by Luca Beatrice
Third year of war in Vietnam.
Fiat 124 named Car of the Year. Fiat 125 and Lancia Fulvia hit market.
At Sanremo Festival of Italian Songs Luigi Tenco commits suicide after exclusion from list of finalists.
In China the Cultural Revolution begins.
Students occupy University of Pisa. The group Potere Operaio is formed.
Nino Benvenuti wins world middleweight title at Madison Square Garden New York, defeating Emile Griffith.
Totò passes away at the age of 69.
Pietro Capogrosso is born in Trani (Bari).
Military coup in Greece.
Second Oscar for Liz Taylor, for role in film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Ferrari driver Lorenzo Bandini dies in accident at Grand Prix of Monte Carlo.
Beatles release Sgt. Pepper’s.
Six-Day War breaks out between Arabs and Israelis in Gaza Strip of Sinai Desert. Egyptian president Nasser steps down, Moshe Dayan honored as national hero.
Black revolt in USA: Detroit burns, riots in New York, Ohio, Texas, Maryland.
Trial in Bogota of French journalist Regis Debray, accused of sedition and multiple homicide. Giangiacomo Feltrinelli arrested and expelled from Bolivia.
Bandits run wild in center of Milan after Banco di Napoli heist. Piero Cavallero and Sante Notarnicola arrested after bloody seven-day manhunt.
Corpse of Ernesto Che Guevara found in Bolivia.
Don Milani sentenced posthumously to five days in prison for defense of conscientious objection. Lettere ad una professoressa one of the most popular books in Italy.
Berlin wall raised by several meters.
Hippy club Vum Vum opens in Genoa.
Soccer star Gigi Meroni dies in Turin, hit by a car.
Giulian Guatta is born in San Felice del Benaco (Brescia).
In Trent sociology students found the “negative university”. Sit-ins at Università Cattolica of Milan and Palazzo Campana in Turin.
Moscow celebrates 50th anniversary of Bolshevik revolution.
Publication Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt. Release of Oedipus Rex by Pasolini, L’immorale (Climax) by Germi, The Subversives by the Taviani brothers. Blow Up by Antonioni wins Golden Palm at Cannes, confiscated as obscene.
Men publishes first photo feature of women with nude breasts.
Fiorucci casual fashion shop opens in Milan.
Allen Ginsberg arrested for obscenity after a reading at Festival of Spoleto.
Trani – Milan
The first and only time I’ve ever been to Trani was in August 2000. Pietro Capogrosso lives in an old building in the historical center, with a crumbling facade and very neat, spacious, luminous interiors. A home-studio where works from the past, sketches, drawings, projects and especially photographs accumulate, materials that are an integral part of his work. To reach Trani I took the state highway from Manfredonia headed toward Bari, crossing towns nestled between the coast and the plains, forming a perfectly horizontal line so the gaze can capture as much space as possible. When I got to Margherita di Savoia I stopped to look at the salt deposits. The white heaps of stones between the marshes and the sea are transformed at different hours of the day and by the refraction of the sunbeams, passing from the blinding white of high noon to the reddish shadings of sunset, and then becoming almost violet after dusk. Here and there I saw objects abandoned on land or washed up by the sea, a worn piece of wood, metal wires.
Guidizzolo – Milan
A few weeks ago, on the way back from Bologna, I decide to pay a visit to the studio of Giuliano Guatta. He lives in a small town between Mantua and Brescia, Guidizzolo, whose anonymous settlement faces directly onto the state highway. Late September, already fall according to the calendar, and in fact it is rainy and chilly. I meet him at an intersection and first he takes me to his house, a semi-hidden dwelling in a small leafy garden. The light is feeble, there are mostly drawings, papers, books, magazines, videocassettes. I am struck by his portrait of Antonio Ligabue, the naïf painter of Gualtieri. By car we travel about two kilometers in the country to reach a rustic edifice surrounded by factories. On a loft with a rickety wooden ladder Giuliano has lined up the paintings for the exhibition; on the table I see a book on the historical folk art of the Brescia area. We descend, the rain is stopping, the sky is still swollen with gray and violet tones. All around us, in spite of the industrious affluence of the place, the landscape looks sick.
