Exhibition text
Luca Cerizza

Umberto Eco: You are the most traditional painter that ever existed. I am not saying that to provoke you, I’m saying it as a final discovery.

 

Gianfranco Baruchello: That suits me fine. (1)


I’ve always seen (or rather, decided to see) this phrase of Eco’s as confirming a thought about Gianfranco Baruchello’s paintings: that they are a form of cave art for the electronic age. Paradoxical as it might seem, his paintings do share two qualities with those of Stone Age artists. First, Baruchello lays down his marks in a way that avoids creating any sense of depth, allowing them to wander over a flat surface with no centre. The myriad signs, images and phrases that inhabit his paintings may be the only possible means of coming to terms with the visions that haunt his memory, of gaining control over the swarm of images generated by the real world and by his imagination. Like a rock engraver, he patiently traces these forms, figures and words as a necessary attempt to impart order to an incomprehensible chaos.

 

In a career spanning six decades, Baruchello has created an extremely varied body of work that includes installations, happenings, set designs, films and videos; even para-businesses (Artiflex) and agricultural experiments (Agricola Cornelia S.p.A). Alongside these experiments and others, he has been intensely involved in the fields of education and culture (through Fondazione Baruchello), writing and publishing, and — at least for part of his life — political activism.

 

If this essay is focused on Baruchello’s more visual work, it is because the ‘traditional painting’ that Eco describes actually contains themes as profound and innovative as those he has addressed through other channels. The ‘final discovery’ thus lies in seeing Baruchello certainly not just as a modern-day cave painter, but as author of what I would define as a ‘pictorial and mental cartography’ that is critically and formally innovative, as are the ways by which we experience it.

 

The path through which Baruchello arrived at his more mature expression was the rather curvy itinerary of a self-taught artist who, during the late 1950s, and following increasing dissatisfaction with the bourgeois world he grew up in (he was born in 1924 in Livorno, an industrial town in Tuscany), embraced a growing interest in artistic expression: initially literature and poetry and, soon after, the visual arts. These early steps followed a series of curious and nomadic explorations in the terrains of abstract painting, drawing, sculpture and film.

 

While Baruchello’s early works still denote a dialogue with various outgrowths of the Italian and international artistic climate in those years — from the use of found objects in Nouveau Réalisme to the black paint still echoing the jargon of Abstract Expressionism — a more consistent geography of interests and obsessions soon emerges, explored through an increasingly personal idiom. In the large painting Primo alfabeto [First alphabet] (1959–62), his initial use of totemic figures, his interests in language, pictography and the archive merged into a new form that could be considered a sort of founding gesture and a crucial indication of future developments. Here and in some related drawings, the artist presents, like a sort of primer, a parade of stylised figures, an early archive of calligraphic symbols that combine a cartoonist’s approach with a primitivist vernacular. We might say that they are the legend for some map yet to be drawn, characters in narratives yet to unfold.

 

The possibilities hinted at by Primo alfabeto were not immediately developed: over a few years of experimentation, Baruchello explored different realms. The brownish monochromatic surface on

which the alphabet was written grew paler, as he began to cover his canvases in a coat of white paint and people them with letters, signs and figures that seemed observed from above (Grande effetto Palomar [The Palomar effect], 1963), or filaments of black paint that would sometimes clump together into a bundle resembling the human hypothalamus (Autoritratto travestito da ipotalamo  [Self-portrait disguised as the hypothalamus], 1963) or the Italian peninsula (La presqu’île intérieure A [The interior peninsula A], 1963).

 

The use of white is a well-known topos of the avant-garde movements of the time. In the West, especially areas recovering from the physical, economic and spiritual devastation of World War II, a series of artistic actions and written manifestos proclaimed the need to move past the orgy of existential expression so widespread in the art of the 1940s and 50s. With the economic boom and the rise of a new modernity in the late 1950s, a series of engagements with the painterly vocabulary revealed a desire to wipe away the magmatic flow of matter and excess of emotion left on the canvas by Art Informel, Tachisme and Abstract Expressionism, and redefine the alphabet of painting.

