PAOLO CANEVARI. DECALOGO

Paolo Canevari, at work in the printing house of the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, 2008

Paolo Canevari’s project Decalogo, a commission for the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica of Rome and produced with the assistance of the master printer Antonio Sannino at the Calcografia Nazionale, directly inverts our expectations of how prints operate. Here, in place of the prints on paper, the plates themselves become the primary object.
Although Canevari employs traditional engraving techniques, he purposefully created the places as discrete objects whose end goal is sculptural rather than functional. The ten large places (the largest ever produced at the Institute) have been bent and mounted on the wall and are displayed independently of the prints, which is rare, as one does not often see the plate itself displayed as a work of art. As well, since the place is mounted, it can no longer be archived or reprinted, which cancels one of its main raisons d’etre. In showing the places themselves, Canevari focuses our attention on their impressive and technically challenging scale and on the role chat the quality and density of the lines on the plate play in creating the print on the paper.

Each plate bears an iconic image from Canevari’s personal visual lexicon. They are challenging, provocative, and direct in their message. Six plates and their accompanying prints show conflagrations: a burning gun, skull, tree, dress on a cross, the Roman Coliseum, and a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Such gothic images of torched objects and places highlight the destructive property of fire and provide an excellent opportunity for Canevari to exploit the relationship between drawing and etching: representing fire in a drawing, plate, or print is not an easy task, but Canevari, through his total control and knowledge of how to work the wax­ground plate, is able to capture the fleeting kinetic energy that is released when something burns. The remaining four plates and prints show an ominous tire swing on a hangman’s wooden frame, a dog chained to a tire upon which “god” is written, a Bible with a gun placed on it, and a man poised to catch a falling bomb. These images are more static than the fire images bur no less powerful. To my mind, they are meditations on personal freedom, destiny, and the negative effects of religion on our society. 

For Canevari, Decalogo, the Italian shorthand for the Ten Commandments and perhaps the most well known social contract or “rules to live by”, is a logical extension of his continued investigation into how these dynamic images reveal political and social crises.

About Paolo Canevari

Born in Rome in 1963, lives and works between Rome and New York. Canevari is one of the most internationally renowned artists of his generation. From the start of his creative development, Canevari has been fascinated by the icons which since the war’s end have shaped the memory of Italian culture, but the subjects them to an anti-nostalgic process, in which the material of their figuration evokes the crisis and decline of a civilization. 

His work stems from thoughts and reflections on the transient nature of art and on the significance of artistic sculptures in modern society. While wondering on the value and origin of the most intimate aspects of memory, the artist develops his own personal language where symbols, pop culture, historical knowledge and politics are intertwined in a new interpretation of daily life. Canevari uses different media and materials, from sculptures to installations, from drawings to video.

He has participated in numerous museum exhibitions, public commissions and publications throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia. In 2007 he participated at the 52nd Biennial in Venice curated by Robert Storr. His work is collected by major museums throughout the World: MAXXI, Museo Nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Roma Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato Museum of Modern art MoMA, New York Foundation Louis Vuitton pour la Creation, Paris Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami Macro, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome MART Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Rome GNAM Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna, Rome Perna Foundation, Capri; Olnick Spanu Art Program, Garrison, New York.

Burning Colosseum
Decalogo, 2008
Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

Burning Skull
Decalogo, 2008
Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

Hanging Around
Decalogo, 2008
Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

Beata Vergine
Decalogo, 2008

Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

Burning Mein Kampf
Decalogo, 2008
Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

Burning Tree
Decalogo, 2008
Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

Seed
Decalogo, 2008
Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

Burning Gun
Decalogo, 2008

Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

Holy Bible
Decalogo, 2008
Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

Godog
Decalogo, 2008
Etched copper and dry-point,
nickel plated

cm 139,7 x 88,9 x 1,9 

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Paolo Canevari. DECALOGO
text by Brett Littman

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