Emilio Isgrò, “erasures” and fragments of truth. The Barcelona artist exhibits in Carpi


By John

I have often thought of humans from future and distant millennia who come across incomprehensible remains of our current civilization, which in the meantime has been destroyed (despite making conjurations, we cannot deny that we find ourselves in a world with tendencies towards self-destruction) and, very perplexed, they come across one “erasure” by Emilio Isgrò. As far as theconceptual art is often considered hermetic, I am convinced that that of the Sicilian artist (born in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto and recently awarded the honorary citizenship of San Pier Niceto) is very clear. While asking questions rather than providing answers, as is the task of art in general (that which claims to provide answers is generally subservient to the power of the moment), it runs through our history of ideas. Here, therefore, future humans could use Isgrò’s work more or less like the Rosetta Stone, which allowed us to interpret the otherwise mysterious language of the Egyptians.

This thought came back to me forcefully on the occasion of the Isgrò exhibition underway in Carpi until December 10th. Entitled “The syllogism of the horse” (from the title of an unpublished work), curated by Chiara Gatti and Marco Bazzini and produced by the Municipality of Carpi – Musei di Palazzo dei Pio, with the contribution of the Cassa Risparmio di Carpi Foundation and the collaboration of the ‘Emilio Isgrò Archive – the exhibition is set up in the loggia of Palazzo dei Pio and is part of the program of “Festivalfilosofia”, staged between Modena, Carpi and Sassuolo, with the theme “Word”.

I am 47 works, all linked to the world of philosophy, with which the artist has always had an intense relationship since the 1960s. By “erasing” philosophers of all time, from Aristotle and Plato to Sartre and Benedetto Croce, he has created a path that can be defined as a “melee” with doctrines, interpretations and ways of understanding life. This is why his works could function as a Rosetta Stone.

In the interesting catalog that accompanies the exhibition, Isgrò himself writes that «the suspicion will be automatic that art is founded on the absolute misunderstanding of the world and human languages». Although this is also true, it is better not to be fooled. Bazzini, again in the catalogue, reminds us that «to erase you need to read, just as to write you need to erase». And if, as we know, the word can be extremely deceptive, it can happen that the pictorial erasure becomes constructive, if not actually explanatory. Then the syllogism, which can be defined as a connection of ideas, becomes the representation of another possible reality. As happens in the work that gives the exhibition its title, where the outgoing tail drags the incoming horse.

Let’s try to understand better. In a conversation with Isgrò, it can easily happen that we come to the quotation of Gorgias from Lentini, a sophist philosopher of ancient Greek Sicily, in short, an ancient and famous fellow countryman of his. Yes, precisely the one who maintained that nothing existed, that even if it existed it would not be possible to know it, that even if it were known it would not be possible to communicate this knowledge to others. Given that he considered oratory (and therefore at least to a certain extent also writing) the art of persuasion regardless of the truth, it can be added that, after some time, with his triple denial of everything, he is still a kind of tutelary deity of the cancellation of truth, whether it is absolute or presents itself as the theory of a philosopher. After all (and there can be no doubt here) the deletions are infinite.

In short, throughout the exhibition there are truths that shatter and opinions that seem like truths. And the only possible truth, just as Isgrò (not surprisingly also a poet, playwright and writer) wants, is the sowing of doubt, already a good step forward compared to the denial of the truth. In this sense, the series dedicated to Pico della Mirandola is even more striking, made spectacular by the cancellation of twenty volumes of the “Conclusiones”, created in 2014, exhibited here also because Palazzo dei Pio has a strong link with the philosopher’s family. So? The perfect visual balance between what is erased and what is not (herein lies the art of the pictorial act, not only in the concept that underlies it), helps us to walk among doubts and to seek and find the our personal truths.