The art of deletion is not a simple denial but, on the contrary, a statement for new signi cations: it is the transformation of a negative sign to a positive gesture.
Tornabuoni Art Paris presents the first retrospective of Italian artist Emilio Isgrò in France.
One of the greatest innovators of the artistic language in Post-War Italy and precursor of international conceptual art since the early 1960s, Emilio Isgrò realised his first Cancellature (deletions) in 1964. Erasing the words to display only the fragments of a now piecemealed text, he contributed to the birth and growth of Poesia visiva (visual poetry) and defined in 1966 his conception of poetry as Arte generale del segno (general art of signs).
Emilio Isgrò’s art is located at the intersection of presence and absence, of deconstruction and reconstruction, giving a new meaning to the media on which he operates. Instead of organising and selecting the words, he gives back to the words all its possibilities, powers and dangers. If society enchains discourses by formatting them, Emilio Isgrò erases a part of them, giving back their freedom to signs, images, words and punctuations.
Subsequently the artist has applied his deletion technique not only to newspapers and magazines but to all kind of publications.
The exhibition starts with Isgrò’s first Cancellature, presenting the artist’s oeuvre through his different cycles and creations on newspapers, encyclopaedias, telex, maps and more recent productions on identity, historic iconoclastic practices and acts of censorship and misinformation.
This solo-show is the last chapter of a travelling exhibition between Tornabuoni Art Milan, London and Paris and follows the artist’s installation La cancellatura efface la censure (The cancellatura erases censorship), at the Italian Cultural Institute of Paris from 28 March to 7 April 2017.
A 22 meters long installation is part of this Parisian exhibition: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1969.
Through this installation Isgrò intends to “erase” the culture as simple erudition, always in his quest of ultimate freedom. Comprised of 24 encyclopaedic volumes, this installation is one of the artist’s most emblematic works on which he used his famous Cancellatura technique, and was commissioned by Arturo Umberto Samuele Schwarz (Alexandria, 1924), an important Post-War Italian art critic, curator and collector.
The exhibition also unveils a monumental installation especially realised by the artist for this retrospective: La lumière de la Liberté, 2017.
Featuring the Statue of Liberty, this artwork dominates the last exhibition room. In this impressive installation, the statue, symbol of freedom and hospitality, seems exhausted and does not hold her torch anymore. It thus seems to question the viewer: Where is democracy going ? Our values of equality an fraternity, are they still shared ? This work still reflects the specificity of Emilio Isgrò’s art, that presents the world as it is, and not as a chronicle. La lumière de la Liberté is also a reflection on the relationship between European and American art, the dialogue between these two continents and the role it plays in the definition of Liberty.
Emilio Isgrò, born in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto in 1937, is an Italian artist and writer, pioneer in the Post-War artistic language, especially in the Cancellatura (deletion technique) that he experimented with from the 1960s and which still has the same strength and creative audacity today. The artist made his first Cancellature on encyclopaedias and then applied this deletion to cards, images and musical sheets, while creating conceptual installations.
In the 1960s he exhibited in Milan, Genoa, Bologna and Naples, then took part in the Venice Biennale of 1972, 1978, 1986 and 1993.
The artist plays with paradoxes, to the point of deleting himself in 1971 in “Dichiaro di non essere Emilio Isgrò”, coming back nearly forty years later with “Dichiaro di essere Emilio Isgrò”, also the title of the retrospective at the Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato, 2008.
In 1977, he received the first prize at the XIV Biennale d’Arte of Sao Paulo in Brazil. In 1989, he developed a new Teoria della cancellatura and participated in the 1990s to major exhibitions at the MoMA in New York, at the Guggenheim of Venice, at the Boghossian Foundation in Brussels and at the Taksim Sanat Gallery in Istanbul.
He presented Chopin in 1979 in Milan, a partition-installation for fifteen pianoforte, and worked in 1985 for the Teatro alla Scala with the multimedia installation La veglia di Bach. In 2011 he proposed the installation L’Italia che dorme at the Galleria d’arte moderna in Rome to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, while in 2015 he marked the Milan Expo with Seme dell’Altissimo, a monumental marble sculpture.
In 2016, the Palazzo Reale, Milan, dedicated a retrospective to the artist and more recently, in 2017, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, integrated three of his works in its permanent collection.
Erasure calls into question the survival of the human word. As a philosophical and anthropological rather than an aesthetic problem, erasure is a brick for rebuilding the communication between peoples. We have been fed such a rich array of words that in the end we no longer read them. But if they are taken away from us for a moment, then once again we rediscover their full force and power.