 

From Robert Rauschenberg to Piero Manzoni, and from the Zero group to Fabio Mauri, a number of artists in that period used the canvas — with variations on whiteness and monochrome — as a potential space for new beginnings. Similarly, for a new wave of visual poetry emerging at the time, in Italy as in the rest of Europe, the white page — like the white canvas — became a perimeter in which to free language from all grammatical and linguistic constraints and merge the verbal with the visual, recovering the key model of Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (1897) and of early visual and concrete poetry, including the Italian Futurists’ parole in libertà [words-in-freedom].

 

Baruchello’s use of white can be considered part of this cultural turn, yet is of a radically different nature, devoid of any formalist concerns. According to the artist, white represents the chaos of uncertainty, a state geographically depicted in an early painting as the Altopiano dell’incerto  [Plateau of uncertainty] (1964). White is a surface on which one can draw and write, even paint; it is a plane of possibilities, which in the years that followed, would increasingly turn into narratives.

 

More specifically, to look at just the Italian context, his work was exploring the overlap between certain developments in visual art (Gastone Novelli) and experimental literature (Nanni Balestrini,

Alfredo Giuliani, Giorgio Manganelli, Antonio Porta and Edoardo Sanguineti — all members of the movement known as Gruppo 63). Like some of these writers with whom he had collaborated,

Baruchello would borrow words, phrases and slogans from pop culture and the media, in a polemical response to the prevaricating rhetoric of mass communication. Having grown up in the Fascist era and seen the outcome of its propaganda, the spiritual and physical ravages of the war, Baruchello couldn’t help but turn a critical ear to the promises of democratic capitalism, the new siren song of consumerism and technological progress.

 

Though as early as 1964, the American critic Dore Ashton noted that Baruchello’s paintings spring in part ‘from the impulse to write’(20), the artist’s interest in language did not imply a faith in words: on the contrary, he highlighted the opacity of verbal expression as a communicative tool.(3) Some works from the early 1960s, where he spread a thick coat of white paint over a series of objects (a pile of books, newspapers stuck to a board, and a geographic relief), showed the artist’s scepticism about the possibility of communication through language and the media, and about categories and hierarchies of knowledge. Anticipating the idea of Pense-Bête (1964), the first work that Marcel Broodthaers, initially a poet, produced as a figurative artist,(4) such an approach could be seen as an attempt to turn the verbal into the sculptural, while reducing the flood of words, information and opinions (along with their supposed authority) to silence.

 

The modernist paradigm might have encouraged the artist to persist in this radical and formalist approach, but Baruchello, quickly changing tack as he so often did in his early career, decided instead to develop, expand and enrich his ‘first alphabet’. Through a reduction in scale, it grew into a more complex, dynamic vocabulary. In paintings from 1964 and 1965 such as Tramonto morale  [Moral eclipse], Dal dolore in poi [From pain on] and La turbulence de l’intelligence [The turbulence of intelligence], the ghostly white surface of the canvas is inhabited by elements that float like organic particles in a vast space devoid of depth, connected here and there by fluid lines resembling soft filaments, like indications of possible routes through a territory.

 

These early canvases depict a more biological landscape, with microscopic figures emerging from an almost monochromatic surface (as in Être, avec, mentre [To be in, with, while], 1963), but slightly later, as he began to work on aluminium, the artist added to his visual universe, inserting more defined and recognisable images as well as words and short phrases. These ‘signature’ paintings on aluminium are an explosion of images and words, floating in a non-hierarchical, decentralised space. They are fragments of a world where unity has become impossible: images flow out of dreams and memories collide with historical figures, quotations from philosophy mingle with catchphrases, Marcel Duchamp is mythologised and Raymond Roussel converges with the TV news. Surreal, intestinal and often obscene anatomy, concocted by some Hieronymus Bosch of the info age, is combined with cartoonish words and phrases, while the often cryptic titles of the works overflow with occasionally obscure references to literature, philosophy, history and politics.

 

Baruchello went on to transfer his visual and verbal vocabulary onto paper, wooden panels (starting in 1962) and aluminium (starting in 1966), a surface that allowed him to achieve incredible detail. For a few years, beginning in 1963, he also applied his ‘characters’ to sheets of transparent Perspex that he stacked on top of each other to give the impression of physical depth, evocative in some ways of Duchamp’s technique in ‘The Large Glass’ (1915–23). Yet in sharp contrast to Duchamp’s rigidly controlled pageant, Baruchello’s transparent layers are scattered with particles that suggest some kind of wild germination.

