IRÆ - This is (Not) the End


by Paolo Canevari

Text by Cristiana Perrella

Black like the streaks on the asphalt left by the smoking tires of the Rebel Without a Cause custom cars.

Like the car grease under the Hell's Angels' nails, like the glasses that transform Cate Blanchet into Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' I'm Not There. Black like the leather of the jacket of generations of rebels, like Betty Page's bangs, like Little Richard's quiff. Or like our most beautiful nights of your days. Like the fucking and dancing of Prince's unobtainable Black Album. Black like a fire burned to the bottom, like the shadow. Never the same black, shiny and opaque, silky and grainy, brilliant and dark. Black like Malevich's square, like Ad Reinhardt's monochrome. Black like a black hole, like the infinite void that the works of the sculptor Anish Kapoor manage to create, who bought the exclusive rights to the blackest black - Vantablack. Black like the Big Black by Alberto Burri. Black like ink, which writes and erases, like oil, like black smoke, like the poisons we spread on the planet. Like the dark side, like punk, like the dark, like the nail polish on Lou Reed, like the Clash's combat boots. Black like Black Power and like the panthers. Like the censorship rectangle, like a tattoo on the skin, like Yohji Yamamoto's clothes, like anarchist flags.

Black which is a state of mind and which summarizes and consumes all the other colours, as Matisse said.

There is all this and much more in Paolo Canevari's choice for the first special issue of IRÆ where black overlaps with the contents of the magazine, eliminating them. Tabula Rasa.

A simple and radical gesture, like those that characterize all the works of the Roman artist, a thirty-year career spanning drawing, sculpture, animation, video, installation and performance.

Different languages, linked by the use of everyday materials, objects that have had another life before being art - used tires, sheets, comics, industrial waste oil - and by immediate, strong images that are the successful synthesis of many references, of a lot of thought, of a lot of history. Images that combine a high tone and a popular tone.

His works are icons, they symbolically represent complex meanings but they do so through a form that is clear to everyone, which arrives directly, without the need for mediation or explanations.

A form that Canevari "sees" within common materials, as a second possibility that can transform them with apparent ease into something unexpected. Like when, at the beginning of his career, he took truck inner tubes, cut them, opened them, and with a single gesture transformed them into helmets, tribal masks, baroque columns. Or when he extracts the iconic image of the Colosseum from the massive circularity of old tires.

It is always the material that guides, which is the starting point for the interpretation of the work. But the key, symbolic and conceptual element, the recognizable sign, is black. Black is rubber, a favorite material, bent to a hundred different uses; black is the ink that traces tangles from which mythical animals emerge, she-wolves, eagles, gigantic octopuses, or which spreads in spots giving body to frightening figures; black is the engine oil in which he dips the engraving paper or the pages of a book, bringing out sick landscapes, gentle profiles of hills desertified by pollution. There is no room for other colors in Canevari's art other than white or, recently, gold which is a mirror image of black and reflects light where black absorbs it.

Colors that contain worlds and that all indicate a metaphysical aspiration, a desire for the absolute. Which for Canevari, however, does not mean letting go of reality. On the contrary. His work addresses the major issues of the present in a clear, if never ideological, way.

Ecology, religious wars, geopolitical issues, the rhetoric of power, racism. With the ability of art to make us feel things and then think about them. With the irony of intelligence that he knows how to never be dogmatic. With the evidence of gestures that have their strength in simplicity.

Paolo Canevari

Paolo Canevari was born in Rome in 1963, third generation artist in the family.

Since his first solo exhibition in 1991, in which he began using inner tubes and tyres, Canevari has developed a personal language aimed at revisiting the everyday and most intimate aspects of memory.

Over the years, and through the use of a variety of media and techniques, from animation to large-format drawings, videos and installations, his projects have taken on a strong conceptual connotation. Focusing on the use of symbols, icons and images that are part of collective memory, his works often invite viewers into direct comparison.

The artist has been invited to participate in several biennials around the world, including the 2004 Liverpool Biennial; the Whitney Biennale (2006), the 52nd International Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (2007). Widely exhibited at major institutions around the world, Canevari's works have appeared (among others) at the National Gallery and MACRO, Rome; MART, Rovereto; Museion, Bolzano; The Drawing Center, PS1 Contemporary Art Center and MoMA, New York; IMMA, Dublin; KW, Berlin; Parkview Green Museum of Contemporary Art, Beijing.

Canevari's pieces are part of prestigious international museum collections such as MoMA, New York, Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Creation, Paris, MACRO in Rome and MART, Rovereto.