March 20, 2009 - Peggy Guggenheim Collection - Themes and Variations: From the Mark to Zero
March 20, 2009

Themes and Variations: From the Mark to Zero

Jason Martin
Primavera, 2007
Oil on aluminium


March 21 – May 17, 2009

701 Dorsoduro
30123 Venice

phone +39 041 2405411
fax +39 041 5206885
info [​at​]

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection presents Themes and Variations: From the Mark to Zero, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero. This exhibition draws upon the museum’s permanent collections from the early 20th century to the post World War II period, enriched by loans from other collections. It charts the progress of the pictorial mark chronologically and thematically: from typography to collage, from letters to numbers, to the iteration of gesture, of signs, eventually sublimating into monochrome, beyond which the only possible condition is the void. As a ‘variation’ of this theme, the exhibition includes a one-man show of painting by British artist Jason Martin. Martin, one of the most creative young British artists of his generation, has been invited to interpret grade zero with a series of canvases specifically created for this exhibition, a sequence of monochromes, refined in texture and luminous in tone, poised between painting and sculpture. Themes and Variations: From the Mark to Zero benefits from the support of the Regione del Veneto.

Works of Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism: within the radical experimentation of this explosive period, letters, numbers and the printed word participate as full players in the creative process—plucked from the real world, manipulated and then rendered with their original linguistic and communicative dimensions still intact. From the works by Carrà, Schwitters, Cornell, to the new grammars of a similar language in the 50s by Rotella and Spoerri, the printed word structures and defines images but with a resonance that convulses the visual syntax. On the one hand language dialogues with matière and image, as in Braque’s multi-media works and the collages of Gris; on the other, the grid laid down by Mondrian’s repetitive marks creates the new space of Vantongerloo’s Neoplasticism, which in turn nourishes the minimal precision of John McCracken. Basic units of language evocatively colonize the surfaces of works by Tunnard, Licini and Bonfanti to the point they become mute writing. Sometimes the act of painting transforms into a form of scripture, on canvas or any other supports; at other times, artists investigate the foundations and responsiveness of different visual codes.

Writing is also geometry or color, rendered in the lyrical, intermittent and visionary spaces of Tancredi, Tobey, Accardi. Elsewhere script and writing merge in an abstract and symbolic punctuation, expressed in apostrophes and dots that may visually or physically violate the support itself, with holes and cuts, as in the canvases of Fontana and Dadamaino, and in the work of the most recent generation of artists, represented here by De Marchi and Arcangelo Sassolino.

The obsessive repetition of a symbol or a sign leads ultimately to a condition of zero, a kind of tabula rasa in which pure paint combines with a minimal and monochrome surface: from Castellani to Bonalumi, from Vianello to Charlton, the monochrome inscribes the infinite into the finite and is articulated in densely painted and plastic works with the concreteness and physicality that derive from their relation to surrounding space.

The exhibition Vigil has been made possible thanks to the Galleria Mimmo Scognamiglio of Milan and Naples.

March 21 – May 17, 2009

Opening hours: daily 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Tuesday and December 25)
Entrance: euro 12; euro 10 seniors over 65 years; euro 7 students; free 0-10 years

Peggy Guggenheim Collection
701 Dorsoduro
30123 Venice
Phone +39 041 2405411
Fax +39 041 5206885

Press Office:
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Tel. +39 0412405404/415;

Peggy Guggenheim Collection
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