Diego Perrone “Pendio piovoso frusta la lingua,” readymades belong to everyone® “Philippe Thomas declines his identity,” “Hanuman Books 1986–1993” at MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome

This exhibition was selected as part of Turin Oomph / Rome Oomph, a roundup of the best shows in these towns during November 2022.

Laid out as a vertiginous landscape, Diego Perrone’s exhibition at MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome brings together twenty years of the Italian artist’s multi-media output as well as five new works in the form of two work/displays, a distortion of the space, a video and a photographic series. Formally slippery and at times hypnotic, the artist’s work amplifies and exasperates images and gestures to explore the extremes of “moments” in time and of the nature of the materials he chooses to employ. In this way there is an attempt to create images out of absences, working with archetypes and with the stuff of dreams. The title of the show, which translates to Rainy slope that whips the tongue offers a glimpse of how Perrone looks at the world.

The exhibition is seamlessly divided into different constellations of works, each one narrated by descriptions written by the artist himself; some, such as the red-biro drawings and the glass sculptures, are exhibited for the first time on newly conceived support structures that are meant to be read as works in their own right. One of these, Snorkeller Tube, was realized thanks to the support of the public notice PAC2020 – Piano per l’Arte Contemporanea promoted by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture. A new video work, Frustata, is made of old footage recorded by Perrone and captures a chance encounter, in a Northern Italian mountain village, with a boy who masterfully cracks a whip. The work echoes throughout the space, with the sound of the cracking of the whip acting as a thread that connects all the works in the exhibition. A spatial intervention, x Meters Slope, in which Perrone has chosen to sink the walls into the floor, performs a similar unifying gesture, re-enforcing the artist’s intention to make the entire exhibition a work of art.

In exploring the moment in-between before and after, which is often treated as the “dead time” between cause and effect, the artist toys with our gut response and we are left asking ourselves what (just) happened? For example, the death of an old dog in a wood near Turin is not a news item, yet to Perrone it is an event worth conceiving and fleshing out over the course of a five minute video—Vicino a Torino muore un cane vecchio—employing CGI technologies of the early 2000s.

Driven by a curiosity about hidden places as well as for the depths of the human psyche, Perrone will dig deep also to discover/unearth his own intentions. The world (above) looks, feels and sounds different from below ground as well as from under water, through the intricate web of a red-biro drawing, or from within a crooked room. It makes sense in other ways as suggested by the series I pensatori di buchi. Therefore, in pushing materials beyond their cultural and organic viscera, Perrone constructs a parallel world that pulls both marginal and iconic elements from the real one. He overlaps and draws lines between disparate disciplinary languages and between the natural and the man-made in order to deviate the viewers’ understanding of time and place.

With “Pendio piovoso frusta la lingua,” Diego Perrone continues to explore the limits of skewed inventiveness through a total work of art that insinuates itself perfectly into the grooves of a vision disquieted by the technological developments of the last thirty years and their repercussions, yet it asks questions that surpass temporal boundaries.

The work, Snorkeller Tube, is a winner of the public notice PAC2020 – Piano per l’Arte Contemporanea, promoted by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture, designated for the contemporary art collections of the Capitoline Superintendency for Cultural Heritage.

at MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome
until February 19, 2023

“Philippe Thomas declines his identity” is the first exhibition that an Italian institution has dedicated to piecing together an expanded portrait of the figure of Philippe Thomas (1951-1995). The show takes its title from that of a book connected with a lecture-performance by the French artist best known for his research connected to the concept of authorship. The latter led him to eventually annihilate his own presence.

He operated within a conceptual approach driven by the practice of making the buyer of an artwork at once its owner and its author. In a tension between reality and fiction, the process of writing his biography—in artistic and personal terms—becomes all-encompassing.

The first years of Thomas’s career involved a focus on the material aspects of signs in relation to surfaces, and the redefinition of the act of reading. In 1984 he created the group IFP (Information Fiction Publicité) together with Jean-François Brun and Dominique Pasqualini. The year after he carried on with his own personal career by founding a service agency named readymades belong to everyone® (1987-1993). Established in 1987 at the Cable Gallery in New York in its English version and then in Paris at Galerie Claire Burrus in the corresponding French translation (les ready-made appartiennent à tout le monde®), the agency carried out countless international projects during the course of its existence, with over sixty collectors and institutions as its signatories. Since the agency’s closure in 1995, its legacy has been conserved in the collection of MAMCO (Geneva), and is now displayed at MACRO in its entirety.

The agency formulated its own graphic identity and communication, including a logo and advertising campaigns, often made in collaboration with other communication agencies like Dolci Dire & Associés or BDDP/Paris. “As storage area and a presentation area, The Agency is at once a work and a retrospective. It is a deposit and an event, both singular and plural. It is an archive and an image of the agency readymades belong to everyone®. It is what remains and what has happened, just as it is at once open and closed, available and unavailable, absent and present, active and passive.” (Élisabeth Lebovici)

With the purpose of perpetuating a position like that of readymades belong to everyone®, the exhibition project works within three different temporalities incorporating the contributions of figures who lived in the same period, or were influenced by the agency, such as self-styled readymade artist Claire Fontaine. The Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince & Winters (1979) reflect the same urge to respond to the structures taking an increasing hold on the art system during those years. Christopher D’Arcangelo, on the other hand, foreshadows the spirit of the agency and of Philippe Thomas, with an approach to the dematerialization of art through a forceful political stance: his body in chains, or the complete absence of any trace of his physical being.

