In a recent interview, Marc Fumaroli maintains that today’s society is progressively forgetting its cultural roots. According to the French scholar, “post-modernity (…) refuses a historical synthesis and narration, preferring the quotation, snippets or collage of isolated cultural fragments suspended in the vast universe of contemporary entertainment”. This type of stance obviously also concerns the world of visual arts. Having left behind the era of a taste for quotation, we are now living through the media-based cult of the “big and terrific” image, whose programmed intent is to hit the “public’s eyeballs”, to use the well-known expression proposed by Wired magazine. The difficult autonomy of an entirely formulated language is progressively replaced by an obsessive repetition of the image, lifted from the great sea of the current visual culture.
In short, we are living times that are rapid and without memory, and perhaps for this reason Alfredo Pirri’s latest one-man exhibition at the Galleria Tucci Russo appears as something that is extremely unusual and curious. This is an exhibition that develops the historical awareness of a certain language—the abstract pictorial one—and does so without recourse to that facile, episodic use of quotations in vogue until a short time ago. Pirri succeeds in laying out a refined, coherent tale about painting, taking into consideration the history of European abstraction of the last century, from Paul Klee up to the material research of the 1950s. This discussion around the theme of abstraction unfolds with the methods of an autonomous pictorial and environmental language, and appears as an important step in the expressive and existential identity of the artist. After all, Pirri comes from the world of painting and he now returns to it decidedly, developing an emotive as well as cultural reflection regarding a part of its history.
The entire cycle of works shown in the exhibition has been created during the course of one year, and is the result of the application of a precise discipline based upon a certain number of hours of work each day and the renouncing of any type of external assistance. By working and tearing some pure cellulose paper, Pirri has created a series of fragments of uniform thickness, with which he assembled the works exhibited by stratification. The fragments of paper are painted on the back using a fluorescent orange paint, and form an ordered, continuous composition. The single works, although completely independent of each other, are planned in relation to those preceding and following them, giving the impression of being single frames in a long camera film, along which the forms seem to participate in a feast of the possibilities, in a refined concatenation of hypotheses and references. The past is not cited so much as re-lived from within in the light of an autonomous formal structure, and of a considerable sensibility as regards composition and colour. Colour is reflected on the works themselves and on the walls, invading the space in accordance with precise rhythmic and harmonic, almost musical, processes. The unusual chromatic “temperature” of the fluorescent pigments, indeed, enables Pirri’s papers to undertake a sort of performance in their space thanks to the refraction of the colour into the space itself. Whereas the first part of the exhibition is based upon an idea of the memory-based, emotive and metalinguistic filtering of abstract images, in the second room the works are inserted into or supported by aluminium supports, and tend to evoke mountainous or urban landscapes disseminated in space. These suspended landscapes, overhanging from the walls appear as the result of a minimal, controlled operation, and set off appealing chromatic interweavings in the setting, with an almost neo-romantic accent. The permanence of the pigments in the atmosphere, such as the orange of the crumpled edges of the sheets of paper, gives life to a veritable luminous, lyrical and lunar apparition. The extremely high quality of Alfredo Pirri’s painting therefore fluctuates poetically between a refined reading of a certain abstract painting and an intention that is instead more intimately personal, describing landscape through a sort of interior, intimate music. However, there is absolutely nothing vulgar or banally introjectional in this return to large painting; on the contrary, Pirri’s ability to raise the discussion to a level of affective, almost sensual involvement, whilst maintaining an extraordinary formal strictness, is impressive.
Alba – tramonto (Dawn – Sunset), comprising two large, transparent tubular structures painted with vertical strips of colour, and hung on the wall in a succession in the first room, also refers to a notion of environment and open work. Within them, the artist has placed various fragments of paper to describe a series of coloured mountain ranges in succession and in depth. These two works present a surprise in perceptive terms: a glance from afar transforms them into two simple objects, whilst a glance close-to enables only a partial view. In this case, too, the work refers to a phenomenological mobility and an idea of passage: the object appears as a sort of three-dimensional film which must be looked at moving from one end of the work to the other, making of it a frontal, physical experience. The work consists of a pair of objects that visually and conceptually mediate the memorial evocation of the abstract compositions of the first room, with the chromatic-luminous radiation of the landscapes in the second room.
Another square plexiglas object with ten transparent shelves and the same number of painted sheets of paper invites the spectator into a close contact with the refraction of colour and of the fluorescent pigments. The volume appears literally crossed by various bands of horizontal light that gradually range from orange to yellow and from pink to green. A series of painted steel spoons lie on the sheets, a narrative insertion through which Pirri offers the suggestion of a drawing closer to colour through taste, as though the paper had some kind of nutritional property. This work has been realised by reducing to a minimum any technological contents and simultaneously concealing the input of the craftsman’s skills. As for the rest of Pirri’s output, what emerges is a precious formal rigour, charged with a sort of distant elegance that gives the work overall an ethereal, enchanted aspect like something coming from the far North. The performative refraction of colour in the abstract compositions and in the landscapes, the stratified, luminous progress of the overlaid sheets, create a general effect of visual imponderability. This is the sum of small perceptive difficulties that together immerse the setting almost into a fog, in a sort of light mist in which everything loses its defined edges. Furthermore, the contrast between the delicate precariousness of a material such as paper and the idea of an eternal landscape recalling marble quarries, gives the exhibition an exceptionally unusual aspect of fairy-tale and magical charm. Although characterised by an almost initiatory aura, the show at Torre Pellice is nevertheless not an obscure or alchemical one; on the contrary, the entire itinerary takes on the colours of a serene vision, between an intelligent historical review of abstraction and the composition of a radiant chromatic landscape, full of light and colour. The time that unfolds through Alfredo Pirri’s analysis is one of memory, a time that finds its fullness by returning to the serene calm of the creative process, with its concatenations and revisions. Through the intelligence of a glance that can read language as a collective and constantly verifiable phenomenon, the result of conquests and renouncements, Pirri gives us an intense, energy-filled, deeply autonomous and intimately motivated work. The refined nostalgia that has always permeated the whole of his output seems to express the striving of the artist towards a threshold, which is at once the uncertain border of the work’s physical space, always open and passable, and the non-material zone of a linguistic field continually submitted to analysis and synthesis.
Pirri’s research does not, in short, move forward by breakings or surprising inventions, but in line with the coherent methods of a language that intends being practised in accordance with its historical process, and it is in this that he seeks his communicative and dialogical, rather than simply creationist, freshness. It then becomes apparent that in this exhibition as in all those in the past, Alfredo Pirri’s art must be read not in an absolute and definitive sense, but as an open narrative, like the early-morning mist which announces the perennial cycle of the deaths and resurrections of painting.

Andrea Bellini

to see the immages of the show “Towards N” click here