Gallerynote 3/2009

October 9 to November 28, 2009

Giulio Paolini (1940* Genoa, lives and works in Turin)
Aula di disegno (Happy Days) 2006.

An impetus for realizing this important work in Zurich was the ideal architectural disposition of the gallery, with its four symmetrical rooms. In addition, the work is a cache of many themes and formulations that have occupied the artist since the 1960s. It becomes evident where they have their origin, where they are conjoined, entwined, accumulated. A significant particularity of "Aula di disegno" that can explain the curious "Happy Days" set in parentheses was certainly an additional and pivotal factor for Giulio Paolini in choosing to mount precisely this installation in our gallery spaces at this point in time. A mysterious detail of a "disegno" is placed in the focus of the installation. It is a cutout from a small drawing by Sol LeWitt on the back of a postcard greeting to Giulio "Happy Days in '06, Sol". A touching personal grounding, which loses its anecdotal connotation in the context of the work and becomes meaningful on many levels. With the "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art" in 1967, Sol LeWitt clearly and concisely outlined new foundations of artistic works. The consequences and effects of these groundbreaking strategies remain virulent today, though unfortunately often in banalized form. While Sol LeWitt broke with tradition and wanted to open up a free range for the unfolding of unforeseeable new forms and pathways, Giulio Paolini also initiated a subtle and precise mode of conceptual thinking and working. To the present day, his entire oeuvre traces back to "Disegno Geometrico" from 1960. His approach manifestly takes up the great tradition of the "disegno", which had its origin and reached its utmost development in the Latin cultural area.

It is worth noting that Paolini had his inaugural solo exhibition at Galerie Verna in 1973 followed by the gallery’s first one-man show of LeWitt in 1975. A triangular constellation marked by friendship and mutual esteem.

Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) describes "disegno" as the "active creative principle in the visual arts". And "disegno" designates a key function in the interplay of the arts. The primacy of drawing – "primato del disegno" – shaped Italian art theory since the Renaissance. Now Paolini is in no way interested in simply linking to these theories and treatises. His achievement consists in transforming the traditions and using them as aggregates for a contemporary pictorial language capable of calculating its relevance in carefully reflected measures of value. In Italian, "disegno" has a variety of meanings: the art of drawing, the work of drawing itself, design, plan and idea. Through the "disegno", the conceived attains its vividness.

Yet the auditorium into which the gallery has been transformed does not have an educational function. For only art teaches art. In its centre, works by Paolini have therefore been spread out, from 1969 to 2009. The notion that art always refers to art, as well as the following thesis, can be taken today as a provocation worthy of consideration. The artist is necessarily an artistic figure and his name solely a reverberation in the echo chamber of the art system. He only attains identity through what he manages to bring in with his inventions.


November 16, 2008 – 2033
Sol LeWitt
A Wall Drawing Retrospective

Yale University Art Gallery und Williams College Museum of Art

Ree Morton, Drawing Center NY
Robert Mangold, Albright - Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Sol LeWitt, Brooke Alexander NY
Sylvia Plimack Mangold
and Lovis Corinth at
Alexander and Bonin, NY