The title Arte invites the viewer to delve into endless worlds, but often closer than we think. The anthological exhibition dedicated to Fernando De Filippi at the Castromediano Museum in Lecce, open until October 2, 2020, thus accompanies the viewer along the artist’s sixty-year career. But Arte does not only summarize his complex research activity, referring to one of the slogans he used: Arte intends above all to make us reflect on the meaning that the artist has attributed to this concept.
Few have understood art as a true ideal like De Filippi, and just as few have poured into it, in the most coherent way, the ideals that have ignited their thinking. All this is evident above all in the first phase of his career, when, around the mid-sixties, his painting, clearly characterized by Pop origin, is revived by the presence of comic icons that refer to the climate of struggle that raged in those years. The political commitment is evident and the works immediately reveal the courage of an artist who is not at all afraid to take sides.
Shortly thereafter the scream of his Art raises the volume further: in the early 1970s De Filippi focuses on Lenin, and the series of paintings dedicated to him, close to Soviet-style Realism, testifies to his convinced militancy . The reverence for the Russian revolutionary is such that in 1974 in the video-photographic series entitled Sostituzione (Substitution) De Filippi transforms himself into Lenin thanks to the sophisticated techniques of cinematographic make-up and he acted like this “not by simple ideological consent”, but to experience the person of the politician in an “intimate, domestic” way. In 1975 he even came to imitate his writing in the works that followed Trascrizione (Transcription) (1975), a consistent completion – as the artist himself states – of the experience linked to Sostituzione. These are performances that not only reaffirm the ideals pursued, but which place writing and written language at the center, through the investigation of the particular Cyrillic alphabet.
The voice of art begins to invade the surrounding world. The shock wave breaks on canvases, videos, photographs and on words. As it happens in 1976, when the action of the sea cancels the transcription interventions that De Filippi carries out on the shores of Capo Speranza in Sardinia and of Carmague in France: on that occasion the investigation moves on the relationship between sign and word, between spoken word and written word. The phrases derived from some texts by Karl Marx, and the main theme once again revolved around the meaning of art – later replaced by the German philosopher’s Capital. But De Filippi’s art certainly could not stop there. As early as 1975 it began to spread through the streets through slogans affixed to banners: reflections on the art of Marx and Engels invade the streets of Paris, Bologna, Venice, New York, Florence and Milan. A commercial Pop operation finalized to transmit extremely profound messages: the short circuit of the spoken / written word is also transferred to the level of vision, confirming – as theorized a decade earlier by Marshall McLuhan – that “the medium is the message”. For the wild billboards of this period – because not all were authorized – Fernando De Filippi is considered one of the precursors of today’s street art: in fact, they “move underground, using the illegal practice – explains the artist – as it will then be illegal the practice of street art, three or four decades later “.
In the following eighties and nineties De Filippi (temporarily) abandoned “the garments of the social agitator” to inaugurate a “pause […] for reflection”, as he wrote in a text composed for an exhibition at the Studio Trisorio in Naples. His art goes back to its origins, to the myths of the Mediterranean, without however abandoning the will to say, to speak: the words, in this case almost whispered, are lost in the waves of the sea – once again – and then disappear completely. On the other hand, the Architetture del mare (Architectures of the sea) take shape characterized by a classicistic geometric rigor, solitary at first, then populated by mythological figures and finally by trees: “perfect expression of the mystery of life”, the latter represent the mind, the “thought thought” traveling through the branches of an intricate nervous system. Over time the trees fully conquer the artist, imposing themselves as the only subject of his works: in the 2000s they are charged with Pop atmospheres – a reference to when it all began – as a background to colored words that come back to the fore to compose a “new narrative”. And finally, it is in the latest works that Art reaches its maximum noise. The concepts that have always characterized the artist’s thought are back – Art, Revolution, Ideology, etc. – but this time they burn in the flames of the fire: a ritual that involves their extinction – as in the case of the sea that erased the words on the beach – but this only serves to give them greater power, a definitive affirmation.
First a student at the Brera Academy, then a lecturer in the same and finally director from 1991 to 2009 – the year in which he assumed the same position at the Academy of Fine Arts in Verona and then became president in that of Lecce starting in 2016: Fernando De Filippi’s life has always been a fact of art. And what most marks his path is the tenacity with which he carried out his research, the same that has characterized his political commitment. Art, on the other hand, as Germano Celant argued, can only be guerrilla.
Fernando De Filippi, Arte
curated by Brizia Minerva e Lorenzo Madaro, con il coordinamento di Luigi De Luca
4 September – 2 October 2020
Museo Provinciale Sigismondo Castromediano, Viale Gallipoli 28, Lecce
Fernando De Filippi, Il vento del passato, 1972
Fernando De Filippi, Testuale. La parola e l’immagine, Milano, 1979
Fernando De Filippi, Vento che parli con voce leggera di foglie, 2006
Born in Campi Salentina (LE). After the three-year degree in Technologies for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage at the University of Salento, I attend the Master of Science in Visual Arts at the University of Bologna. I collaborated with Galleria d’Arte Maggiore g.a.m. (Bologna) and with MUMA – Museum of the Ancient Sea in Nardò (LE). I am interested in events concerning contemporary art, in particular those related to video-photographic and performative practices. I write for ATPdiary and Juliet Art Magazine.