Hauser & Wirth's historical presentation at Frieze Masters 2019, Before or After, at the Same Time: Rome, Milan, and Fabio Mauri, is an exploration of post-war Italian art through the cultural orbit of remarkable 20th century thinkers and artists. The project takes the fascinating narrative of Fabio Mauri, an artist, writer, producer and intellectual, alongside the history of his family-a publishing dynasty which thrived on close connections to radical Italian art, poetry, cinema, philosophy and literature-as a starting point to explore Italian visual culture, its influences and the defining ideas behind it. The title refers to Mauri's statement: 'I can't stay in step with my time. I am either before or after it, at the same time.' (Fabio Mauri, Ideology and Memory).
The social and political aftermath of the Second World War engendered two highly energetic pockets of creativity in the cities of Rome and Milan. The exhibit is a tale of these two cities, with Mauri-a multi-disciplinary artist who resisted categorisation-acting as the point of introduction to the artistic practices that emerged from each of these distinct cultural, economic and political scenes. The project examines and, in cases, re-examines the artistic milieu surrounding Mauri which included Carla Accardi, Franco Angeli, Enrico Baj, Alberto Burri, Alighiero Boetti, Enrico Castellani, Dadamaino, Piero Dorazio, Tano Festa, Lucio Fontana, Jannis Kounellis, Piero Manzoni, Gastone Novelli, Mimmo Rotella, Mario Schifano, Giulio Turcato and Cy Twombly.
Hauser & Wirth collaborates for the fifth consecutive year with Moretti Fine Art, and a series of exceptional Old Master works create dialogues in Italian art across the centuries, reflecting Fabio Mauri's own interests. The booth has been designed by the renowned architectural practice baukuh, based in Milan and Genoa, and is configured as a series of six 'rooms'.
A Hauser & Wirth Publishers book edited by Ben Eastham, has been published to coincide with this immersive display at Frieze Masters. Before or After, at the Same Time: Rome, Milan, and Fabio Mauri, features essays and newly commissioned texts by Giorgio Agamben, Ilaria Bernardi, Barbara Casavecchia, Pierre Testard, Andrea Viliani and Laura Cherubini. An interview between Achille and Sebastiano Mauri discusses the enduring and near unbelievable family history; a historic article by Fabio Mauri 'In 1960 the 1950s Were 10 Years Old', brings his prescient character to life and never before published and translated letters between Silvana Mauri, Fabio's eldest sister, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, the filmmaker, writer and poet express a remarkable intimacy and honesty.
Mauri lived in Milan during its post-war reconstruction following the defeat of Fascism before moving to Rome in 1957. At this time Milan was an epicentre of young artists reinventing themselves, setting aside Art Informel and embracing a conceptual agenda defined by artists. Among these Lucio Fontana forged new ground with punctured paintings and 'spatial environments' that explored the void and the absolute, as seen in the mesmerising Concetto Spaziale, Attese (c. 1967). Moreover, Piero Manzoni not only dislocated the painted surface from the hand of the artist, banishing all pictorial content and colour in his works, such as Achrome (c. 1960), but alongside Enrico Castellani he instigated the short-lived but influential Azimut gallery and Azimuth review in 1959. These pioneering and experimental artists would contribute to the emergence of Arte Povera in nearby Turin at the end of the 1960s. As Mauri said: 'it was the air of that time, of a sort of hope that leads one to quickly follow, like a duty, the imperceptible and unmistakable drum beat announcing great new things.'
While Milan was firmly seated in Europe, Rome was considered the entry to the United States. The works of Alberto Burri, like Combustione Plastica (1967), created using unorthodox violent actions and 'poor' materials, made immediately following the war, generated new possibilities and radical ways of thinking for the school of artists who gathered at Caffè Rosati on the Piazza del Popolo. Mauri, who lived around the corner, fraternised here with Jannis Kounellis, Mimmo Rotella, and Gastone Novelli and did much to connect the city's flourishing literary and artistic scenes. While these artists might appear loosely affiliated, they all moved towards a new realism that embraced rapid industrialisation, the explosion of mass media and dramatic social and political change. This experimentalism encompassed new materials-Giulio Turcato was among those to incorporate found objects into his work, while Carla Accardi and Mario Schifano experimented with the products of industrial design and Mimmo Rotella's engrossing work featured snatches of text, for example in Senza titolo (1961). The collision of European and American practices in paintings can be seen in the work of Novelli, whose instinctive pieces share much in common with Cy Twombly's system of signs and allusions. Novelli was introduced to Twombly, alongside Willem de Kooning and Robert Rauschenberg, in the late 1950s when these artists were working in Rome.
Mauri's work Marilyn (1964) draws together many of the threads and themes running through this presentation. It is a critical exploration of the power, ideology and language of images, addressing themes of communication and manipulation. The upper register of the work alludes to a cinema screen, reinforcing the notion of perception and the flow of images that serve as a surrogate for reality. The lower portion of the work focuses on Marilyn Monroe's bust highlighting her as an actress that presented herself to the world under different guises-voluptuous and vulnerable, innocent and experienced. Likewise, Mauri understood the world, as we know it, to merely be a projection in and of itself.
The landmark book, Before or After, at the Same Time: Rome, Milan, and Fabio Mauri, edited by Ben Eastham is published by Hauser & Wirth Publishers on 24 September.
Opening Days & Hours
2 October (Invitation only)
3 October: 11am-8pm
Thursday Private View
3 October: 5pm-8pm
Friday 4 - Saturday 5 October
Sunday 6 October