• Osart Gallery

Miart 2020 - Digital Edition

11-13 September | VIP DAYS 9-10 September



Osart Gallery is proud to announce the participation to Miart 2020 Digital Edition with a project dedicated to an historical show dedicated to the book as an artwork.

The Dragon's Teeth (‘I denti del drago’) was the title of the exhibition curated by Daniela Palazzoli in 1972 at the L'Uomo e L'Arte Gallery in Milan. The title linked the show to Greek mythology, and to Cadmus who had to fight a dragon before founding the city of Thebes. After killing the dragon, on the advice of Athena he planted its teeth in the ground. Armed men sprouted from the dragon's teeth and Cadmus had to fight them until the few survivors helped him in the foundation of Thebes. Herodotus believed that it was Cadmus who had brought the Phoenician alphabet to Greece.

The 1972 exhibition approached the book through the filter of Marshall McLuhan’s theories, pondering the relationship between book, language and content, and conceiving books to be experienced rather than read. The book and the word were the subject of a transversal artistic research that had its roots in Mallarmé and then continued in Apollinaire, in Futurist paroliberalismo (words-in-freedom), in Depero’s bolted book, through to Duchamp’s wordplay and the experiments of the Surrealists, finding new vitality in the experimentation of the second-wave avantgardes from Visual Poetry to Fluxus. The exhibition curated by Daniela Palazzoli showcased the renewal of the written page, released from the need to ‘signify’ through alphabetic language.

The symbolic significance of books has certainly changed over the years, and the exhibition investigates this by bringing together several works by the artists who took part in The Dragon's Teeth, exploring the potential of an object now freed from canonical format and use, projected towards new experimentation. Years later, the works retain their poetic charm: objects in which the linguistic sign is entwined with the infinite possibilities of the artistic gesture; poetry becomes image, and the ‘booklike’ format that the artists address conserves all its evocative power.

The Osart Gallery has tracked down many of the works displayed in the 1972 exhibition, and in some cases has decided to show works by the same artists and from the same period. The virtual medium with which we interface today creates a further dimension of comparison.

The works on display include books like that of Andy Warhol, with a strong narrative and denotative dimension, which is eclipsed in Sfogliare by Corrado Costa, making way for an entirely objectual poetry in which light words parade. Julien Blaine and Giovanni De Bernardi, on the other hand, explore formats now far removed from that of the classic book, in which the playful and interactive dimension prevails. These are books to be explored and taken apart, in which phrases and illustrations can be moved at will. In the works of Parmiggiani, Villa, Balestrini, Vaccari and Diacono, photography and the typical book or folder format prevail over the others, along with a fragmented, shared authorship. Then, with Friedman, the sheets glued together take on the two-dimensional format of a work on paper, while Jean Le Gac’s notebook offers a caption-like accompaniment to an oversized photograph. The relationship between Mirella Bentivoglio and Amelia Etlinger entwines the written word in different ways: Amelia's multi-material letter is dedicated to the Italian artist, critic and poet, while the work of Bentivoglio—a great experimenter of alphabet and word—is an actual book in which poetry rules supreme. In Agnetti’s works we find the book as object and correspondence, albeit one-sided as in the telegrams that the artist sends to himself, underscoring what Daniela Palazzoli wrote in the catalogue: the artist ‘uses the very concept that allows official language to exist to assert his own existence and autonomy’, bending a language spawned by a social contract to eminently individual laws.


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