PbF. A FIRST (PARTIAL) SUMMARY OF THE PROJECT
1) As is universally known, one of the fundamental instances of the Spatialism is that of overcoming the physical limits of the framework. It is above all on this aspect that the attention of was concentrated Giorgio Kasserlian. With the tearing of the canvas (with specific reference to the Expectations) Fontana had created a radically new situation: the break-in of the support implied the elimination of the two-dimensional foundation of the painting. There would not have been another plane, a "reserve" surface on which to rely to continue painting. And, then, remaining painters would have meant being one without the canvas – therefore, the only coherent but unachievable solution would have been the creation of a painting, an "oil on canvas" without having the flatness of the support on which to spread the color.
2) The logic of innovation constitutes for Kaisserlian the essential reference to "justify" the turning point imprinted by Spatialism. Innovation implies the dynamics of overcoming: Fontana's decisive act distinguishes peremptorily between what is relevant, in terms of originality, from what is now part of tradition. The limit-concept of an oil without having the plane/canvas makes explicit the "revolutionary" scope of Fontana's gesture, as it cancels (because they are unattainable) the possibilities of a pertinent answer to Fontana if one remains within the framework of painting.
3) The insertion of Kaisserlian's interpretation in the dynamics of modernism becomes at this point of fundamental importance. We can only limit ourselves to indicating the meaning of a research that from Greenberg's "discovery" of the two-dimensionality of the support culminates with the re-interpretation of the neo-avant-gardes in terms of the reflection of Buchloh on the centrality of the medium and, in particular, on painting as a process. We therefore start from modernism, understood from the point of view of Greenberg as a path towards that integral flatness, which was to express the culminating moment of a painting that became aware of its own essence to face, once the importance of the medium (as the "material support on which to reflect"), the question of the monochrome and its identification with the ready-made (Buchloh), where the crisis of painting becomes completely explicit and "definitive". It is clear that Fontana's intervention becomes fundamental in this process precisely because it entails, with the breaking of the flatness of the support, the unequivocal elimination of the flatness. And, consequently, Kaisserlian's reflection also takes on its full meaning.
4) Any objections centered on the inadequacy of the modernist paradigm risk being misleading for the understanding of our project. In fact, it is not a matter of defending this model, it means above all acknowledging that the logic of overcoming has characterized the discussion and conditioned the evolution of the arts up to the present day (including the "turning point" of the postmodern and the so-called return to painting). But the question is another: the "semantic density" of this new research is closely linked to the adoption of a series of restrictive conditions (such as, for example, those implicit in modernism) which in this case make it highly unlikely, if not impossible, the realization of the painting hypothesized by Kaisserlian and, at the same time, clarify the meaning of the research in question. Otherwise, one could have elaborated or relied on a theoretical system whose paradigms would have allowed to evade the questions posed by modernism and weakened the implications of Spatialism. A significant part of the project aimed to investigate precisely this aspect with particular attention to the reflection on art of an analytical matrix in order to avoid purely theoretical solutions or prefigurations of possible worlds by virtue of which the narrow conditions that circumscribe the question could be nullified posted by Kaisserlian. In this direction it is considered essential the "artefactual condition” as a priority requirement on relational and institutional attributes in recognizing the specificity of the art object, based on the principle that no property can be exemplified without the work itself having some physical characteristic related to it (J. Margolis) . Given these premises, an adequate and consistent response to the implications of Spatialism (and, more generally, to the process of annulling painting implicit in modernism) must materialize through the creation of an artifact.
5) The Artifact it is the first example made by Marco Almaviva in 2019, for which these two conditions are met jointly:
a) it is similar to an oil on canvas;
b) its execution did not make use of a pre-existing canvas or pictorial plane.
In this case we have a painting that precedes the formation of the support. There is no pre-built physical extent on which to place the color.
The eventuality conceived by Kasserlian, unlike the initial hypotheses, has come true.
6. What then are the consequences when one frees oneself from the logic of planarity?
As released from the surface, the new painting goes beyond the flatness. And, therefore, it involves a significant reconsideration of the basic concepts and practices of painting itself, from the most elementary operations (drawing a line) to the most complex compositional procedures.
Only two synthetic considerations in relation to the dynamics of modernism that led to the so-called "abandonment of painting”.
6.1. Let's start with the most "elementary". With modernism we have the affirmation of the principle of the structural participation of the canvas with the other visual elements organized on the surface of the painting. From this point of view, painting has increasingly characterized itself as a "concrete"; procedure, in relation to the different materials used and the physical specificities of the surfaces used. The line must be considered, above all, as a sign that is constituted within the "materiality of the pictorial production" in a context in which it has now been freed from all its denoting functions. But how can the autonomy of the line be affirmed if it always remains anchored to the plane on which it is drawn?
In the Artifact the line, as a pictorial process, effectively frees itself from the plane, while remaining intact in its material expression (on the other hand, it is the condition of artifactuality itself that prescribes it);
But more generally, given that there is no pre-established surface, the minimum conditions that allow the conception and realization of the painting in terms of compositionality. Indeed, it is the very existence of the plane/canvas that constitutes the inevitable premise on which the spatial organization of the work is structured.
6.2. At this point we return to modernism and Fontana, in a broader perspective but in an extremely condensed form. We know that, in the mid-sixties, the modernist discourse had brought painting to a situation with no apparent way out. If with Greenberg the essence of the painting had to be recognized in the flatness, the consequences could only be those of the identification of the painted area with the two-dimensionality of the support. Maintaining, in any case, confirming “the literalness of the picture surface” (M. Fried). But it became equally clear that when the pictorial act intervened on the canvas, the illusionistic effect that would be created would destroy the "virtual flatness" of the surface, calling into question the correspondence between the painting and the literal character of the work. The need to definitively eliminate all forms of illusionism then materialized in minimalist production, made up of entirely literal works - but on the condition that the painted form be renounced once and for all to open up to effective space, "intrinsically more powerful and specific" than paint on a "flat surface" (D. Judd). In a nutshell, the Greenberg-Fried axis thought of safeguarding painting by deeming it impossible to renounce the integrity of the pictorial plane, but leaving open the problem of the literal form of the work. On the contrary, Judd believed that literality and painting were incompatible and, therefore, believed that it was necessary to get rid of the painting, exalting the unfolded materiality of the surface of the object (certainly not the reverse).
Painting and literality were to be considered completely incompatible.
But Fontana however, he had already questioned the possibility for painting to defend its autonomy, since the very two-dimensionality of the pictorial plane had been definitively compromised. Certainly one could not think of re-proposing painting by "restoring" the integrity of the surface. So not only would it not have been impossible to reconcile literalism and painted form, but in the light of Spatialism the controversy would not even have arisen.
And then how to get out of a situation where painting had been zeroed out?
The solution was to be found precisely in the paradox of an independent painting with respect to flatness itself.
It meant giving up the surface, but keeping the paint intact. So creating a picture without the canvas to paint on. But if the plane is renounced, painting also frees itself from the problem of illusionism – an inevitable consequence of the pictorial act precisely starting from flatness. The result was the creation of a pictorial work that coincides entirely with the structure of its support. The Artifact demonstrates that literality and painting are not incompatible, contrary to what one might think.