MEHDI CHOUAKRI MOMMSENSTRASSE
SALVOAUTOGRILLMarch 14 to April 18, 2020
AutogrillThere all is order and beautyAbundance, peace, and voluptuousness
— Baudelaire, Invitation to the Voyage, 1857
Here there is no space to write about Salvo (Salvatore Mangione, Leonforte, Sicily 1947 – Turin 2015), the conceptual artist from the end of the 1960s to the early 1970s, the citationist-narcissist, the narcissist-ironist, the friend of Alighiero Boetti, the friend of but different to the Turin circle of Arte Povera. Neither is there space to write about his early turn to painting (1973); very little wild, and certainly well before the many international Transavantgardes. Nor surely space to write about the many phases of his painting, apparently naïve but very cultivated in reality. The first, from the history of painting (the d’après), with accents of heavy narcissism that also emerge in his list-canvases Italia and Sicilia, and then, after 1976, the landscape paintings, peppered with classical ruins. Less space even to write about his countless other landscapes⎯both urban and natural: references to places that exist, but have been so irredeemably reworked to become as so many elsewheres.
There is at least the space to write that all of Salvo’s painting⎯which is, in fact, the continuation of his previous work by other means ⎯depicts, precisely, an “elsewhere”, a utopian place, outside of time or, even better, motionless in time. Childhood is that place. Dream is that place. Memory is that place. Wonder is that place. Exoticism is that place. That place where everything is order, abundance, peace and lust. The order of landscapes (almost) without people or movement, sunk in moonlight or blinded by the meridian sun. The ringing, almost psychedelic abundance of light and colour. The abundance of vision of childish fantasy, where clouds are candyfloss, houses marzipan, and trees evergreen and puffy with leaves. The calm of places where wind does not blow, time does not go by, history does not evolve. And the pleasure of living in such places.
And so, the three small urban landscapes exhibited in Berlin are examples, among the many possible, of this transfiguration from reality into order, abundance, peace and pleasure. The canvases, as invitations to the voyage, are as postcards sent from places visited in person and then re-visited through painting. A version of a landscape as toy that Mario Sironi would have painted bleak, in scales of grey and brown (Untitled,1987). A Morandian vision of Pisa, where nothing, no tower is at all leaning, and the sun beats down on the buildings composing an exact geometry (Pisa, 2007). A view of Catania, more sugary than ever, seen through the memories of the time the artist left Sicily as a child (1955 Ventidue anni dopo / Twenty-two years later, 2014).
And then that great highway scape (L’autogrill / The gas station, 2014), unexpectedly lush with light and nature. If Salvo’s paintings normally stop reality in an unmoving time, here it goes beyond that. As if he celebrated an exorcism against the time of his life that was running out, the artist painted a truck that stopped (or is going? It’s never clear) against the traffic. Which is like saying: against time. Stopping the running of time, Salvo has again taken his subjects, even the most banal ones, in a dimension of fable and myth.
In the end, all his work is this: a movement from reality to fable, if not to myth. The frequent citationism, and the narcissism that permeates his work from the beginning, are both part of this movement outside of time, towards the regime of myth. So, as the painter portrays himself blessing, as a new Raphael, as the best, well, as myth, the artist remains alive, saved: Salvo.— Luca Cerizza
Difference in samenessThe obvious in the unpredictableThe novelty in the old
from: Salvo, Della Pittura / On Painting / Über die Malerei
Ed Paul Maenz & Gerd de Vries, 1980