Domenico Gnoli (Rome, 1933 – New York, 1970) was one of the most original artists of the twentieth century. Difficult, useless, to find a label for him: pop artist, surrealist, hyperrealist? All and nothing. Gnoli was above all himself, an extraordinary artist, who lived only 37 years, who gave life to immediately recognizable works. The exhibition recently inaugurated at the Prada Foundation, more than fifty years after his death, thanks to a hundred works and documents, is essential for understanding his complex creative path.
THE LAST EXHIBITION DESIGNED BY CELANT
Faced with each work, both the pictorial ones, located on the ground floor of the Podium, and the graphic ones, documentaries, objects exhibited on the first floor, a world opens up in which fantasy, visionarity, story present themselves to our eyes through a technical perfection not at all cloying. The exhibition, set up by the 2 × 4 studio in New York, is the last one conceived and studied by Germano Celant, who passed away in 2020.
In the beautiful catalog that accompanies the exhibition, built in the Celantian manner of the Prechronistory, with dates and images, Salvatore Settis reports in his essay some words of the Roman artist of Umbrian origin: “I have done nothing but transport my whole world as a decorator into a world of painter, pruning it of frills, antique style and every elegance […]. I simplified, I abolished ‘decoration’, I entrusted the role of trompe-l’oeil to the painted material”.
THE PAINTING OF GNOLI
His is a sandy painting, in which the objects, the details are amplified. Gnoli, the son of art historians and critics, gave birth to a narrative art. It is no coincidence that Italo Calvino also wrote about his work, about some objects he portrays: the button, the men’s shirt, the women’s shoe, the pillow. The bodies under the sheets emerge through the decorations of the bedspreads, the breasts, the prosperous buttocks mark the flowery dresses of the women, as if we were in front of goddesses of fertility. Everything is expanded: the knots of the ties, the pockets of the jackets, the collars of the men’s and women’s shirts.
THE EXHIBITION IN MILAN
For each group of works from the Sixties, arranged in a simple way on the walls, as if we had gone back half a century, one from a few years earlier is proposed, so as to recreate chronological histories. Upstairs he talks about his work as a set designer, poster designer, draftsman, creator, among other things, of a fantastic bestiary, which refers to certain medieval follies.
The exhibition, which presents works from numerous foreign collections, is a unique opportunity to meet the research of an international artist already alive, as few have been in Italy. That of Gnoli was a multifaceted figure capable of operating in various fields, with various languages, in whose work time and space are suspended in a dimension that we could define beyond the world.
– Angela Madesani