Giancarlo Pagliasso – Arte Debole

In your life there are some good people that open doors for you. Giancarlo Pagliasso, artist, theorist, curator, critic and art world flanuer was just such a person. He was very kind to me and my friends, and opened some doors to a wider art world which had been impossible for us to imagine. As time went on we got to know Giancarlo’s career and his work. He was one of the founders of Arte Debole in Torino, and was involved in all aspects of Art – performance, assemblage and painting. He taught at the University there. He showed his work in nearly every major art city. All while promoting, setting up shows and finding collectors for younger artists. It turns out Giancarlo Pagliasso is an artists’ artist – someone experimenting and looking for new thought and interesting imagery that provokes and widens the discussion of what art might be and what it can do. He continues to be involved in the art world to this day – making Art, publishing his theoretical works and sharpening his critiques.

Gian Carlo Pagliasso Sin 1994 Cross stitch, silk, poppaint on fabric.

“The name of the movement, used for the first time by the critic Flavio Caroli , refers explicitly to the theses of the philosopher Gianni Vattimo , a theorist of weak thought. The poetics of the weak art, expressed by Gian Carlo Pagliasso in his collection of essays Déjà Chimera, in fact starts from the observation of the weakening of the ontological and ethical categories of postmodern man: the weakening of the real, that is the loss of cognitive certainties of man, can only lead to a change of perspective, even in the field of art .
This loss of the referent in the traditional relationship between subject and nature involves a use of the chiasmus, understood as an alternation of empty and full (as in Ghiazza’s work), and of the oxymoron , rendered with the use of strident materials (typical of style of GianCarlo Pagliasso). Art – deprived of its real and substantial component – therefore becomes pure ornament:
We have emphasized the ornament to attempt a discourse of substance of the superficial, in the absence of the background, for which it sets itself as a background. Ours could be defined as a “dirty ornament” to respond to a possible accusation of decorativism. There is an attempt to go towards the form by denying it, even with the oxymoronic process of the materials, in a permanent, not synthetic, contradiction.” (GianCarlo Pagliasso, Catalog of the exhibition “Il Resto”, Preface)
[Wikipedia entry for Arte Debole]

Gian Carlo Pagliasso Alphabet 1994 cross stitch, silk.

Do the works belong to the worn category of “appropriation”? Here the question of recycled images seems moot: the “other” we take from is not another person or artist, whether well known or obscure; nor are we borrowing from another culture or time. Pagliasso is the flesh of his mother’s flesh, we can think of them as one; can we steal form ourselves? Only Solomon could pass a coherent judgment. Beyond the nostalgia and the use of abandoned crafts, the fields of color have an assertive presence that makes a definitive statement about painterly space. The addition of the embroideries – certainly coherent with Pagliasso’s works of Arte Debole – create an unsettling shift that makes the viewer ponder not only the questions of space in contemporary art but the nature of time itself. [Ginafranco Mantegna “Nostaglic Vampire” 1994]

Chatting with the theorist of weak artGianCarlo Pagliasso, I was finally able to understand the movement that he led, and what the criticism had brought into being. Precisely because the movement was based on criticism, Pagliasso claims: We were the last avant-garde! But nobody remembers us anymore.” Indeed, that period of Italian art, although very prolific, is still too close to us to “deserve” a completed historicization, almost as if it will take the death of each of its participants in order to call history into play. Contrary to this – today the past is contemporary so that history can be altered before it’s ever been established – as Pagliasso says: “If you are not historicized in the bud, you do not exist.” [GianCarlo Pagliasso in conversation with Paolo Pera]

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