 

As we see in a number of films, including his celebrated Verifica incerta (Disperse Exclamatory Phase) [Uncertain verification, 1964–65), (made in collaboration with Alberto Grifi), Baruchello uses collage techniques to create sarcastic juxtapositions, cruelly surreal clashes, and unexpected associations between very different visual elements. As the artist explains: ‘I invented nuclei of images that I took to move towards other nuclei of images, largely unforeseen and unforeseeable. To borrow linguistic terminology, I imagine an adverbial condition in the adjacent relationship of an image with another image’.(5) This mechanism of ‘vicinity’, which Baruchello compares to Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne,(6) facilitates an osmosis among images, which are often grouped into clumps that in turn form associative chains travelling across the painting.

 

Even within this rather turbulent circulation of words and images in the space of the canvas, one can pick out some familiar motifs, forms that emerge from a constantly reshuffled personal lexicon. If we were to scan thousands of these images from hundreds of paintings, recurring themes would be found: the red castle, the map of Italy, the ‘homunculus erectus’, the ‘hybrid’, the ‘chemical messenger’, the ‘energy error’, the ‘hammer’, the ‘mushroom horizon’, the ‘universe egg’, the ‘swastika’ and many more, leaping from surface to surface and story to story, endlessly reinvented like figures in fairy tales.(7)


To gain a more tangible sense of Baruchello’s experimental narratives, we could select one of the many threads within each painting and dip into the muddy terrain of psychoanalysis, semiotics or iconology. Or we could simply read the possible (and partial) interpretation that the artist himself offered for one of the stories, not even among the most complex, in Flash forward (1967): ‘(…) Imagine turning the mechanism of a flash-back inside out and then projecting it into a new form that we can call the flash-forward. It could work perfectly even in terms of story-telling. (…) Here it follows with “saluti, Grüssen da Buna Monowitz…” — the extermination camp of IG Farben next

to the new plant for synthetic rubber. The wrist-watch on the wrist of this little man that you can see here shows the time with a swastika, and this phase up here isn’t any too reassuring where a packing case shows its radioactive contents. (…) Every phase or strata here is transmitted like a telephone call made from an unknown streetcorner telephone booth. Calling COLLECT, naturally. Here’s the voice that says, “NE QUITTEZ PAS…NE QUITTEZ PAS…” and then, suddenly, “QUITTEZ, S’IL VOUS PLAÎT…” And here, for me, the painting is finished. Understand?’(8)

 

***


So what are these clusters of images and words loosely scattered across white or grey surfaces? Like others who have analysed his work, I believe Baruchello’s painterly activity can generally be seen as a highly personal, and probably involuntary, form of cartography.(9) A good part of his works share a crucial characteristic of maps: the organisation of information on a flat plane, the overhead view, the überblick, to use a German expression; a condition that has increasingly entered our everyday experience due to satellites and drones. While the majority of Baruchello’s large paintings are based on this perspective, his smaller aluminium works and drawings look like fragments of larger explorations.

 

Although an object like Rilievo ideale [Ideal relief] (1965), can be seen as embodying some impossible cartography that uses a bird’seye view to map a territory, in works like Grande effetto Palomar (1963), Baruchello’s interest in the überblick typical of map-making is already manifest. The titling of this work is not coincidental: Palomar is the name of an astronomical observatory in California which, incidentally, later inspired the title of a 1982 novel by Italo Calvino.(10) It is, of course, a view from below, but one which aims to encompass everything, to turn an analytical gaze on its object of observation. Baruchello’s paintings are this kind of overview, where myriad details and stories coexist, and different focal points share the same pictorial plane.

 

By resembling forms of cartography, his practice revives an ancient tradition. In his study Representing Place: Landscape Painting and Maps (2002), Edward S. Casey discusses how ties between the figurative arts and cartography have been strikingly close from the prehistoric period to the present. From the Book of Two Ways in predynastic Egyptian art of about 2000 BC, to medieval  mappae mundi, to the Dutch world maps of the 1600s and Keisai Kuwagata’s maps of Japan from the early nineteenth century, the two activities have always been linked.

