Between Blue Klein and Pink Fontana

Maurizio Nannucci's 1995 exhibition at the Vienna Secession prompts Pierre Restany to consider the Florentine artist's "light paintings", which emit the unusual message of a highly personalized poetry.

 

From the archive / Pierre Restany

This article was originally published in Domus 771 / May 1995

Solomon's Seal between Blue Klein and Pink Fontana

The Maurizio Nannucci exhibition at the Wiener Secession in Vienna, from April 5th to May 15th 1995, presents an anthology of his neon installations. The panorama begins with the first installations of the 1960s and concludes with works specially created for the Secession space.

This important event comes after a whole string of recent major retrospectives: Lenbachhaus, Munich 1981; Villa delle Rose, Bologna 1992; Villa Arson, Nice 1992; Usine Fromage, Rouen 1993; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris 1994; Kunstmuseum, Aarhus 1994.

The Viennese show is a celebration of Nannucci's idiom, the consecration of his style, the integration of semantic signs in architecture, of his strategy of space-light relations in the combined used of colours. This exhibition will clarify once and far all the scale of the man as a «writer of space» and protagonist of the poetic integration of neon light in architecture. Maurizio Nannucci has by now gained his place among the family of great semiologists of our day, between sign and light: Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Bruce Nauman on one side and James Turrell and Dan Flavin on the other. Thus the "solitary" period of his career, during which the Florentine artist had occupied a position of relative self-exclusion from the Italian scene of his generation, is clearly over.

Domus 771 / May 1995. An exhibition of Maurizio Nannucci's art works at Wiener Secession (5 April - 15 May 1995)

Born in 1939, Nannucci fitted naturally into the experimental landscape of visual and sound poetry of the years '65- '75, as extensively witnessed by the diversity of his expressive media: visual and audiovisual works, performances, artist's books, photographic series. Developed aver a span of thirty years, his oeuvre today demonstrates all the practical and theoretic consistency of his principal motivation: that of writing as a synthetic and all-embracing practice.

Domus 771 / May 1995. An exhibition of Maurizio Nannucci's art works at Wiener Secession (5 April - 15 May 1995)

The choice of neon in his graphic and calligraphic compositions of the late Sixties is deeply significant of this quest for linguistic order, which quickly became the guiding thread of his labyrinth. Phonetic alphabet (1967-68) or Red Line (1969) illustrate the lyrical impulse of a gestural calligraphy, while The missing poem is the poem (1969) marks the appearance of a constructivist spirit of geometry in his poetic- visual investigations.

This was to be the masterpath of his adventure, the structural device that distinguished him from the parallel developments of the European Fluxus visual poets and performers. The "strategic" use of signs and colours was the projected work of the memory-universe, a memory where all is space, where time matters little (it is in fact called after the instant of illumination). The signs of memory liberated from the iron law of lime are projected into space, their true realm, their specific field of extension. Space is by definition flexible and available: the blank page of a book, the four walls or ceiling of a room. The architrave or architectural façade. And so the other working system of Nannucci's strategy, colour. Brought to bear, with its complex relations and correspondences: light, space, language.

 
The "strategic" use of signs and colours was the projected work of the memory-universe, a memory where all is space, where time matters little. The signs of memory liberated from the iron law of lime are projected into space, their true realm, their specific field of extension
 

Domus 771 / May 1995. An exhibition of Maurizio Nannucci's art works at Wiener Secession (5 April - 15 May 1995)

Through a combination of different elements of these devices, the artist has succeeded in exploding the paralysing syntax of language, so as to get through the aesthetic order of his "light-paintings". The link between writing and architecture is firmly established in his luminescent emblems. His signs condition both light and the installation space; the epigraph has won its full visual autonomy. The labyrinthine symbol of Solomon's Seal (1992), exhibited at Aarhus, stresses the semantic path followed by the linear system and by the alchemy of his primary colours.

Domus 771 / May 1995. An exhibition of Maurizio Nannucci's art works at Wiener Secession (5 April - 15 May 1995)

In his large and now classic compositions of 1991, such as Art Light Text (1000 X 300x 5 cm) or Time Life Line (7000 x 300 x 5 cm), the capital letters of the alphabet are fragmented and projected in a geometric sequence that is a source of luminescent clarities.

Nannucci has always been a great traveller, and during the '90s, during which he established his name worldwide, his monumental light paintings multiplied all over Europe. Let's talk about art ... maybe (1992), on the Mail Road of Edinburgh (1992) or More than meets the eye (Kunsthalle Vienna 1993) project into their surrounding space the rhythmic organic obliquity of the artist's mental researches and hesitations.

Domus 771 / May 1995. An exhibition of Maurizio Nannucci's art works at Wiener Secession (5 April - 15 May 1995)

Thanks to the magic of his signs, Maurizio Nannucci has got past the stumbling-block of decorative action on built space. Due to their visual semantic polivalence, his neon paintings are not content to transmit objective information, as do the illuminated signs on urban buildings. Instead, they emit the unusual message of a highly personalized poetry, an uncannily coloured message beyond words.

A monumental composition of 1988, a vertical sign fourteen metres long, projected onto one side of the St. Pierre Museum at Lyons two names, associated with two colours: Blue Klein, Pink Fontana. This cultural reference speaks volumes: it is the key to the whole gamut of Maurizio Nannucci's expression: between pink gashes and blue monochrome, Solomon's seal... Pierre Restany

Domus 771 / May 1995. An exhibition of Maurizio Nannucci's art works at Wiener Secession (5 April - 15 May 1995)