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Second instalment of two-part exhibition series on Pietro Consagra opens in London
Installation view.

LONDON.- ARTUNER and The Italian Cultural Institute are presenting the second instalment of their two-part exhibition series on the renowned post-war Italian sculptor Pietro Consagra (1920 – 2005).

Featuring Consagra’s iconic sculptures from the 1960-80s in dialogue with new works by French artist Marine Hugonnier, including new collages from the ‘Art For Modern Architecture’ series, the exhibition explores how both artists challenge cultural and historical frameworks to establish a new relationship between the viewer and their environment.

One of Italy’s most important post-war sculptors, Pietro Consagra rejected the tradition of three-dimensional sculpture to embrace a more direct mode of interaction between the artwork and the viewer. Working in bronze and iron, Consagra created radical sculptures that were flattened and almost two-dimensional. In this way, he disposed of an authoritarian centre in favour of a “frontal” perspective that is open to a direct relationship with the viewer, which became his artistic credo.

Central to Consagra’s practice was an ongoing reflection on the language of sculpture in relation to other disciplines, including architecture. Consagra believed that the modern city was defined by the three-dimensionality of its architecture, its monumental rhetoric imposing a specific and authoritarian way of engaging with one’s environment. He proposed that the “central perspective”, which has dominated city planning for centuries, is an expression of a dogmatic and hierarchical organisation of Power and that this power can, in turn, limit one’s perceptual field. Consagra imagined a world without centres and peripheries, an idea that underpins his sculpture, where symbolically the object exists in the presence of the viewer, and the beholder in the presence of the object.

Ties II features works from Consagra’s Ferri Trasparenti series, monochrome works with an intense formal and spiritual quality – emblems of a new artificial landscape; Inventario, an installation composed of paper-thin iron sculptures travelling across the walls as if in an infinite space; and Sottilissime, where the artist experiments with extreme thinness, creating a sense of translucence that allows the viewer to see the space beyond.

Similarly, Marine Hugonnier also proposes a different way of looking at history and its perceptual framework. Often described as a critique on the Politics of Vision, Hugonnier’s work questions the nature of images and the history, culture and politics that are associated with them.

Between 2005 and 2007, Hugonnier initiated a series of collages using cut-outs from Ellsworth Kelly’s book, Line, Form, Color to cover the images on the front pages of newspapers. Entitled ‘Art for Modern Architecture’ (2004–), the series is a nod to Kelly’s utilitarian belief that art should be made for public spaces and buildings, establishing the utilitarian imperative for art to serve architecture. Hugonnier transposes this concept to another medium – that of the newspaper – the ‘architecture’ of which frames everyday life.

For this exhibition, Hugonnier has created a new series based on vintage editions of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. The newspapers date back to Italy’s turbulent Years of Lead (1969–1980), corresponding to the most active years of Consagra’s practice as well as to the politics of his time. By blocking out newspaper images of well-known historical events, such as the Piazza Fontana Bombing in Milan (1969) and the Bologna Massacre (1980), the artist disrupts normative narratives of propaganda, spectacle and power. Hugonnier highlights the power of the media as we realise that we can still 'see' what is behind the colour blocks; the images are burned into our memories through their repeated appearance in our lives. Hugonnier holds back information in order to question it and, in doing so, she overcomes the limitations imposed by Power to which Consagra was so opposed.

The boldly coloured, geometric shapes that characterise this series are echoed throughout Hugonnier’s practice. For instance, the ‘Modeles’ are a series of three-dimensional collages in the five colours Black, Green, Yellow, Red and Blue. By revising a modernist form, Hugonnier deconstructs the modernist worldview in order to reveal its constituent parts, then seeks to re-evaluate and represent them in postmodern times. Thus, these ‘Revisions’ commemorate modernism’s utopian and progressive values — liberty, equality, rights and the pursuit of happiness — and challenge the logic of postmodernism.

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