Tornabuoni Art London is pleased to announce the first UK retrospective of Italian artist Emilio Isgrò (b. 1937). One of the great innovators of the artistic language in post-war Italy, Isgrò offers a different perspective on the country’s artistic panorama to what has been shown in the UK before. Tornabuoni is taking this opportunity to broaden its focus beyond the Spatialist and Arte Povera avant-gardes and consider the role of one of the main proponents of Visual Poetry and precursor of international conceptual art since the early 1960s.
As befits the London chapter of this retrospective travelling between Milan, London and Paris, the show will open with the Encyclopaedia Britannica, whose 24 volumes Isgrò deleted in 1969. This installation, monumental by its size and undertaking, was presented by Tornabuoni at Art Basel Unlimited 2016 and epitomises the artist’s trademark deletion technique, with which he painstakingly strikes through text and image by hand with India ink.
Isgrò realised his first Cancellature (Deletions) in 1964 and was met with scandal and disapproval by the public. Since then, however, there has been growing interest in the artist’s work, as demonstrated most recently by the Palazzo Reale retrospective in Milan in 2016 and by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, which has recently acquired three of his works and will be exhibiting them from Spring 2017. While his work evokes historic iconoclastic practices and more recent acts of censorship and misinformation, Isgrò nonetheless regards his deletions as a creative endeavour rather than a destructive one. Indeed rather than desecrating knowledge and works of art, Isgrò’s “purpose [is] not to destroy the word, but to preserve it by interrupting its communication by the mass media through which they are emptied of meaning and significance.” By deleting the words on a page, Isgrò aims to call attention to their meaning, unshackling them from grammatical and social conventions to liberate their many potential meanings.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a new scholarly catalogue published by Forma Edizioni and edited by Marco Bazzini, with texts by Luca Massimo Barbero, Andrea Bellini, Michele Bonuomo, Mathieu Copeland and the artist himself. The volume will retrace Isgrò’s artistic career and provide a deeper understanding of the themes that lie at the core of the artist’s practice.