Gallerynote 2/2017

April 28 to July 8, 2017

Giorgio Griffa (*1936) | Works 1972 – 1983

Works: Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York
All images in the lightbox

Travels to Milan then onward to Turin – these destinations became the focal point of our trips abroad in the early 1970s and would remain so for at least another decade. For the most part, the visits took place on weekends, often once or twice per month. Milano was home to a number of galleries that provided the contemporary art scene with important impulses. In Torino as well, legendary galleries presented new and innovative works by artists of the Italian and international avant-garde. Mind you, the term ‘avant-garde’ was a precise and respectable designation at the time, attributed to a limited number of artists who had attracted attention with groundbreaking inventions. This vital minority was our sole object of interest, and we were proud of the fact that the work of our avant-garde gallery prompted a number of these special personalities to conceive an exhibition for us.

Turin was the Italian city where many of the artists lived and worked whom we by all means wanted to show in Zurich. For 1973 we were able to arrange exhibitions with Giorgio Griffa, Marco Gastini and Giulio Paolini while 1977 marked the beginning of the cooperation with Mario Merz. Needless to say, our activities were not limited to Italian artists from Turin. Starting in 1974, we also presented one or more solo exhibitions of Vincenzo Agnetti, Alighiero Boetti, Paolo Icaro, Jannis Kounellis, Claudio Parmiggiani, Michele Zaza and Emilio Vedova. For every trip to Turin, numerous appointments had to be planned and carefully spaced. The available time was in short supply, but we wanted to devote our full attention to each of our artist friends.

Typically we met Giorgio Griffa on Sunday mornings for our visits to his studio. The calmness of these Sundays in the industrial metropolis was mirrored by the peace and quiet in the spacious atelier of the painter. Clear and vibrant memories of the hours we spent with Giorgio in his workshop have stayed with us up to the present. The observations offering optimal access to his oeuvre should therefore be conveyed in the corresponding verb tense. 

The containers of paint, the various utensils, the different types of canvases and the paint residue on the floor and on the walls leave no doubt that the activities of a painter are unfolding here. Yet the absence of stretched canvases stacked against the walls serves as an indication that this painter defies certain conventions of the métier, or has something to add to a great tradition.

A number of the often large-format canvases hang on the walls, affixed only along the upper edge with thin metal pins. The visible folds recall the squaring that artists from antiquity up to the 20th century often applied to the preliminary sketches for their paintings and drawings. The markings, which are inscribed on the opaque or transparent panels of fabric like writing, combine with the support in the same way that the regular folds function as an important part of this support, while simultaneously referencing another additional use of the canvas at an earlier or later point in time. Various brushes or sponges are the implements of the painter, who apparently works on the canvases on the floor. They allow him to achieve a rich differentiation of the traces of paint, and he can employ his means in varying ways from work to work. A certain coherence of the markings in each individual work is intended, however, without invoking monotony and repetition as a defining feature of the work’s development. Rather, it is more the case that an ordering of the plane, of the space and of time are legible, visible and palpable.

In the groups of works produced in the 1970s, the line is the dominant pictorial element. An overall composition is not intended. Instead the continuous and quasi provisional image narrative generally begins in the upper left section of the painting and ceases after a number of lines, like a letter not written to completion.

Both when observing the works as well as when conversing with the artist, the impression grows that Giorgio Griffa is particularly conversant and appreciative of language and writing. His lucid thoughts and remarks on art, on his painting and on the figure of the artist have been frequently published and also provide the best commentary on his work. The great poets and poems of world literature have also accompanied him throughout his life. Hence, in conclusion these lines by Giuseppe Ungaretti: “Eterno – Tra un fiore colto e l’altro donato  /  l’inesprimibile nulla” (Eternal – Between one flower plucked and the other given / the inexpressible nothing).

We are very pleased to announce this exhibition. Its focus is on the works from the 1970s, relating to our exhibitions from 1973, 1975, 1978 and 1981. We hope to be able to soon present the continuation of this important work period. We are thankful to the Casey Kaplan Gallery in New York and the artist for enabling this important show to take place in Zurich.


Sol LeWitt (1928–2007)
A Wall Drawing Retrospective

Yale University Art Gallery and Williams College Museum of Art
November 16, 2008 – 2033

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