 

More specifically, in The Art of Describing (1983), Svetlana Alpers discusses the connections between painting and map-making in seventeenth-century Holland. Alpers writes of when the distinction between artworks and maps was not precisely defined, and ‘maps were considered to be a kind of picture and pictures challenged texts as a central way of understanding the world’(11): a time when cartographers and landscape painters swapped roles and influenced each other, when artists engaged in direct dialogue with the discoveries and achievements of science, producing works that were autonomous artistic creations, but also educational tools for the society with which artists identified and interacted. A different way of looking at painting is evident here. In Dutch culture of this period, ‘the world itself is put on view; and it is put on view by maps and paintings — by maps that have the allure and look of paintings and by paintings that are cartographic in their conception’.(12)


Showing hitherto unseen scientific rigor and refinement, the art of Jan van Goyen, Salomon and Jacob van Ruisdael and, in a more limited way, Rembrandt and Vermeer, are examples of what Alpers calls the Dutch ‘visual culture’, as opposed to the Italian ‘textual culture’. In Dutch landscape paintings, the gaze moves freely through the space determined by the work. It does not stick to one favourite vantage point, or focus on one target, the vanishing point that Alberti defined for Italian Renaissance painting. As Alpers puts it, the beholder’s eye ‘does not measure but is measured, absorbed by the plane of forms and colours, as if by a screen’.(13)

 

***

 

The mode of experiencing Baruchello’s work is thus very similar to how we examine maps or certain descriptive paintings like landscapes or battle scenes. The viewer does not look at a Baruchello painting so much as travel through it, armed with infinite patience and, ideally, a large magnifying glass. As with seventeenth-century landscape painting, assuming a position from afar, the beholder’s gaze is delocalised and invited to wander into different areas of the pictorial

space, to follow different ‘scenes’ at the same time.

 

Marcel Duchamp, whom Baruchello met in 1962 and who soon became a treasured friend, interlocutor and supporter, observed that his paintings should be viewed ‘from close up over the course of an hour’ (‘A regarder de tout près pendant presque une heure’).(14) A painting by Baruchello cannot be taken in with just one look: ‘[it] contrasts with the typical abstract and analytical way of thinking which is customary when dealing with an icon’.(15) One must enter deeply into this microscopic world made from myriad fragments of information, allowing the eye to roam in different directions across its surface and seek out details and connections. The lack of haste required to experience it in full reflects the slow pace with which the artist himself painted the innumerable links between images and texts.

 

As Duchamp suggests is necessary in The Creative Act (1957), Baruchello relies on the intellectual participation of the viewer to complete his work. Having accepted that historical and social circumstances following World War II and the arrival of the electronic age made it impossible to restore any form of unity, Baruchello left these fragments at our disposal. Initially a loose association of many different narrative possibilities, they can be pursued and combined as the viewer pleases, imaginatively connected in endless ways.

 

This active intellectual participation has a clear political value. As Italian critic Achille Bonito Oliva observed in a conversation with the artist: ‘In truth, your art is highly social and political, because it stands on the side of the viewer. (…) You make the viewer the protagonist.’(16)  And yet, although what the artist called ‘programs for tele-transmissions’(17) are overflowing with curious images and humorous details, Baruchello’s works deny any consolatory pleasure. In fact, while time and practice may help us understand and orient ourselves within maps, even long inspection doesn’t guarantee a better grasp of his paintings. The artist challenges viewers, inviting them inside his space, encouraging them to focus, but ultimately frustrating any desire for intelligible, linear stories. It is a perverse game which can lead to a sort of vertigo, of derangement, mixed with the sense of curiosity and adventure that is typical of any exploration, especially a solo one into unknown territory.(18)

 

Baruchello does not deny us the pleasure of exploration: he denies us the pleasure of possession (that is, possession through a superficial gaze). In the viewer’s attempt to make out his narratives and images, some piece always seems missing. The entire picture is grasped, but the details are not, or the details are registered, but the overall map is lost. Baruchello’s work is not an art to be viewed in a hurry or without bifocals, but rather experienced in depth, as a tireless wanderer in a semiotic labyrinth.

