Milan | Recto Verso – The back side of art
By RICCARDO BIANCHINI - 2019-01-20
Human beings are curious animals by nature, always intrigued by exploring what’s behind the visible, public, face of things.
The secret life of celebrities, the invisible side of the Moon, what’s inside a Stradivari’s violin, what kinds of creatures live in the deep sea, everything concealed has always stimulated our fantasy and arisen our curiosity.
Nevertheless, when we focus on art, the game becomes more subtle and intriguing: which the artist leaved or wrote on the back of a painting was intentional? All artists know that someone will see the “back of the canvas”: collectors, curators, the museum staff, other artists and of, course, the author himself will see it, while probably the public will not. And even if such “private side” of an artwork is not intentionally conceived as a means of communication, its structure, framing, and technical details reveal much about an artist’s work.
Cover Image: Giulio Paolini, Untitled, 1964, Paper on masonite board, photo Giuseppe Schiavinotto, Archivio Luciano Pistoi
Recto Verso, installation view, Giulio Paolini, Antologia, 1974, Two stretched canvases and art shows invitations, Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani
Recto Verso, installation view, Roy Lichtenstein, Stretcher frame with vertical bar, 1968
Oil and magna on canvas, Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani
Thomas Demand, Lightbox, 2004, C-Print/Diasec, © Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / SIAE, Rome, Courtesy Sprüth Magers
Now, the exhibition RECTO VERSO, at the Fondazione Prada in Milan until February 2016, focuses on the back side of painting, with works both from the its collection and on loan from private and public institutions.
Through different methods, the exhibition, curated by the Fondazione Prada’s “Thought Council” (Shumon Basar, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Cédric Libert and Dieter Roelstraete) presents a parallel between the front (Recto in Latin) and the back (Verso) of works of art by artists such as Carla Accardi, Louis-Léopold Boilly, Gerard Byrne, Sarah Charlesworth, Daniel Dezeuze, Llyn Foulkes, Philippe Gronon, Roy Lichtenstein, Matts Leiderstam, Gastone Novelli, Giulio Paolini, Alberto Burri, Ian Wallace, Thomas Demand, and Pierre Toby, among others.
All such pieces share a common trait: their authors have consciously used the back side of their work to convey a message, sometimes cryptic and obscure, sometimes plain and direct, and sometimes intended to transform the back into the actual foreground.
Llyn Foulkes, To mother a letter from Bart, 2004-2011, Mixed media on canvas
Recto Verso, installation view, Left: Alberto Burri, Plastica 8, 1963, Plastic and combustion; Right:
Alberto Burri, Plastica, 1962, Plastic and combustion on aluminum frame, Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani
Recto Verso, installation view, Left: Gastone Novelli, Lutte, échec, nouvelle lutte, 1968,
Mixed media on canvas; Right: Pierre Buraglio, Châssis, 1974, Frame, nylon thread and paint, Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani
Fondazione Prada – Milan
December 3, 2015 – February 14, 2016
All images courtesy of Fondazione Prada
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