Courtesy Mazzoleni.

February 5, 2018
February 23–May 12, 2018
Private view: February 22, 6–8pm
15 Old Bond Street
London W1S 4X
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Vincenzo Agnetti, John Baldessari, Mel Bochner, Alighiero Boetti, Dadamaino, Tracey Emin, Lucio Fontana, Emilio Isgrò, Joseph Kosuth, Jannis Kounellis, Piero Manzoni, Rebecca Moccia, Gastone Novelli, David Reimondo, Mimmo Rotella, Salvo, Cy Twombly

Curated by Daniela Ferrari

Mazzoleni presents MORE THAN WORDS…, a group show opening to the public on February 23, 2018. Curated by Daniela Ferrari, art historian and curator, the exhibition will explore the use of text and the written word in the practice of major post-war Italian and international artists. Focusing on creative output from 1958 onwards, the show will feature over 30 works in various media including painting, photography, collage and neon.

The word represents an essential expressive vehicle: words or letters are an integral part of the apparatus of contemporary art, although the practice has its origins in antiquity and took on particular importance in the historic twentieth century avant-garde movements. The artists included in the exhibition are brought together by certain key concerns—concept, light, dictionary, pop, time, philosophy—which allow us to identify affinities that unites them. Drawing on life and the kaleidoscope of verbal, literary, philosophical and poetic communication, each artist has succeeded in conferring upon the word a power that goes beyond mere meaning: more than words!

“I believe that the foundation of my practice is the creation of meaning,” says Kosuth. It is the very value of the concept, of the meaning expressed in the work that this exhibition intends to highlight: the word as question and statement, as revealed by the verification of thought. Kosuth’s neon work #II49. (On Color/Multi #9)’ II49. The coloured intermediary between two colours. Wittgenstien Series (On Color), 1991 will be included to exemplify his critical position in the canon of conceptual art. Bochner, a similarly key figure, has devoted himself to investigating various expressive forms, including text phrases in diverse languages or vernaculars, amplifying thereby the confines of language to include expressions that have entered the spoken language and which belong to the so-called sphere of the meaningless. His work The Joys of Yiddish, a screenprint on felt from 2014 will demonstrate this enduring practice.

The series of “arazzi” or embroidered grids of coloured letters conveying puzzles of short phrases, inverted sayings or wordplays, conceived by Boetti in the 1970s (exemplified here by a work from 1989), were realised by artisans in Afganistan and Pakistan, often over many months. The time of making and reading also regulate the asemantic writings of Dadamaino: her Alfabeti della mente transformed into I fatti della vita exhibited at the 39th Venice Biennale. She will be represented by a triptych from the Alfabeti cycle, from 1979. Manzoni had also focused part of his research on the sequence of the letters of the alphabet. The “alphabet of prime images” to which he aspired finds a possible conjugation in the work Alfabeto, composed of the letters ABCD in three columns painted with ink and kaolin on canvas, while the painting-writing experience of Novelli, is related to the Informal trend developed both in Europe and America, taking up the legacy of Surrealist “automatic writing,” that is also represented in the exhibition by Twombly.

Words come into play that have been chosen for their philosophical weight (Agnetti), for the meaningfulness or the irony of the message transmitted (Salvo), for the expressiveness of the content communicated or for its absence (Isgrò): words deleted become all the more powerful. The world of the Pop image is in turn represented by Schifano and Rotella, both aware of the power of advertising, of poster messages of contemporary culture that are combined with cult images from the history of art.

Two younger artists David Reimondo (b.1973) and Rebecca Moccia (b.1992), catapult the word into the most contemporary artistic cycle, pulling together the threads of historical research through to the present day. The exhibition, though by no means exhaustive, thus presents a rich and broad survey of the strategies employed by artists in utilising text and the written word in modern and contemporary art practice since the 1960s.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Daniela Ferrari. 

February 5, 2018

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