Lucio Pozzi


Bottomless wells; A conversation with the artist

For a start, tell me something about you. The biographical details in your catalogues and publications are often very cold and are not a great help in understanding your work. How did the young Pozzi, Milan-born and Rome-based, fall in love with painting? The early works shown in this exhibition are a peculiar series of “readings of Cubism, Metaphysical Art, Soffici Morandi... Your friendship with Gino Ghiringhelli comes to my mind. You told me about it when we first met and you discovered Maria Cernuschi Ghiringhellis collection was part of Villa Croce's holdings.
Painting had always intrigued me. When my mother married the sculptor Michael Noble, meeting art in his studio and among his friends saved me from the disoriented despair of being a teenager from the rich Milanese middle-class. He taught me to draw anatomy and to experiment with painting materials. One day he showed me all the great effects you could obtain by rinsing a tempera painting in the shower Gino Ghiringhelli, the owner of the Galleria del Milione, where Noble exhibited, came to my room once a month to see my works. He showed me how Klee, Kandinskij or Morandi moved the brush. I fell in love with Paola, Gino’s and Maria’s daughter I used to run to his gallery after school to watch the works of the artists you quote. I also saw the works of Mike’s colleagues, such as the lnformel artists Gianfranco Fasce or Alfredo Chighine. My dad convinced me to join up for military service. I found myself second lieutenant cavalry in Rome. Once there, I was influenced by Burn and, later by Twombly and other Americans.

European culture — and not only the visual culture — is noticeably present in your work. However, in 1962, you moved to New York to work there both as artist and teacher. How much is the American “climate’ important in the evolution of your research?
La Merica’ was a myth for me, though Mike and his friends were convinced that America could never produce a real artist. When I arrived in New York I shook hands with Mark Rothko, I was invited for tea at Barnett Newman’s widow. More than by the spirituality I was intrigued by the concreteness, which permeated the work of American artists. I thought it offered a valid alternative to the theories rampant in the Italian culture, which, although fascinating, were so often redundant.

Maybe the specific character of your art can be related precisely to this meeting and merging of two different cultures. Painting and Conceptual Art are commonly understood as two completely opposite dimensions, and yet it seems to me that your modus operandi can be well defined as a conceptual meditation, starting from painting and developing into its visual equivalents. I am thinking of the Inventory Game, which is both a conceptual work and — as you define it yourself — “a table of elements that can be used to create artworks’.
I agreed with the tabula rasa practiced by the previous generation, by artists like Sol Lewitt and Robert Ryman. However I did not like the absolutism with which at the time they seemed to deny color and their controversial stance against illusionism, which, paradoxically was the inevitable outcome of the concretism I had initially been after It seemed to me that it had morphed into a sclerotic academy So I decided to turn the situation inside out: Conceptual Art became for me a fresh start instead of the ultimate stage of modernist evolution it had been conceived as. This is how the Inventory Game was born: a scheme of never-ending options, which does not exclude any practice, material concept, not even painting with its colors and illusions.

In The Next 475 Years of My Art and Life you take issue with the "Explanationitis Virus", which not only affects the critics, but also the artists themselves. From a theoretical point of view I agree with you, but I have to admit that I started to understand the sense of your work — or at least I think I did — only after reading your book Lucio Pozzi published by Corraini in 2000. As far as you are concerned, I would even suggest, just for the sake of contentiousness, that explanation is an integral part of your work. After all, you have defined that book as an ‘instruction manual to approach the art of Lucio Pozzi’. Are you contradicting yourself or is this part of the Inventory Game as well?
A debate on art and its context has been going on for long. People wonder whether the artist should be asked or not about his intentions. Indeed, art cannot exist without context. But the problem is whether or not its making and the response it causes must intentionally be seen to depend on the context. On page 2 of the lecture The Next 475 Years... I say that I never explain my intentions simply because they are unknown to me; and also say that while I nonetheless always describe the theoretical and technical aspects of my works I never explain their meaning nor their interpretation.

I would like to insist a little bit more on the topic of ‘explanation”. Forgive me, but I really find this intriguing. In that famous lecture of yours, you rightly point out that in “modernity” there no longer are any objective criteria and parameters to judge art. As a result, everyone feels authorized to evaluate art on the basis of personal and subjective parameters. How do you live the relationship with the audience, both in this exhibition and in your previous ones? Is communication important to you or do you just throw a message in the bottle into the great sea of chance?
I do not send messages. I offer my work to whoever passes by and feels like stopping and watching. Anyway, nothing is fortuitous, although it sometimes seems so. The exchange with the viewer takes place in a historical context surrounding it. Nevertheless, because there are no fixed conventions, the variables of this exchange are endless, they cannot be explained oc rather they can be made clear only partially and always in a different perspective. If you will ask visitors what they see in this exhibition, you will hear all sorts of opinions, extremely different versions of reception — a wonderful and always renewed Creative Misunderstanding. I say something and you understand a completely different thing. In this way, we do not die of boredom....

Sandra Solimano

[Dal catalogo "Paper Trail-works on paper 1951-2005"]

Lucio Pozzi works in different interrelated registers. His painting ranges from very large panoplies, bustling with allusions, to small discrete compositions. The Minipaintings are part of a group of contemplative meditations in restraint that started with his noted Level Group Paintings in the early seventies. They focus on color and texture and are strategically placed throughout the gallery.
The recent Minipaintings' canvases, often not larger than a hand, are stretched on wood and stained front and sides. Two colors are smudged on the surface. They are then covered by a thick layer of oil paint imitating the tone or hue of the first stain. Tiny brushstrokes are added to punctuate the skin of paint. They interact with scratches revealing the colors underneath.
An architectural referent is found in all of Pozzi's art. In painting, architectural considerations inflect the making of every work, from the thickness of the support, from the first washes seen also on its sides to the construction of layers of painterly thought, which the viewer discerns differently depending on how far s/he is from the piece, to the placement and function of each piece in the environment.
Pozzi stated in 1972: "This is not a painting on a wall but a wall activated by a painting".

[Testo fornito dall'artista]