It is often said by philistines that modern art needs blowhards and academic Pseuds to explain away abstract art via conceptual and philosophic onanism. Now this may be the case for some, but as most of You reading this know by now (if you have been following My work), this easy dismissal of modern art, and abstraction as a whole, I find to simply be, well…..the words of philistines!
Now please, for those of you sufficiently skeptical of modern art, as I certainly was and still cautiously am to an extent, still try to read this with an open mind. The fact is that even in representational art, there still needs “explanation” and inter-textual work to fully gain an appreciation of any work of art. Of course, as we all know, the danger is that we get caught up in this weird Derridian hell-web of explaining, pondering upon, linking to other works, signification, and just generally talking a work to death. Especially sub-par works that are (lets face facts) promoted and manipulated by the art “market” are especially prone to this intellectual onanism.
That being said, the work of art must be pondered upon, and through philosophic contemplation, even abstraction has the potential for profound meaning behind its layers of seeming chaos and complexity for its own sake; No one better understood this than the tragic art giant of the Italian surrealists, the first importer of pure lyrical, and American-style Abstract Expressionism into Europe,Tancredi Parmeggiani. Today we are looking at a particularly pungent and unique work simply entitled “Composition” (1955), a title that works for a good reason.
let us first explicate the theory before we get to the criticism; Parmeggiani was a painter that was well versed in, and enjoyed explaining the philosophic implications of his work. Often artists have this faux put-on sophistication where they never attempt to explain or give insight into their works, for if it is all is left to mystery and silence, the “intrigue” of their art will accumulate with each confused and dumbfounded art critic. Parmeggiani’s main work embodies an interest into exploring concepts of space and nature. More specifically, He believed that space was curved, a multiplicity, and that his art would represent the accumulated, sedimentary and layered disposition of the natural world. Later on before his suicide via drowning in the Tiber river, he would paint large canvases of radiant flowers and abstract shapes made up of lines and dots. In essence, he made color fields that at first glance, appear the same, but underneath are layered in strokes, like zooming in with a telescope on a piece of fabric to then reveal the web of fibrous multiplicity that constitutes its being.
Parmeggiani had many works that expressed the curvature of space via layered lines, dots and segments in repeating sets. He stated that the dot is the smallest expression of space in a whole painting of dots and bands, an expression of the molecular-micro and macrocosms of space; The most ready-made philosophic companion to His work would be one of Deleuze and Guatarri’s central concepts in A Thousand Plateaus, the Rhizome.
The Rhizome is an image of thought in all areas of life, be it nature, computing, power relations, fractal cosmology, politics, sociology and psychology, art. etc. It describes multiplicities, non-hierarchical and sedimentary entities on a flat immanant space, that ceaselessly establishes connections, and where no one connection is above another. Any spot can connect to any other, unlike an ordered hierarchy or chain of being (what D and G refer to as Arborescence, or the tree model). Art is a perfect visual representation of such a concept, especially “Composition” for it is a work of flat space, as abstraction is characterized by “flatness” (to quote Clement Greenberg) as opposed to the art hierarchy of mimicking three-dimensional space.
The piece represent a Rhizomatic display of connective sedimentary parts, gradually circling around the middle circumference with each changing stroke of the palette knife. Along with its Rhizomatic qualities, Parmeggiani once again shows us that art can be superior to physics in actually displaying to the average person what an infinite “new physics” model of space would look like. A bold claim, but one that is fitting for an artist who was acutely aware of the philosophic possibilities of abstract representation.
The piece is filled with thick pallet knife strokes of brilliant blues, reds and cadmium yellows, all held together in space by the ridges of white blocks. As mentioned, the center sees strokes of thick paint that are curved in, but also the center is a vortex of more activity and smaller, delicate strokes. Its as if the painting breaths from the gills of the center, radiating out bigger shapes like solar flares. Sometimes i imagine a great cacophony of street signs and fabric awnings in some vast, bloated marketplace, buzzing with hectic activity. “Composition” is assembled like a music composition: rather than thinking of the piece as one singular work, it is filled with different pieces of strokes that all have their own uniqueness, but participate in the location of a single multiplicity.
This installation of MMAM is a bit longer, but now that all the continental jargon is out of the way, perhaps Parmeggiani is worth returning to in the near future.