Paolo Icaro: 1967-1977
On the 28th of January two personal exhibitions will open in Bologna, one at the historical gallery Studio g7 (Via Val d’Aposa 4/A) and the other at the younger p420 Arte Contemporanea (Piazza dei Martiri 5/2), both dedicated to the artist Paolo Icaro (Turin, 1936).
Born from the collaboration between these two Bolognese galleries, this double personal exhibition shows Icaro’s artistic development in just over a dozen years and it aims to analyse a crucial moment in the work of the Turin artist, whose research has provided a thoroughly personal contribution to the artistic languages developed over the Sixties and Seventies, such as Arte Povera, Conceptual Art and Process Art, with a particular contribution to the revival of contemporary sculpture.
Paolo Icaro, 1967-1977, exhibited in the p420 space and curated by Lara Conte, through a series of sculptures and drawings from the period in question highlights how Icaro began, in 1967, a new investigation into sculpture that focused on research into the space and measurement of the body. And it was in ’67 that Forme di spazio (Forms of space) were born, ironically renamed Gabbie (Cages) straight afterwards, structures made of metal bars whose measurements were relative to those of the artist’s body and of the environment. With the Gabbie, sculpture moved on from occupying the space to becoming the place, the origin of the space. During his time living in New York until 1968, Icaro kept in close contact with the Italian art scene and participated in the main exhibitions of the time such as Arte Povera Im-Spazio (Genoa, Galleria La Bertesca, 1967) and Arte Povera più azioni povere(Amalfi, 1968). Furthermore he took part in fundamental international events of the period such as Op Losse Schroeven at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1969) and When Attitudes Become Form, curated by Harald Szeemann at the Kunsthalle in Bern (1969). The exhibition opens with Purple Chair, in which the space of open dimensions and transit becomes the form of individual space. As Lara Conte noted, ‘Icaro’s Gabbie go beyond rigidity, the coherence of minimalist plastic reductionism. In fact, although Icaro warns that minimalist research “is completed by its own premise”, he does not feel exempt from providing his own critical, Mediterranean
contribution. And he does so by ironically throwing into crisis those procedures that tend to enclose the syntax between real perfection and regularity, “where nothing is to be discovered, read or felt”. Icaro explores space: a space to be experienced with the body, measured in a physical and mental dimension, to look for in the becoming of time. A space to describe, where design and accident, sacred intimacy and subtle irony blend. Causing a radical crisis for form, Icaro reaches exploration of that process of doing that he sums up in the continuous action of Faredisfarerifarevedere’. On exhibition, this research into doing is shown through a display that unites Chain d (1967), Quadrato libero (1968), the wall-mounted Misure (Polare, 1972; Misura mano sinistra, punti, 1974) and the 18 plaster Misure installed within a window space, that intends to recall and rethink the Window-Show exhibition held in Finale Ligure in 1974.
Finally, as is now tradition at p420, the exhibition will be complemented by an extensive display of documents from the Paolo Icaro Archive, which will precisely outline the artistic and exhibition history of the artist.
Paolo Icaro. Living in America: sculptural events in Woodbridge on the other hand is the exhibition held in the Studio g7 space and curated by Martin Holman. The gallery concentrates on the success of the research conducted at Woodbridge, Connecticut, where the artist spent eight years during his second American stay.
The works chosen want, on the one hand, to create a site specific installation within the semi-cubic space of the Bolognese gallery, and on the other to link in to the exhibition held at PAC in 1982, where Paolo Icaro, having just returned from the United States, entirely reconstructed his Woodbridge studio. The works exhibited bear witness to the concept that sculpture must affirm its own space. This proposition arises from the realization that sculpture’s original function was as an extension of architecture that communicated a building’s ritual, commemorative or decorative uses. Over millennia, sculpture has been detached from this reliance on built structures to find a place for itself. Icaro has been occupied for many years with the question of how sculpture acquires its aesthetic value and validity, and the levels on which it engages with its audience.
Made of white plaster, a humble material in the context of art and everyday life, and placed at intervals around the gallery walls, they suggest elemental architectural forms – an arch, a window, a lintel and ledge – that seem both ancient and, within the context of the Minimalism of the 1970s, modern at the same time. A characteristic of Icaro’s work is to interrogate its surroundings, and that means both its setting and the people occupying it. These forms encourage visitors to trawl memory and imagination for possible explanations, establishing a remarkably liberating environment that recalls the abstract sensations of music on the mind or the mental landscapes opened up by literature. Icaro’s favourite material is space. This choice may account for the unexpected immateriality of work in which the artist’s principal concern is to enclose space into special areas where it can be probed, organised and measured. These actions become tools in the task of releasing sharpened awareness into the gallery. At Studio g7, Icaro embraces wall and floor, introducing into the space Square Spirals (1980), a seminal work that has never been seen publicly in Italy. Composed of numerous pieces of standard-sized wood battens, this alternative floor extends itself
in a cellular fashion with right-hand turns of wood that grow arithmetically into spirals. Spirals behave by curving away from their centre-points and by rewinding back into them, movements that imitate a pulse which finds an echo in their human audience. In ways such as this, visitors connect physically with the work to become strangely integrated into an experience, the ‘sculptural event’.
The exhibitions will open at the same time in the two locations on Saturday the 28th of January, with opening hours from 9:00 to 24:00 for the Bolognese galleries’ White Night, but can be visited beforehand on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th of January during ArteFiera.
The catalogues for both exhibitions, text by Lara Conte for P420, text by Martin Holman for G7 and designed by Studio Filippo Nostri, are available from the galleries.
P420 Arte Contemporanea
Piazza dei Martiri 5/2
40121 Bologna, Italia