8 Art Project
Eight Art Project
Fabio Mauri at GAMeC.

Fabio Mauri left a mark on the variegated artistic panorama of the second half of the 20th century through his use of language as a means of expression, avoiding the usual approaches taken by conceptual art and enriching it with elastic meanings, able to cover many aspects of everyday existence. Fabio Mauri. Arte per legittima difesa (“Fabio Mauri: Art in Self-Defense,” October 6, 2016-January 15, 2017) is the exhibition that the GAMeC (Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea) in Bergamo is devoting to the great Italian artist with the aim of drawing attention to his undisputed intellectual legacy. The curator, Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, has presented his account of the career of the Roman-born artist in the form of a retrospective on a small scale, showing the works that are most representative of his approach: an authentically transhistorical one, because both universal and modern.

The theme most frequently explored was undoubtedly the reappraisal of history, something to which Mauri kept returning in an attempt to understand what was going on around him. It was not a matter of mechanically dusting off the more heinous chapters of our past, but of intertwining its threads with his own life, in a continuous play of allusions. The series entitled Le grandi carte (1971), in this sense, functions as an ideal atlas of snapshots of his early output: Ebrea (Jewish Girl, 1971), a blunt photographic record that should be connected with his celebrated performance on the Holocaust; Il Muro d’Europa (The Wall of Europe, 1979), in which he reflected on the Berlin Wall as a symbolic and real image of division, and Europa bombardata (Europe Bombed, 1978) offer the shocked eyes of the visitor a meticulous reportage on history as the “place” of error. Doing art in self-defense, at bottom, signifies opening up a critical dialogue with the visual testimonies of reality and with time which, as it passes, sets multiple processes of redress in motion.

In this sense, the events that took place in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 lend themselves to new interpretations through study of the faces of those involved: Cina ASIA Nuova (China New ASIA, 1992) is an installation that harks back to his interest in “walls” built to divide; a high barrier of aluminum suitcases, stacked like modern bricks to frame pictures of two young men who, in the role-playing game of war, find themselves on opposite sides: “Bewildered expressions, on both faces, in the extraordinary and unnatural event of people of the same age being shot.” The same as the ones that can be seen in the series Studenti (Students, 1996), a long row of abstract paintings deliberately left half-finished to simulate their hypothetical, sudden abandonment by their student-creators, torn away by the urgent need to take part in the street protests.

In the history of contemporary art attempts have often been made to use language to set out conceptual reflections, frequently with tautological results (as in the case of the conceptual art of the seventies), and on other occasions as a tool of political militancy. In 1974 Fabio Mauri published Linguaggio è guerra, an art book constructed out of images selected to hone the critical faculty: “Language, prone to falsity, should be made to serve reality and truth,” as if to say that words are never neutral, nor images objective. And this is how we should interpret the Oggetti Ariani (Aryan Objects, 1995) that bring the exhibition to a close, testimonies to a peaceful everyday life that recalls what Hannah Arendt described as “the banality of evil,” the wholly human capacity for self-exculpation, denying atrocities and abuses. This, in the end, is Fabio Mauri’s great legacy: the ability to orchestrate objects and thoughts in aesthetic terms in order to move viewers deeply, systematically stirring their conscience and feelings.

Elena Tettamanti


Bergamo // until January 15, 2017
Fabio Mauri. Arte per legittima difesa
curated by Giacinto Di Pietrantonio
GAMeC (Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea)
Via San Tomaso 53, 24121 Bergamo


Photo credits:

1. Fabio Mauri
13th Milan Triennale, 1968
Photo: Elisabetta Catalano
© Heirs of Fabio Mauri Courtesy Heirs of Fabio Mauri and Hauser & Wirth

2. Fabio Mauri 
Ebrea (Jewish Girl, 1971), from Le grandi carte, 1994  
196 x 127 cm
© Heirs of Fabio Mauri
Courtesy Heirs of Fabio Mauri and Hauser & Wirth

3. Fabio Mauri
Cina ASIA Nuova (China New ASIA), 1996 
General view, Palazzo di Miramare, Trieste, 2010
© Heirs of Fabio Mauri
Courtesy Heirs of Fabio Mauri and Hauser & Wirth

4. Fabio Mauri
Schermo Fine (End Screen), 1960s
mixed media on paper
52.5 x 70 cm
© Heirs of Fabio Mauri
Courtesy Heirs of Fabio Mauri and Hauser & Wirth

October 2016
Elena Tettamanti


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