Pietro Capogrosso, 1967
Everything that defines the pictorial universe of Capogrosso starts with a real fact and a perceptible form. Experience is an integral part of the work, becoming a meta-narrative factor. Capogrosso always paints what he sees, and seeks out the figurative basis of his research in the things closest to him. As far as possible from the urban periphery, from the globalized assimilation of places that resemble one another in almost any corner of the globe. He uses painting as a tool with which to retrace his roots. The painting frames an image, an inert portion of landscape, where the descriptive elements are reduced to their essentials, and the choice of colors leans toward an unrealistic monochromatic approach. For Capogrosso the image is never the focus of the work. Uprooted from literariness, the canvas assumes tenuous and rather lazy forms, it contains the element of error and discard, free of rhetoric, avoiding narration of the contemporary. His reference points are certain masters of abstraction, selected from those that operate inside the crisis of painting, the De Stael of the 1950s and the most lyrical Rothko, while for the contemporaries there’s an atmosphere that reminds me of the great Belgian Luc Tuymans. But above all there is Morandi, who gazed at the landscape from a small window on the mountain road from Pistoia toward Bologna and re-created what he saw. The new works of Capogrosso have a rather limited color range – white to light blue, yellow to orange – and assume the title Diafano as a pars pro toto of the poetic choice. Diaphanous because they lean toward immateriality, the disappearance of the last traces of realism, abandoning the certain for the uncertain, in short. A memory of the Puglia landscape described as in the cinema of the Nouvelle Vague, with the intelligence in observing space of Michelangelo Antonioni, a cultured refinement of matter and composition.
Browsing through other works by Capogrosso, I was truly enchanted by a small canvas in which a vase of flowers is painted. I believe that the modernity of painting, the greatness of painting, lie above all in the capacity to represent such a humble, “normal” thing as a vase of flowers. To be astonished by the freshness contained in a simple subject, to give a time (hour, day, month, year) to a time that has none.
From a letter from Giuliano Guatta to Luca Beatrice, September 2001
After you left, regarding what was said about De Dominicis*, I tried looking back on the photographic documentation of his actions, and to reflect on the origins of my path of mnemonic reconstruction.
Some time ago (1996 circa) I made a drawing of two children who are about to jump of a roof with an umbrella. It was a childhood memory I entitled 1st attempt to fly. This was one of the first works based on the reconstruction of memories.
I began with the attempt to reconstruct in full awareness of the impossibility of achieving a result that would faithfully reflect what had actually happened. The failures of these attempts, the alterations made by memory, become the true goal of the work.
That same evening, looking through a notebook, I rediscovered a drawing, a self-portrait in which I am waving my hands as if they were wings. At this point I felt it was only proper to recover the drawing.
Instead fire, which often appears as an element connected with the passing and the consumption of time, with the flow of events, is a light source in itself, it reveals things, and at times becomes a redeeming presence in the economy of the painting. It is a presence that generates energy that at least in terms of intentions leads the image represented to assume a cathartic character.
As far as your question on the ethical-moral sense of the subjects is concerned, I think that the painting La salvata clearly demonstrates my position: the insinuation of doubt in a situation that clearly describes a danger escaped, a blessing received. Doubt that involves who saved the woman, and how: the flying being, without a halo, covered with dangling tresses clutched in the back by the woman’s left hand. A stake crossing the pond burns as if denied the possibility of reaching the other shore.
*Why De Dominicis?
I believe that the Attempt to make squares instead of circles form around a stone that falls in the water (1969) is a paradigmatic work, not only for its author Gino De Dominicis, but also for the position of the artist in the contemporary era. This observation was prompted by the series by Guatta entitled Attempt to reconstruct a memory in spite of the differences in media, style and epoch.
Giuliano Guatta, 1967
Guatta has chosen to work with a figurative painting that might mislead us to interpret it in terms of anachronism, citationism or primitivism. Nothing could be further from his intentions. The wager is quite another: is it possible, today, to make a work with a complex structure, with aims that are even conceptual if not performance-related, using very traditional means, styles and languages? Focused on the need to make something happen, Guatta’s painting makes use of multiple references that move in direction of cultural stratification, or in that of the interpretation of modernity, assembled with the military technique of depistage. To cover one’s tracks. Folk painting, ex-voto offerings, altar-pieces, predellas with the lives of the saints, Morphology of the Folktale by Victor Propp, Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino, 1970s sci-fi TV series, Idiots by Lars Von Trier, Novecento by Bernardo Bertolucci, popular beliefs and proverbs from the Po Valley tradition, tales of heavy drinkers, people saved by miracles, peasants, portrait of Antonio Ligabue, Hieronymus Bosch and the Flemish painting of the 1500s and 1600s, attempt to reconstruct memory (playing hide and seek), faithful reconstruction of what happened and what was said, on that freezing evening of Friday, 29 December 1995, in a desolate parking lot of the “mandolossa”, Brescia. The work of memory has to do with existence, but it can shift into visionary spheres to assume the character of mysticism.