Antonio Trotta. Soltanto il nulla è senza luce
Curated by Like A Little Disaster
1 October / 15 November 2016, @Foothold, Polignano a Mare
Like A Little Disaster is proud to present “Soltanto il nulla è senza luce”, a solo exhibition by Italian-Argentinian artist Antonio Trotta, a leading exponent of international art in the last fifty years. Trotta is a versatile artist who has been researching, conceiving and building a coherent language that has always been pioneering, often lonely but always free from outer constraints, since the end of the sixties. A language that belongs to a mental universe that cannot be imprisoned by closed or binding categories. His modus operandi has expanded the boundaries of countless fields of research; performance, video, words, photography, environmental installations, sculpture. His practice has touched, never fallen for, many currents and attitudes of contemporary art; from modernist avant-garde to spatialism, from conceptual to minimalism, from postmodernism to environmental art.
The exhibition is food for thought on his artistic path through some topic moments, especially those linked to his interest in light as a medium, a phenomenon and a concept. It is seen by Trotta as an entity in which the revealing power of thought clearly emerges, in relation to the contingency and transcendent features inherent to the Being. Revealing light that leads us beyond what we see.
Through an oxymoron we could say that, with Trotta’s works, light becomes pure and “tangible” abstraction, it presents itself both as a medium and as content at the same time, as a perfect balance between presentation and representation of the self.
Works on display:
Paquete especial, 1966-2016. The work was exhibited only at the Castagnino Gallery of Buenos Aires in 1967. It has been reproduced for this occasion and presented for the first time in Europe. The work is characterized by a certain interest for minimalist geometry and the use of materials derived from the industrial and the building worlds, which allow it to give birth to modular works, perfectly adaptable to any environment and any type of installation. Paquete especial is a sculpture made up of an aluminum tubular wrapping around a light beam formed by a group of plexiglas tubes, a material used for its innovative bright immateriality, for its shapeable inexistence and materialized light. Paquete especial is a work which, as Jorge Glusberg writes, “(…) allows the viewer to participate in a new way, by choosing himself the messages that he can receive. Observing a classical work reflects total subordination to an authoritarian and absolute order (which can be identified both in the position and in the ideals of the maker). The contemporary vision introduces a form of communion between the audience and the artist, which is completely different from tradition. The new work of art creates a different dimension to aesthetic enjoyment; it is not placed before the public: it embraces it, it forces it to participate, in a conscious rapture, in a new form of social coexistence and intellectual discipline”. Paquete especial interacts and shares the same space with a series of recent works: Sospiri 1999-2016, in which marble seems to turn into leaves shaken by the wind, or, as Lea Vergine cleverly observes, “the traditional is overturned (…) the Sospiri emulate movement, agility, almost to the point of a trompe l’oeil; they are a hocus-pocus, a trick, an eighteenth-century tour de force. (…) Trotta shifts the weight of the material to a miraculous lightness. But the parody (the world upside down) and the paradox (the absurd, the inconceivable) give, in him, results that, inspired by a sort of classicism, seem enigmatic, never fathomable through and through”.
The Sospiri are “marmoreal sequences” set like paintings: each piece is different and it stands out for the movement and the light which the sculptor expresses and impresses on the material. Despite their total aesthetic autonomy, both “Paquete especial” and “Sospiri” are animated by a common inspirational force. In both works, light is not reality but rather a state of mind through which to investigate the limits between visibility and illusion, as well as the tangibility and intangibility of an element, that subvert the spatial representation of the works.
The presence of light enables us to see, makes our vision possible; in the same way, ideas are understood while we think, because they make our thoughts possible. And just as the action of seeing is indistinguishable from the objects of visions, the action of thinking is indistinguishable from the concepts thought.
Another work especially re-edited for the exhibition is Schema 8: Accoppiamento (1968 – 2016), presented only at the 34th Venice Biennale in 1968. Its conception and realization were carried out during the period that Trotta chose to spend in Rome in preparation for the Biennial. It is the night photography reproduction of a Roman gallery from which, in the real space of the exhibition, a series of neon tubes illuminating the image radiate. The work, as Germano Celant promptly remarks, “(…) tries to approach the observer, not to alienate him/her. It is placed directly in contact with the subject-viewer, involving him/her spatially, generating an unexpected feeling of eliminating the limit between the real and the unreal”.
In this double game of perspectives and visions, experience is simultaneously objective and subjective, material and immaterial, real and unreal, with a level of ambiguity that makes the viewer participate without any rational or individual definition.
