la fondazione prada unveils a major retrospective of the italian artist domenico gnoli in milan
‘domenico gnoli’ at the fondazione prada milan
until February 27, 2022, fondazione prada‘s podium in milan accommodates a two-story exposure on the practice of the Italian painter and scenographer domenico gnoli (Rome, 1933 – New York, 1970). designed by the late germano celant, the retrospective gathers more than 100 works made by the artist between 1949 and 1969, completed by as many drawings. next to his achievements as a set designer and illustrator, gnoli is known for his analytical paints, which exist at the intersection of minimalism, hyperrealism and pop art. those large-scale work focus on the details of human bodies Where objects, accentuating their inherent sensuality and energy. the unexpected appearance on the canvas of seemingly incongruous elements, such as busts, locks of hair, shoes, armchairs, drawers, ties and buttons, gives the viewer a slight mental leap.
his precise painting physical texture, that which brought out the surfaces, colors and substance of organic and inanimate elements, is also characterized by scrupulous photographic framing. it is a factual approach that “Puts all things, natural and artificial, on the same level, expressing an egalitarian desire, the revenge of insignificant and disqualified elements in the classification of values: the low, the secondary, the auxiliary, the negligent”, as Cantant observed.
all images, unless otherwise stated: exhibition views of ‘domenico gnoli’ fondazione prada, milano | photos of roberto marossi | courtesy: fondazione prada
works in image: foreground, from left to right: central part, 1969 | red hair on blue dress, 1969
in the background, from left to right: tie, 1967 | coat, 1968 | pocket, 1968 | tie, 1968 | bow tie, 1969
artwork in the header image: green dress, 1967 | zipper (zipper), 1967 | finta pelliccia, 1965 | lady’s feet, 1969 | inside a lady’s shoe, 1969 | lady’s shoe, 1968
painter, stage designer, costume designer and illustrator
developed by the design studio 2 × 4, the two-story exhibition frame inside the fondazione prada podium in milan dates back to the museum environments of the 20th century by tracing linear perspectives which divide the exhibition space into a series of monographic units. domenico gnoliThe works of s are organized in thematic series that reveal how each painting has generated other works following a logical development of expression. the retrospective also develops the reflections of those who in the past have interpreted the artist’s work from an original historical and critical point of view, recognizing the inspiration he drew the Renaissance and highlighting narrative value of his works.
grandson of domenico gnoli and son of umberto gnoli – both art critics and historians – gnoli first followed two directions: his work as a theater decorator, costume designer and illustrator, and his pictorial work. in 1955 his sets for William Shakespeare is “as you like it” to old victim in london had a great success and made it known also in United States. from 1959 he lived between Rome, new York, where he exhibited in several galleries and worked as illustrator for magazines and publications, Paris and London before settling down 1963 to deià on the island of Mallorca.
foreground, from left to right: male hair (capigliatura maschile), 1966 | portrait of louis p., 1967
back, from left to right: wristwatch, 1969 | waistline, 1969 | shoulder, 1969 | red tie knot, 1969
in 1964, the year in which Robert rauschenberg achieved international recognition by winning the golden lion To the venice biennial, gnoli made a linguistic leap that allowed his analytical painting to emerge alongside his achievements as a scenographer and illustrator. in a letter the following year, the artist described this turning point in his career: “I have always worked [as a painter] like I do now, but it didn’t catch the eye because it was the time for abstraction. only now, thanks to pop art, my painting has become understandable. […] I always use simple and given elements, I don’t want to add or take anything away. I never even wanted to deform; I isolate and represent. my themes come from the world around me, from familiar situations, from everyday life; because I never actively intervene against the object, I experience the magic of its presence. ‘
gnoli also felt part of a “not eloquent” tradition of Italian painting developed by masaccio and Piero della Francesca, and transmitted via piranesi, by chirico, carra, severini and campigli. his work was also influenced by great contemporary artists like Bacon, balthus, dali, magritte, chahn and Sutherland. as Salvatore Settis explains, “To achieve perfect ineloquence, the impassibility of things and the suspended magic of an impersonal reality, he had to turn his back on the tradition he loved so much and overturn his hierarchy of values. to deny “decoration” by means of a new exploration of reality through detail. ‘
domenico gnoli, capigliatura femminile, riga in mezzo b.1,1965 | acrylic and sand on canvas | collezione prada, milano © domenico gnoli, by SIAE 2021
this retrospective is part of the series of exhibitions that the fondazione prada has dedicated to artists – such as edward kienholz, leon golub and william copley – whose practice has developed along paths and interests that have taken a direction different from the main artistic movements of the second half of the 20th century. ‘domenico gnoli’ was produced in collaboration with the artist’s archives in rome and majorca, which preserve the personal and professional heritage of gnoli. the exhibition is accompanied by a scientific publication edited by fondazione prada and designed by irma boom. the book includes a new essay written for the exhibition by salvatore settis and two parallels illustrated timelines who placed the gnoli in the historical and artistic time in which he worked, providing a reconstruction of the artist’s career and biography.
from left to right: braid, 1969 | curly red hair, 1969 | buckle, 1969