Florence, Museo Novecento dedicates exhibition to artist, poet and philosopher Luciano Caruso

New appointment for the Campo Aperto cycle at the Museo Novecento in Florence, which after Pittura , Painting by Riccardo Guarneri features artist (as well as poet) Luciano Caruso (from June 7 to September 12, 2019) in an exhibition curated by Alessandra Acocella.

A philosopher by training, Luciano Caruso (Foglianise, 1944 - Florence, 2002) turns his research toward giving a new visual value to the otherwise only verbal and literary dimension of poetry. In his work, writing takes a prominent role, of which he accentuates the visual and material elements. The author of essays, poetic compositions and critical texts, Caruso publishes a vast series of works closely related to his production of visual poems, work-books and object-books.

The exhibition aims to trace some of the trajectories of his intense and multifaceted artistic activity, from his beginnings in the lively cultural environment of Naples to the Florentine period, the city where he moved in 1976. The works that dot the itinerary reveal a research played on a constant and kaleidoscopic “alchemy of extremes” (to quote the title of one of his last poetic compositions): from the layering of the typographic, calligraphic and iconographic element, to the essentiality of the sign-gesture, from the abstraction of the mental process, to the immersion in the physicality of matter.

The two rooms on the second floor, dedicated to the Neapolitan years, host some specimens of the Tabulae series (1967): large sheets of the same format characterized by a verbo-visual composition enriched by calligraphic writings, paper and material inserts, ink or color drafts and impastoes, in the sign of a “different repetition.” In the same years, this “visual hyperlanguage” finds its opposite pole in experiments with extreme formal and conceptual rigor. Thus were born the ideograms, traced with broad strokes of white tempera on sheets of various kinds(Ideogram, 1972), the essential scriptural expressions reactivated by means of a performative and multisensory action(Olfactory Poetry / OM, 1970-1975), the blank pages of work-books, whose “legibility” is entrusted solely to a sequence of small perforations running along the edges or within the paper surface(Opuscula de methodo, de criteriis et de qualitate, 1973).

In the last two decades of his activity, prematurely interrupted in 2002, the year of his death, Luciano Caruso continued an original reworking of themes, techniques and languages experimented in his youthful years, as in a sort of backward journey. This circular journey in search of an original sign intensifies, in the last years of his life, through the creation of visual poems, work-books and object-books in which the artist materializes more or less ciphered references to ancient scripts(Kumana I, 1996) and unfinished inscriptions(Epigrafe monca, 2002), where, on the surface of the page, dark traces of alphabetic and ideogrammatic signs stand out. Even in the pair of works Untitled (1999) there are traces of his earlier creative and biographical path, with the inclusion, among the small cutouts played on the black/white contrast, of reproductions of medieval figurative “carmina,” a theme at the center of his youthful studies, as well as pieces of film, a reminder of the importance of photographic and filmic transcription in the collective experiments of Continuum, a group founded in 1967 in Naples by Caruso himself and Stelio Maria Martini.

“Inserting himself in the groove of neoavantgarde experimentation with ’unreadable books’ (from Bruno Munari to Vincenzo Agnetti),” explains curator Alessandra Acocella, “Caruso expresses through this and other one-copy specimens the importance of reconsidering (in anage of great reproducibility) the page not as a closed system such as to impose contents, behaviors, aspirations on the reader, but as a field open to a totalizing creativity, which allows to go back to the origins of writing in a sign, object and material direction. The author states in this regard: the book, even the one standardized by the cultural industry, continues to enjoy a sacred aura and to present itself as a vehicle of wisdom, a message entrusted to time, but at the same time it forces respect for its castrating ideology, hidden behind the innocent printed page, which, however, excludes any recourse to manual dexterity and thwarts the need/impulse to penetrate matter, from which writing was also born.”

“Caruso’s,” says artistic director Sergio Risaliti, “was an intellectual experience aimed at combining art and politics, in accordance with a Marxist tradition that was not only one of theorist, since the artist from a young age discovered poetic activity as a political action, accentuating the ’totalizing character of aesthetic experience.’” On the occasion of the exhibition, a catalog is published that brings together the works on display and a selection of writings, which offer, as Sergio Risaliti further reminds us, “an example of the degree of preparation, lucidity, inspiration and commitment that in the very young Caruso was immediately of the highest level, and never diminished as the years went by, while the almost instinctive need to immerse himself in the struggle remained at the center, even when he tried to make himself organic, but never tamed and de-limited. A memorable lesson for today’s generations of artists and for those who will seamlessly decant Caruso’s knowledge from art to writing and vice versa. I also want to emphasize the fact that at this time the Museo Novecento is also exhibiting the works of Vincenzo Agnetti, thus offering the possibility of crossing two similar experiences as those of two artists who have placed the book and the word at the center of their research.”

For all information you can visit the Museo Novecento’s official website.

Pictured: Luciano Caruso, Untitled (1999)

Florence, Museo Novecento dedicates exhibition to artist, poet and philosopher Luciano Caruso
Florence, Museo Novecento dedicates exhibition to artist, poet and philosopher Luciano Caruso

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