From the drawing to the work
The title deliberately recalls a notion put forward by Paolo Fossati, the historian and critic who in the 1970s made a robust contribution to a lasting debate on contemporary art. On this occasion the reference suggests further polishing. In fact the two Italian terms compared – “progetto” and “disegno” – have an ambiguous quality, signifying a pivotal role in the fulfilment of a plastic work. Hence: “the work as drawing”, a signal that may discipline the environment of living beings.
Documentation, in the publication of an artist’s oeuvre of such chronological breadth, in our case from the 1950s to the present, always makes it inherently difficult to appraise the lapse between the early and the recent works, within the artist’s overall achievement, and thus to avoid facile summings-up influenced by knowledge of the final result.
But the reasoning is similar in the comparison between the route followed by the artist and a parallel artistic, imaginary world unravelled as an emerging, then declining then eventually resurgent and necessarily related phenomenon. Some roads are taken by artists that are particularly good at “changing” languages and tools, because of their sensitivity to what is going on outside, and their readiness to interpret a zeitgeist while suggesting solutions.
Conversely, the way to plastic “figuration” followed by Romano Rizzato has not been particularly inclined to seize the more striking aspects of each succeeding period. It has been more faithful to a reflection on his own original “image-making”, starting from a “unit of measure” with which to know and to bestow a sense on the surface of his paintings. This implies an attention to the essential, not to anecdote or episode. Indeed Rizzato has devoted a considerable part of his work to narrative, while assessing formal connections to the thresholds of a language of vision. The search for an original strategy does not mean he is extraneous to other movements in the plastic arts, or biased against things new. If anything, he has updated his own idiom to the stimuli which the changing scene may have offered. Rizzato’s nerve centre has drawn a measure of space, in which spectators can recognize their capacity to gauge its coordinates. It is a “finite”, hence verifiable space, a territory “of his own”, written in a mathematical and geometrical language, in the same “words” by which the universe is governed.
So the plastic work may also be a “landscape”. With all the distinctions which theories – words being fortunately more frail than images – may have produced for the twentieth century. The artist moved consistently through its second half, in the linguistic and technical means adopted, but with a remarkable openness to the gradually changing scene.
To talk, therefore, of “landscape” can be interesting. Because from the early twentieth century avant-gardes onwards, it embodied the emancipation of painting from the role of pure representation. Landscape is a figure that records what surrounds and simultaneously belongs to humanity. The subject captured by Rizzato “from the window” can reach from the safe articulation of planes in his earlier works, to the uncertainty of today, where proscenium and depth, both alluded, strive to be the most striking.
An observation of Rizzato’s diverse seasons from a distance in time can be useful in getting to know the developments of his work. It can be helpful in discussing the uneasy intelligence of space, hence of the place that is around us and therefore of our actions, of our being there. Hence also with appreciable questions about the sense of a design to be reckoned with by man. If there is a difference perhaps, not so much in the work as in the way of interpreting it between then and now, it is that of the sensitivity with which, in the 1970s that work was seen as “free standing”, autonomous in its definition, and that of today, enriched instead by a further quality: the “social” sense of creating art, precisely for the community.
His sequence might be read as a progressive discovery of uncertainty in delineating the “field”, to borrow a deliberately aseptic term used by Attilio Marcolli in a didactic survey at the beginning of the 1970s, later adopted by Luciano Caramel for a group show at the Centro RS in Como in 1974, to which Rizzato was also, significantly, invited.
The works presented in this edition, on canvas, on paper, final or in the shape of diagrams and sketches, are therefore the fruit of a rigid selection guided by a desire to underline the continuity of an oeuvre. Situated mainly within “abstract art”,
whilst Rizzato’s earlier works are chronologically set in a drastic conflict between linguistics apparently diverging between “figurative” and “non”, his work as a whole does in reality have significant affinities in the nervation of a flower or in the architecture of a building. With the evolution of an expressive way forward, the language is necessarily sharpened, producing reductions and syntheses. But the underlying idea remains the same.
With an evidently provisional interpretative division of the different seasons of Rizzato’s work, the subjects surveyed date from the 1950s to the present. That considerable span is therefore compressed into a logical/temporal succession which is more a logical resource for interpreting than an effective illustration of work in the studio, with its attempts, advances and retrievals of neglected options.
Every statement is indeed compulsorily linear. With a beginning and an end. In the case of Rizzato the changes are not departures from the main path, but enrichments and simplifications. However they also question what has already been acquired. The object of this survey is to suggest that the path is only apparently, or necessarily one, in any case the outcome of choices that may not be conspicuous but which constitute its richness. The emphasis on the title “from the drawing to the work”, complementary to that of the chronological succession of works, is an invitation to break the consequentiality in order to construct a personal line of appreciation.
While revising my text I realised that the critics and the occasions mentioned date back well into the past. On the one hand I think they respond to the formative and defining phase of this artist’s career; in tune with the more alert and interrogative reflections on the creating of plastic artefacts; on the other they signal that a debate summarily mentioned in these lines was exemplary and exhaustive. A further possible interpretation is that the present tendency, but also that of a recent past, in art as well as in criticism, is passed through, prompting or seizing other expressive qualities. The art featured here seems to me to signal, in reality, in the works themselves and in the vitality of their creation, that it is work and discipline, with the former as the protagonist free to question and remodel the latter.