Un prato
in quattro tempi

Paolo Icaro
19.09 2017 / 14.03 2018

Filarete’s lawn, its own soil, is the material to be sculptured at the third edition of La Statale Arte.
This work in progress (lasting two seasons) on the lawn in Ca’ Grande Courtyard is the work of Paolo Icaro and was designed to get university students actively involved.

Pietro Icaro has decided to sculpt the soil in this new project: respecting its rhythms and patterns and, only at the very end, submitting it to his final design.

The title emphasises the unity of the material the artist is working with and instilling with new meanings – a lawn – and the four different tempos associated with this transformational process, the four stages through which nature completes an independent growth cycle: digging, raking, sowing and cutting.

A gradual purifying of the soil – from the infesting effects of human intervention – that will culminate in a sign created by Icaro: a geometrical pattern, a square spiral that the artist previously deployed in his 1978 work entitled Etcoetera (Square Spirals), a continuous form (of classical and Mediterranean origin) that will be the measure of a concrete space.

Un prato in quattro tempi (A lawn in four tempos) è is a collective work in which the artist’s intentions and the kind of chance associated with nature constantly interweave

(how many seeds will be pecked out by birds? How rainy will it be?) in a space that has a distinctly mental dimension. Sculpting becomes a patient process of molecular build-up and soil is an ideal means of developing the underlying idea.

In a conversation recorded by Nanni Loy in 1966, Nuova scultura italiana, Icaro stated: “I believe the purpose of sculpture is to enhance space”. And so the artist decided not to occupy the space of Ca’ Grande Courtyard as he worked on it, but rather to create an invisible monument, perceiving the physical space from its base, from the grass surface, creating a place for meditation and for reflecting on Aristotle’s classical unities – yet another reference to European culture – time, space and action.

In Un prato in quattro tempi the action is a combined gesture, a choral act orchestrated by Icaro and interpreted by the university students, who are themselves seeds that will sprout in the future through the various acts from digging to cutting.

Choosing soil as the sculptural material, soil that Icaro describes as “matter’s inert soul”, is something he had already experimented with in both Campo San Marino (1967) and Ruote di fieno (1993), but it was really at an exhibition held at Jack Tilton Gallery in New York in 1985 entitled Reflections (while watering my plant) that the artist really clarified the meaning of his experimentation: “I see it happening at the marriage point between an interior spiritual structure and a natural structure”.

In other words, work based around memory, cultural roots and studying reality.

While, on one hand, the four tempos referred to in the title hark back to Icaro’s musical background – Allegro, Vivace, Moderato and Largo, all geared to the rhythms of nature – on the other hand they also allude to the four stages in his creative process, which he first mentioned back in 1968 and are also the title of a recent monograph edited by Lara Conte: “do-undo-redo-review”.

“seeing comes before doing; doing […] refers to everyday gestures […] creating volume in a sculptural sense. Redoing is the repetition of one or more previous gestures, which, however, are performed ‘afterwards’ and, hence, in a different context. Finally, ‘seeing’, judging or critical distance from seeing, which happens ‘after’ and not ‘before’ doing.”

Un prato in quattro tempi is, therefore, a vision, a mental and physical space that is initially observed for study purposes and then in order to be critiqued, as air, soil and light become acquainted with human gestures.

The various stages in this work in progress will be presented in a selection of photographs taken by Raimondo Santucci (which will then appear in a catalogue published by Skira and a special exhibition) and videos shot by Milan State University’s CTU – Centre for Technology and Multimedia Education.

Ca’ Granda Courtyard, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Festa del Perdono 7
19th September 2017 / 14th March 2018
Monday-Friday 9-20 / Saturday 9-18
Exhibition curated by Donatella Volonté

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