With “Finestra su vetro“, 1972 (light boxes, emulsion on glass, 80 x 80 x 12 cm, in collaboration with the architect Giorgio Tagini) Antonio Trotta creates a tautological short circuit that depends on the concurrence of the displayed material (the glass) and the material used as support. This photograph, blended on emulsion on glass, depicts the artist’s studio in Milan. When switched off, the lamp looks like a real window “at nighttime”. When switched on, it looks like a window “during the daytime”. Not only ideas precede actions, but somehow the work seems to contain itself: the real object corresponds to an ideal and pre-existing object. Colonna di Luce, 1972 (Engraved marble, light, 40 x 40 cm. In collaboration with the architect Giorgio Tagini) is one Trotta’s first attempts at marble-working. It is a carved cube of marble illuminated from within: when lit it shows the base of a Greek column broken up into its orthogonal projections. When switched off it returns to be simply the geometrical materiality of a marble cube. Light encompasses the fabric of the origins and of history, following a time circle that, as Borges said, sees the past as an eternal return that is part of the present. Still on the concept of light is Lampada sferica, 1962/72 (Plexiglass, light. 40 x 40 cm). It is a cube of light from which a self-illuminating section is detached. Trotta’s fascination for geometric minimalism makes him to dig in the cube, to see what is inside. Dividing up, dissecting the cube form so as to explore countless aesthetic and conceptual intentions. The aesthetic pleasure of seeing a separate light, a light divided into two parts; the light source, which we are normally used to identifying in its single emission, presents itself as a parceled out solid form that can be, mentally, reassembled.
Libro letto nel 1970 (1970, 23 x 15 x 3 cm.) is a transparent perspex plate printed with the cover of a book: “Carme presunto” by Borges, which, once read, becomes transparent and bright, as does Borges literature itself. This process does not dismiss the viewing experience: we are not facing a merely conceptual operation. We are facing a concrete, albeit very ambiguous, presence. “The world and the book reflect each other’s mirrored images eternally and infinitely. The subtle power of the glare, this sparkling and unlimited multiplier that is the labyrinth of light, is not nothing: it will be all we can find spiraling down at the end of our desire to understand”.
Paestum, 1937 – Milan 2019. He moved to Argentina in the mid-fifties and in 1960 is among the promoters of the SI group. He begins to showcase his work at the Museo de Arte Moderno and the Institute Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, and in 1968 he is invited to represent the Argentine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. From late 1969 until 1973, Trotta collaborates with Nizzoli Associati, with “total design” operations involving architects, graphic designers, artists and critics working as a team and setting up architectural and city planning projects in Italy and abroad (Taranto, Cremona, Seville, etc.). He also produces some covers for “L’Architettura. Cronache e storie” magazine directed by Bruno Zevi. He has had solo exhibitions at François Lambert Gallery, Milan (1970), Galleria Christian Stein, Turin (1971, 1977), Galleria Marilena Bonomo, Bari (1972), Galleria Maddalena Carioni, Milan (1972), Galleria Toselli, Milan (1975), Galleria Borgogna, Milan (1976), Studio Cesare Manzo, Pescara (1983), Galleria Artra, Milan (1986, 1999), Galleria Piero Cavellini, Milan (1987), Galleria Cardi, Milan (1990), at Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana in Buenos Aires (1995), Galleria Omphalos, Terlizzi (1998, 2008), Gallera Invernizzi, Milan (1999)-
He particpated in several important group exhibitions at: the Venice Biennale (1976, 1978, 1990), the Instititute for Contemporary Art, London (1974), the Internationaal Cultureen Centrum Antwerpen (1975), National Museum, Osaka (1979), Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome (1980), PAC, Milan (1982, 1988, 1989), Biennale de Lyon (1984), Galleria Martano, Turin (1984), Dragan European Foundation, Milan (1986), Galleria Bianca Pilat, Milan and Galleria Oddi Baglioni, Rome (1990), Modern Art Gallery of Udine (1997), Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires (2007), Modern art Gallery, Palazzo Forti, Verona (2007), Palazzo della Triennale, Milan (2009), Pomodoro Foundation, Milan (2010), Fundación PROA, Buenos Aires (1998, 2011) MAMBA Museum, Buenos Aires (2015, 2016), Bocconi Art Gallery, Bocconi University, Milan (2015).
In 2007 he attended the opening of the Stio Antonio Trotta Museum and Archive. He is a member of the National Academy of San Luca, a historic Rome-based artists association founded in 1577, since 2009.