 

In the non-photogenic character of his painted and drawn surfaces, the impossibility of consuming them quickly and the complexity of photographing, reproducing, or transmitting them, we can see the artist’s critical attitude toward the production and consumption of cultural products and toward the rules of spectacle. Refusing to let itself be quickly enjoyed save through intense engagement, Baruchello’s art is an erotic process, a slow seduction and exploration.(19)

 

***

 

If I read Baruchello’s paintings, especially the large-scale ones, as fitting into this long map-making tradition, what kind of territories do they represent? First and foremost, his work doesn’t describe or narrate anything. If it alludes to forms of cartography, visual poetry and narrative, it does so to reveal how these are powerless to convey the complexities of contemporary reality. I believe it is not a coincidence that his mature paintings belong to years of massive modernisation and acceleration of electronic mass media in the West. Baruchello’s scaled universes, where a quantity of different ‘information’ share the same fluid and anti-hierarchical space, seem to be answering a set of questions that emerged in that period, about how to reflect the quantum increase of data in capitalist societies. How was one to encourage a dialogue between inner fantasy and the outer world of history and politics? How was one to create new forms, radically alternative to modernity’s grand narratives of history and thought? How was one to oppose the rhetoric and simplifications of political propaganda?

 

While Baruchello’s painting can be seen as a formal response to the media-scape of the electronic age, he does not simply illustrate the modernity of electronic media. He creates mythologies. The subjects and characters of Baruchello’s paintings, drawings and boxes are, in fact, subjected to a process of ‘fable-making’.(20) Figures from history, the arts and current affairs become the protagonists of narratives where ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture constantly trade places, challenging the hierarchies of history, politics and culture.

 

For example, when Baruchello applies his trenchant humour to Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (in Diego Kid al servizio di sua maestà [Diego Kid on His Majesty’s Service], 1974) the celebrated masterpiece is repainted in cartoonish style and the thoughts of the Spanish royal family are re-imagined as they patiently pose for the maestro (‘Jeezus’, ‘Diego dear, please’). Fluid arrows move out of Velázquez’s room, leading to a common motif from Baruchello’s earliest paintings: a red castle (power?). From here they point at an effervescence sparkling around the head of Pulcinella, the famous Neapolitan Commedia dell’arte character, usually seen as a symbol of acquiescence to authority. And so Diego Velázquez, the genius who foreshadowed modern art, seems to be just another artist at the service of the hierarchy.

 

‘This epic tale of the imagination is what counts’,(21) as the artist has said. Stories and histories are levelled; anachronistic events are fused to create new versions of the past, often reduced to farce. Grand narratives, like the Fascist legends he was exposed to during his youth, or the Hegelian myth of historical linearity, are now reduced to fragments in a fine dust of micro-histories, circulating in a seamless space where multiple stories co-exist without friction.

 

The process of shrinking images and words performed on his narrative material seems, on the one hand, like a technical expedient for packing together the largest possible number of stories, and on the other, a way to create what the artist has called ‘little systems’. Indeed, this attitude to minimise in scale, to reduce almost to invisibility is used throughout Baruchello’s work as a critical response to authority, to the rhetoric and hauteur of vast systems and grand narratives.(22)


A subversive, highly personal geography is depicted here. According to another scholar of cartography, J. B. Harley, in The New Nature of Maps (2001), the history of maps offers few alternative or subversive modes of expression. Maps are primarily a language of power, not of protest. Baruchello reverses this model: since maps are never neutral, the artist takes their human, relative and subjective character to an extreme, mixing up the informative and visual aspects of his cartography. Since maps traditionally have a patron (a monarch, a minister, the state), someone in whose name the map is made, Baruchello becomes the patron of his own peculiar representation.

 

While the minimalist and conceptual neo-avant-gardes of the same period pared away the intricacies of the information age, Baruchello’s approach was closer to that of a narrator flirting with chaos, who handles complexity without either evading it or reducing it to symbols or easily communicable systems. Maintaining independence from the most successful trends of Western progressive art in the 1960s and 70s, Baruchello offered an alternative method of discussing the

present, bringing to that an otherwise unexplored narrative quality. Questioning the linearity and authority of history through his intricate representations with multiple entrances, he suggested a kind of postmodern narration that was ahead of its time.(23)

 

***


More than just a visual and verbal lexicon drawn from the world of politics and information, Baruchello’s cartography especially represents a process of thought.(24) The artist likened his work to the graphic recording of dream mechanisms, the imaginings set in motion by hypothalamic activity. As the result of a cross-section operated on the brain, Baruchello’s work illustrates a ‘neuro-geography’: the multiple groupings of fantastic mental explorations, the links between images, memories, real and invented characters and forms.

