivalent in English. More or less: out of the cage of thoughts, bipeds with wings.
We live under the tyranny of not being too puzzling, both to ourselves and others … But above all it is when the pressure to understand is taken off that the most valuable words are spoken or written; the act, the struggle to make oneself intelligible must therefore be some kind of distraction; in psychoanalityc terms, some kind of defense. The words that matter most are the words we don’t understand. ADAM PHILLIPS
When you mentioned Pasolini, dear Isgrò, and it was about revolution: “Only the revolution can save the past,” and you added that today there is no past anymore because we don’t have a real revolution of habits, customs, of the living, you were right… a few years ago! Here we are, a revolution is happening, so far rather a scarecrow with shredded clothes, but the wind blows.
Democracy, al least in the US, where I live, has become the home of institutions fermenting on their foundations, desperately trying to respond to this natural challenge of life or death. I call it ronawave like the chicano members of the LA community. It’s a word with flesh. The whole country quivers with emotion once more dipping fingers into fundamental, violated, human rights. No more quietly appeased.
Erased, erased, erased is the silence.
Every day brings new yellow butterflies on a small tree with yellow flowers.
Los Angeles is home to me. So are Milano, Pisa, Napoli, Venezia, Paris, whose smell I can feel at the distance, just while thinking of them. The ronawave erased borders with no ambiguity: there are none in our souls. History, maybe, could be pushed aside. If a future remains, this present will be a revered past.
Emilio Isgrò, SPINOZA 2002, Acrylic on canvas 120×190 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo
Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano
A RED STORY by Silvia Guastalla
Heart, imagination, reason. Let’s ask for their help in this time of uncertainty. They’ll listen to us.
This red story by Emilio Isgrò reminds us that life is a space in which anyone can write, with the signs of one’s imagination, and that imagination is a faculty that frees the power of existence and makes us masters of ourselves. For Spinoza, the philosopher who Isgrò makes appear and disappear in this large red color field, imagination is a virtue, not a defect in our minds, if accompanied by analysis.
Imagination, as capacity to think about what doesn’t exist, and reason, that is awareness of reality, are the two poles between which our freedom to be human beings moves. And red is the potent color that symbolizes our ability to use our hearts.
EMILIO ISGRO – LA CANCELLATURA E ALTRI PARTICOLARI, Opere 1966-1993, Catalogue Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Editions Graphis Arte, Milano, 2012
ADAM PHILLIS, Equals. Published by Basic Books, © 2002 by Adam Phillips
*It’s a funny coincidence that precisely these doctrines are an irreverent disguise for the eighteenth century intelligence in a small book written by Montesquieu, L’Histoire véritable. The first (and unique) Italian edition was translated by me, with some words about transmigrations at the end of the book. Elvira Sellerio, A Sicilian publisher, made the book exactly as I asked, and published it in the Blue collection. I was thrilled. The Blue collection was my favorite among very many.
CHARLES-LOUIS DE MONTESQUIEU, Storia vera, Translation and note by Rosanna Albertini, ©Sellerio Editore, Palermo, 1983, 1992.
EDMOND JABES, Le Livre des Questions, © Editions Gallimard, 1963