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Lorenzo Marini. Someone dares to inject advertising with fantasy

Lorenzo Marini. Someone dares to inject advertising with fantasy

“Visuart. Beyond Surface” is the title of the exhibition by the advertiser and artist. His “anti-poster” paintings are currently on show at the Museum of Permanente in Milan

There appears to be something schizophrenic in the work of Lorenzo Marini. Rather like Armando Testa (with whom he trained), he is first and foremost a creative director, the creator of successful advertising campaigns. But he is also a painter of the quasi-abstract (he also studied under Emilio Vedova). Yet between these opposing identities are connections, relationships, and landscapes, and this is what emerges from his exhibition, “Visuart. Beyond Surface”, which runs until 30 October at the Museum of Permanente in Milan, a prestigious exhibition space that has yet to acquire a specific structure and a clear cultural program.

Marini conceives of his paintings as original anti-posters, in which he always moves away from the classical poster form. He retains their layout, their scansions, and their syntax. He tends to adhere to the strictures of the grid, which is an emblem of rigor and method; a tool for controlling images and depictions, for emphasizing the importance of sense of size, for corralling all intuition inside a precise perimeter, for transforming the work into a two-dimensional layout. The grid, noted Rosalind Krauss, is based on “a mode of repetition, the content of which is the conventional nature of art itself”. Within these confines — which reveal a rationalistic approach — Marini spreads thick, granulated layers of white, like veils that cover the system of meanings. He works like an artisan of concealment, intent on giving a voice to a kind of linguistic restraint. He creates monochromatic plains, from which he allows the emergence only of presences that are barely recognizable: hinted words, fragile letters. Castaways from the shipwreck of meaning.

Encouraged by an anti-pop temperament, Marini seems to work like a painter of writings: he gives us exercises — often quite unsophisticated — in which symbols and signs remain. His challenge is to violate the intrinsic function of the typeface, to reveal its secret visual potentials. It is also to challenge every message and every commodification. And finally, it is to deprive every word of its denotative value, so as to perform a semantic delocation. And carry us over the threshold between constructivism and expressionism.

It is as if we were watching a concert for solo voice that, suddenly, is interrupted by a timbre that can fracture the spatiality of nothingness. The lessons of Mondrian and of Twombly — not entirely “reworked”, either — show through in the watermark.

This reductive tension is continually questioned by Marini. Often, in his works, he inserts traces of the decorative imprint — like the payoff slogan (typical of advertising posters) — made with heterogeneous materials (cotton, chalk, glue, and paper). This is a choice that has a significant value. It is a way of inserting vibrant glimmers of light into these pictorial constructions, but it is also a way of reaffirming the centrality of the compositional harmony.

This play of balances and imbalances resurfaces in the alphabet reinvented by Marini. The epilogue of the Milan exhibition is the letters of the alphabet, here decomposed, rearranged, made like fairytale characters, which seem to move, dance, and stage little plays. We are confronted with implicit (and perhaps involuntary) homages to the iconographic transfigurations of Bruno Munari, who wrote: “Fantasy is freer than the other faculties. It can disregard the achievability or the functionality of what it has thought. It is free to think anything, no matter how absurd, incredible, or impossible.” And there we have it: in the end, Marini — as an advertiser and as an artist — wants nothing more than to raise fragile altars to the Goddess Fantasy.

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