 

As Alain Jouffroy has written, Baruchello seems willing to ‘extend his night-time journeys into day’(25). His imaginary stems from the migration of facts into the private space of dream-like activities. With a view from above, Baruchello aims to see it ALL, to depict the chaos and complexity produced by the clash between the inner world of imagination and the outer world of events. In a constant exercise of dream notation, Baruchello arranges fragments from the larger body of his own memory on the surface of the painting, turning it into an autopsy table. As if trying to reconcile the multiplicity of images that haunt him — painful visions from his youth, constantly spliced with the news of the day — the artist continues to dissect images, which continue to bud and grow. Shoring these fragments against his ruins, Baruchello’s paintings are a desperate attempt to exert some sort of control over a mental activity run rampant. And together, they seem to compose one enormous mental map-in-progress, a garden of delights where outer and inner worlds, history and imagination, collide and converge into new hybrids.(26)

 

According to Sigmund Freud, dreams can be considered a form of ‘picture writing’ (Bilderschrift). Cartography, too, is a pictorial mode of discourse, an image-language. According to Edward Casey, maps are simultaneously discursive and presentational symbols, in which language and image reveal themselves to be compatible. What makes maps so effective in representing a landscape is indeed ‘their capacity to employ images and words — pictographs and logographs — in their own special blend of semiotics’(27). And this is the true nature of Baruchello’s paintings, where symbols, images and words merge, where words look like symbols (or slogans) and images resemble pictograms, all ambiguously occupying a realm of crisis, a no-man’s-land between verbal and visual.

 

To quote Casey again, ‘in maps what matters most is the very conjunction of images and words, their coordination and mutual validation’.(28) Yet a ‘verbal map’ is an oxymoron, since some factor of spatial representation — the legend — is indispensable to all maps. While in English, French and German, ‘legend’ can mean both the symbols on a map and the stories that underlie it, in Italian these are two different words, respectively legenda and leggenda. One might say that in Baruchello’s paintings these terms do overlap: the symbols that populate his maps are also the stuff of their narratives.

 

***

 

In Baruchello’s most recent paintings on aluminium and plexiglass, but also in the boxes from his series Connect/Disconnect (2015), signs and symbols float on immaculate white surfaces, forming universes with a newly organic quality. Since the mid-1960s, Baruchello has been producing wooden boxes that are three-dimensional collages, often resembling miniature theatrical scenes or abridged adventures. Now, at the age of 93, the artist seems to be looking deeply into the human body, or the body of the earth, moving underground as if on a speleological expedition. While his earlier paintings depicted what might be called ‘neuronal highways’ (to borrow a term from J. G. Ballard), these recent boxes present labyrinthine tangles of intestines and entrails, or underground cavities and passages that spring from his own fantasy. The world of news and politics is kept at a distance, as if the artist now prefers to engage in an exploration ad interiora and ad inferiora. Fragments of this anatomy occupy each surface of the box, including the transparent front, and the symbols spread out into every possible space, ‘infecting’ the entire artistic organism.

 

In his famous collection of essays on the modern gallery space, Inside the White Cube, artist and author Brian O’Doherty wrote: ‘Boxing up the space (or spacing up the box) is part of the central formal theme of Duchamp’s art: containment/inside/outside. From this angle the scattered artifacts align into a rough schema. Is the box — a container of ideas — a surrogate head? And the windows, doorways, and apertures the channels of sense? The two lock into fairly convincing metaphor.’(29) If, as in O’Doherty’s reading, the transformation of the box in the exhibition space is one of Duchamp’s key formal interests, and the box/exhibition space a stand-in for the head, then Baruchello’s boxes — each side painted with a swarm of icons — can be read as an exhibition space in miniature, and at the same time, as an abstract representation of the mind, a possible pictorial space. If Baruchello’s paintings are reminiscent of how signs are organised and coexist within primitive rock carvings, one might think of these most recent transparent boxes as the tiny, self-contained counterparts of painted caves and exhibition spaces. Like a cave painter of the (post)modern age, Baruchello scatters signs across the walls of the brain=cave=exhibition space=box. On these plastic caves, these pristine metal rocks, more than half a century after his first alphabet, a man with too keen a sight continues patiently to inscribe signs, figures and images, to ward off obscure forces that still slip from his comprehension.

 

 

Notes

 

1. Umberto Eco. ‘Conversazione con Baruchello’ in De Consolatione Picturae (Milan: Galleria Schwarz, 1970), exhibition catalogue, 24.

