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In Praise of Pinot Gallizio

Michèle Bernstein


Translated by John Shepley

ITALIAN PAINTING occupies an exceptional place in the history of Western culture. Its fruits have not been lost. As always, social habits outlast the conditions of an historically outmoded artistic form, while maintaining material possibilities — economic privileges.

In today's Italy, which is incapable of resolving the problem of unemployment, there is at least a position to occupy: the social function of painter. The role of the painter and the importance of painting, both artificially maintained in a different society whose resources and problems are obviously those of the rest of the world in the twentieth century, have kept their allure.

Which is why, anxious to prevail on this favored soil and assured of immortality by this geographical identity, some find ambitions come to grief: what Giotto and Leonardo did in laying down the laws for the construction of painting, Fontana or Baj hope to imitate by providing the equivalent for its destruction. And the candidates do not stop to think that the invention of liquidation, in whatever branch of cultural activity, necessarily goes faster and is forgotten in less time than the invention of a culture. They keep trying.

Most often it is where confusion and decadence have been pushed to the extreme, where their social and economic importance is asserted the most, that one should expect to see the negation of this decadence emerge. Gallizio is accordingly Italian.

Aware of the problems that truly affect us, in this interregnum between civilizations in which we find ourselves caught, Gallizio forsakes painting — whether respectably figurative or abstract, or action painting, and in any case as modern as in 1930. He extends it into other realms, all the realms on which he touches with an extraordinary inventive spirit. They follow one another in succession and are called chemical experiments, resins, resin painting, scented painting. In 1955, Gallizio was one of the founders of the Experimental Laboratory of the Imaginist Bauhaus.

It is then that he perfected, at the cost of unremitting labor and the lengthy patience of genius, the discovery we wish to speak of, one that will deliver the final blow to the little glories of the easel: industrial painting.

Gallizio produces painting by the meter.

Not a reproduction of the Mona Lisa stretched across fifty meters of wallpaper. No, his painting by the meter is original, its reproduction is forbidden, its process patented.

Its cost price beats all competition. Its sale price too: Gallizio is honest.

His production is unlimited. No more speculators on canvases: if you have money to invest, be content to buy shares in the Suez Canal.

His sales take place preferably outdoors. Also in small shops and large department stores: Gallizio dislikes galleries.

It is hard to grasp all at once the myriad advantages of this astonishing invention. At random: no more problems of size — the canvas is cut before the eyes of the satisfied customer; no more bad periods — because of its shrewd mixture of chance and mechanics, the inspiration for industrial painting never defaults; no more metaphysical themes — industrial painting won't sustain them; no more doubtful reproductions of eternal masterpieces; no more gala openings.

And, of course, soon no more painters, even it Italy.

Obviously one can laugh, and classify this phase of art as an inoffensive joke, or as bad taste. Or get indignant in the name of eternal values. One can pretend to believe that easel painting, which isn't doing so well these days, won't get any worse.

The progressive domination of nature is the history of the disappearance of certain problems, removed from "artistic" — occasional, unique — practice to massive diffusion in the public domain, until finally they tend even to lose any economic value.

Faced with this process, the reactionary inclination is always to restore value to old problems: the authentic Henri II sideboard, the fake Henri II sideboard, the forged canvas that isn't signed, the excessively numbered edition of something or other by Salvadore Dali, top quality in all realms. Revolutionary creation tries to define and spread new problems, new productions that alone can have value.

Considering the endowable buffooneries now, after twenty years, coming back to stay, the industrialization of painting thus appears as an example of technical process to be taken up without further delay. It is Gallizio's greatness to have boldly pushed his tireless experiments to the point where nothing is left of the old pictorial world.

Anyone can see that previous procedures for overcoming and destroying the pictorial object, whether through abstraction carried to its extreme limits (in the vein opened by Malevich) or painting deliberately subjected to extra-plastic concerns (Magritte's work, for example), have been unable, after decades, to emerge from the stage of repeating an artistic negation, within the framework imposed by the pictorial means themselves: an "inner" negation.

The problem thus raised can only drag on endlessly by repeating the same givens, in which the elements of a solution have not been included. Meanwhile, all around us, the world keeps changing before our eyes.

We have now reached a stage of experimentation with new collective constructions and new syntheses, and there is no longer any point in combating the values of the old world by a neo-Dadaist refusal. Whether these values be ideological, artistic, or even financial, the proper thing is to unleash inflation everywhere. Gallizio is in the forefront.