Christopher D’Arcangelo was an American artist known for a series of unauthorized actions inside the leading museums of New York. Driven by a deeply anarchic spirit, he was active until 1979, the year of his premature death. Every intervention he carried out was accompanied by an anarchist statement. In spite of the subversive attitude towards the art system, D’Arcangelo was deeply involved in it, since he was the son of the famous painter Allan D’Arcangelo. In January 1977, Christopher D’Arcangelo was invited by Claire Copley to contribute to the LAICA magazine for which she was the editor. The theme of the issue focused on the methods of economic survival of artists and their power in relation to the institutional context. The artist responded with a project titled LAICA as an Alternative to Museums, a four-page booklet inserted at the centre of the magazine, with a blank white double-page spread. The text on the first page, protesting against the “curatorial control” over exhibitions, urged readers to remove the white pages, do what they pleased on them, and hang the results in the exhibition space of LAICA (Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art).

The research of Claire Fontaine, a collective artist founded by Fulvia Carnevale and James Thornhill in 2004, is articulated around the various implications of the concept of readymade. By criticising the values and hierarchies that structure our society, the artist through her theoretical and aesthetic approach shows lines of flight out of the crisis of the individuals in the contemporary world. The artist uses existing forms and techniques to restore hope and power for the viewer by insisting on the existential use value of the references that she uses. The work Untitled (pubblicità pubblicità) presents, in fact, a détournement of the advertising poster of readymades belong to everyone®. Two lightboxes give shape to a dialogue between the original version of the agency and the feminist version of Claire Fontaine. The intervention of the artist reconstructs a pantheon of imaginary monographs of the most decisive women artists accompanied by a text that questions the dominance of male art in the system and in the history of art and invites us to change the status quo.

The Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince & Winters was a group formed in 1979 and composed of the artists Peter Fend, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Jenny Holzer, Richard Prince and Robin Winters. Working in New York, the group operated from an office that set out to offer “practical esthetic services adaptable to client situation,” as the postcard shown in the exhibition explained. The objective was to offer their art as “socially helpful work for hire.” The founders believed that as artists they could sell aesthetic intuitions on a par with any consulting that could be provided by advertising agencies or law firms. The aim was to invite artists to imagine a new relationship with the society and its organization. In spite of the lack of clients (like the artist-run space White Columns, for which they conducted the rebranding) and short history, The Offices attempted to formulate a new identification of the artist as an entrepreneur of ideas.

at MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome
until March 5, 2023

Hanuman Books was a publishing house founded in 1986 by the artist Francesco Clemente and the editor and curator Raymond Foye. The name comes from a Hindu divinity depicted in the Indian epic poem Ramayana, represented in the Hanuman Books logo designed by Clemente. The editorial research began one year earlier, during a trip to India, when Clemente introduced his friend Foye local miniature prayer books. These very small, light volumes symbolize contemplation and worship, which precisely due to their size—no larger than the palm of a hand—could be practiced upon frequently during the course of the day. The small hand- stitched format with bright colours, features the face of the guru or saint to whom the booklet is dedicated, on the front cover.

Over the course of seven years, the two founders used this format to publish fifty books (with the exception of God with Revolver by Rene Ricard, which is larger in size), twelve per year, tracing a non-linear path through the panorama of the 1980s. Clemente was in charge of the design of the books. The publishing company had two locations: an administrative and an editorial office, both in New York, run by Foye in his own apartment at the Chelsea Hotel; and a facility for printing and binding inside the C.T. Nachiappan’s Kalakshetra Press in Madras, India.

The publications were very affordable, priced at about five dollars, and the distribution was independent or carried out through museums and institutions, with the exception of the work done by companies such as Sun & Moon Press (Los Angeles) and Small Press Distribution (Berkeley).

The list of the authors in the series (some of whom contributed more than one title) is broad and extensive, covering a very wide range of disciplines and research paths. In the library of Hanuman Books it is possible to consult works by leading voices of the Beat Generation (such as William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac), the orientalist perspectives of figures like René Daumal, great musical talents like Bob Dylan and Patti Smith, radical and feminist personas like Simone Weil and Dodie Bellamy, and a wide range of poets and artists.

The writings featured in Hanuman Books were never the most representative creations of a given author, rather they were supplementary comments and personal baggage. In fact, the subversive character of these books was marked by the marginal expressions of both powerful and less visible figures.

The exhibition space presents the complete collection of publications released by Hanuman Books, displayed at the back of the room, while the lateral walls offer an interview conducted by MACRO’s artistic director and curator Luca Lo Pinto with the two founders, providing visitors with a detailed narrative of their experience.

The story is completed with a floor-display that suggests the moment in which an editor, giving form to a publication, places the materials on the ground to peruse and select them. The expanse of documents, photographs, letters and catalogues from the personal archives of Raymond Foye is subdivided into three thematic areas. These include: a section on the printing process in Madras, another on the authors involved with the publishing house, and the promotional activities and correspondence with the players and participants of Hanuman Books, a publishing house that is small only in appearance.

at MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome
until March 12, 2023

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