 

2. Dore Ashton, 1964. Arts and Architecture, vol. 81, no. 4 (April), 6, quoted in: Paul B. Franklin and Carla Subrizi. ‘He Who Calls Himself Duchamp’s Son’. Étant donné: Marcel Duchamp and Gianfranco Baruchello, no. 10 (2011), 79.

 

3. See Jean-François Lyotard, La pittura del segreto nell’epoca postmoderna, Baruchello (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1982), 37–38.

 

4. The work consisted of immersing the almost complete edition of Broodthaers’ last volume of poems up to its middle in plaster. See Benjamin Buchloh. ‘The Museum Fictions of Marcel

Broodthaers’, in Museums by Artists, edited by AA Bronson and Peggy Gale (Toronto: Art Metropole, 1983).

 

5. Achille Bonito Oliva and Gianfranco Baruchello, 2011. ‘Making the Invisible Visible’, Étant donné, 220.

 

6. Gianfranco Baruchello, Spettacolo di niente (Rome: Lithos, 2001), 24.

 

7. Gianfranco Baruchello and Henry Martin, Fragments of a Possible Apocalypse (Milan: Multhipla, 1978). This book is an inevitably incomplete attempt to analyse the characters that populate Baruchello’s paintings.

 

8. Gianfranco Baruchello in conversation with Arturo Schwarz, Supericonoscopio (Milan: Galleria Schwarz, 1968), exhibition catalogue, 20–21.

 

9. Thought Maps is the title of an article I wrote on Baruchello for Frieze magazine in May 2013. http://www.frieze.com/ article/thought-maps

 

10. An admirer of Baruchello’s work, Calvino penned a text for his second solo exhibition at Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery, New York 1966.

 

11. Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 127.

 

12. Edward S. Casey, Representing Place: Landscape Painting and Maps (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 166.

 

13. Alpers, The Art of Describing, 24.

 

14. Pierre Cabanne, Entretiens avec Marcel Duchamp (Paris: Éditions Pierre Belfond, 1967), 193. Interestingly, To Be Looked At (from the Other Side of the Glass) with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour (1918) is the title of a piece by Duchamp himself.

 

15. Tommaso Trini, Introduzione a Baruchello. Tradizione orale e arte popolare in una pittura d’avanguardia [An Introduction to Baruchello: Oral Tradition and Popular Art in Avant-Garde Painting] (Milan: Galleria Schwarz, 1975), 19.

 

16. Bonito Oliva, Étant donné, 224.

 

17. Gianfranco Baruchello in conversation with Arturo Schwarz, Supericonoscopio, 3.

 

18. See Alain Jouffroy, ‘Baruchello, Navigateur en solitaire’, Baruchello (Rome: Galleria La Margherita, 1977), exhibition catalogue.

 

19. It is interesting to note that one of the first – perhaps even the earliest – of Baruchello’s artistic projects was a concept for eyeglasses meant for people with overly keen eyesight. Baruchello himself has hyperopia (Occhiali per chi ci vede fin troppo chiaro, 1951). The difficulty of reproducing his works in books may have contributed to his exclusion from the canons of contemporary art, however, Baruchello’s painterly works and narratives could perhaps be better examined through digital touchscreen technology.

 

20. Trini, Introduzione a Baruchello, 20.

 

21. Ibid, 50.

 

22. See Carla Subrizi, ‘Piccoli sistemi’ [Small systems], Baruchello: Certe idee [Certain ideas] (Rome: Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna/ Milan: Electa, 2011), exhibition catalogue.

 

23. It is no coincidence that Jean-François Lyotard dedicated the above-mentioned essay to his work.

 

24. See Gianfranco Baruchello, Breve storia della mia pittura [Short stories about my painting] (Livorno: Peccolo, 2003), 5.

 

25. Alain Jouffroy, Per Baruchello (Ravenna: Essegì, 1992), 116. Translation mine.

 

26. As the artist wrote: ‘each painting is always a detail of a mental space’, quoted in Carla Subrizi, ‘Piccoli sistemi’, 47. Translation mine.

 

27. Casey, Representing Place, 174.

 

28. Ibid., 175.

 

29. For O’Doherty’s reading of the equivalence exhibition space=head in Duchamp, see: Inside the White Cube, The Ideology of the Gallery Space (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 72–73.