The work of an artist can have many facets; one of these is to insist on some kind of limit: working on the edge of the concepts acquired by the culture of one’s own time, he demolishes (or perhaps redefines) the boundaries, generating the tension that is the typical creative drive of every form of art. Gianluigi Colin works in this direction and he does it on several fronts. Born in Pordenone in 1956, in addition to be a visual artist, for years he has held the role of Art Director at Corriere della Sera; the development of this profession has allowed him to have a different look both on the media and on their contents, endorsing perhaps with the practice the famous Marshall McLuhan’s thesis according to which, in the end, the medium is the message.
The exhibition Gianluigi Colin. Family constellations, dialogues on freedom is dedicated to him, curated by Arturo Carlo Quintavalle and set up in the rooms of Palazzo del Governatore in Parma. A solo exhibition that rereads the artist’s career in an interesting key: the “family constellations” mentioned in the title are generated by the works of the 24 artists featured in the exhibition, chosen not for mere stylistic or thematic affinities, but because, for various reasons, they met along the artistic or life path of Colin; as a testimony of these non-descriptive links, they accompany the works, but narrations, fragments of life, which tell of his link with the artists and the reason for choosing to combine their works with his.
There are four main themes of the exhibition. In Present history we find Colin’s photomontages in which he juxtaposes current affairs photographers with famous paintings to create new universes of meaning, generated by the juxtaposition of two distant but somehow close images. And so The raft of the Medusa by Géricault dialogues with the photo of a boat of migrants; The great tower of Babel by Peter Brugel with the twin towers in flames; The dead Christ by Mantegna with the image of dead Che Guevara. In these works the artist plays with different levels not only temporally but also medially, yet the result, visually returned as an “interference”, does not cause the shock of a heretical approach, but naturally shows a connection between past and present. Even when the obscene violence explodes in the juxtapositions between the engravings from the Horrors of war series by Goya and the photos of Abu Ghraib, Colin manages to return to these terrible events without ever yielding to the pornography of pain. Wherever it would have been easy, for anyone else, to fall into the trap of easy pietism, he makes a lucid complaint against through his art. Very different artists interact with the works of this section: among them a militant Jannis Kounellis, who with his W freedom, W Gericault asserts, with the hieratic gesture of a single black brushstroke that covers the writing of the title, his love for freedom; and Mimmo Paladino, artist of the Transavanguardia, whose work Laboratory, quoting Piero della Francesca, wants to pay homage to the history of art in its entirety.
In the Footprints of the present section Colin’s Sudari are displayed. In these abstract works, created by appropriating large fabrics used to clean newspaper presses, a fundamental theme is presented for the visual arts, that of the trace. They are the silent testimony of something that has been, anonymous negatives generated by the printing press, but no less “significant” for this.
There are many works by the artists on display focused on this fascinating theme: from that of Antonio Recalcati, who uses his body as a “matrix” to make his paintings, to the work of Martino Gamper and Brigitte Niedermair, who, reflecting theme of the “low resolution”, transform a painting by Matisse into a work with a constructivist flavor; up to the magnificent work-testimony by Claudio Parmiggiani, made in situ for Palazzo del Governatore: the Shadow Sculpture, trace of soot and smoke left by a library on the walls of the room. The evocative power of these works requires us to find ourselves face to face with the ghosts of a presence-absence, of which only the work remains as undying testimony.
The Resistance section is perhaps one of the most complex and interesting. In torn or crumpled posters, Colin’s ability to modify the media as he pleases, while playing with the support and the image, is fully revealed. In the Liturgie series the faces of the politicians, rendered deformed by the manipulation of electoral posters, scrutinize us in pain and, having lost all the residue of the usual arrogance with which they look proud from the streets, they now look more like portraits of Francis Bacon or New Objectivity; here it could not be that Mimmo Rotella one of the artists “called into question”, he who with his décollages was able to overturn the standardized language of advertising to create a new, very personal one.
Finally, the Wor (l) ds section presents works that reflect on the relationship with time: a time that in The Ruined Ruins appears suspended, immobile, immortalized in the infinite photographic instant, similar to the sculptures full of ancient echoes by Nino Longobardi or to the art photographs by Aurelio Amendola. Another form of rethinking of the medium returns in Relics: bricks of pressed paper that, arranged in a disorderly way in space, take on a totemic aspect, halfway between monuments and stumbling blocks placed on the visitor’s path, claiming their presence in the mare magnum of contemporary information. It also happens in the work of Emilio Isgrò, who, through his erasures, comes to reveal hidden meanings that, distracted by the excessive eloquence of language, we would have ended up ignoring.
The work at the beginning of the exhibition, Il mare di Alan, could also have been placed at the end of the exhibition: it is a work that is transversal to all the sections, which sums up most of the themes treated by the artist. Colin, manipulating the famous photo of little Alan Kurdi taken on the beaches of Bodrum, chooses to shift the focus of the image on an enlargement of the sea in the background. The elision is an operation that is very far from the censorship, indeed diametrically opposed: it is an attempt to make us look beyond, rather than at the actual manifestation of the events, their causes and their motivations. Because, if the selection of information is a typical act of journalism, the artistic practice is different: it does not aim to show a part of the world, but provides the elements to change the point of view, giving the possibility to re-read the events under a new light and to imagine a better future.
The two works by Gianluigi Colin from Andrea Mantegna, Il Cristo morto; Freddy Alborta, Che Guevara dead, and from Peter Brugel, The great tower of Babel; Marty Lederhandler, The Twin Towers on Fire
One of the Sudari rooms, works taken from the fabrics used to clean newspaper presses, shown in the Footprints of the present section
The Sudari by Gianluigi Colin related to the in situ work by Pier Paolo Calzolari, made for Palazzo del Governatore, entitled Shadow Sculpture
Relics, pressed paper bricks that invade the entire space of a room with their presence
Gianluigi Colin, Il mare di Alan
Crediti fotografici: Città di Parma https://www.flickr.com/photos/comuneparma