Vittorio Sgarbi


Title of the image box

In essence, Alberto Burri did it too: he would burn plastic, petrochemical in origin, in order to make use of the physical effects of combustion. The striking expressiveness of the material is dramatic and even baroque, as was once claimed, in that burnt forms take on unique and unpredictable shapes once they have cooled down. However, Burri did not burn anything that was already a representation. Instead, his plastic combustions were a counterpart to images created with the more conventional tools of painting, as he wished to indicate a different kind of artistic horizon with respect to the latter. He held the belief that it was about the modernity of the era, and that consequently nothing could be as it had been before.

In the end, American Pop Art did this too, with Andy Warhol front and center. People, places and objects with mass-market appeal are depicted – those most suited to serial reproduction. Commercial art forced its way into people’s daily lives and worked with these icons for maximum efficiency on an increasingly global scale, with its key objective being the spread of standardized trademarks, known as logos, which were then adopted as new cult objects. Pop Artists, however, would have second thought about burning their own work. Their process consisted of glorifying what everyday life and increasing consumption had made banal for the masses, and not the reverse, as burning the work would have symbolized.

At heart, DICÒ, with his commercial art background, is neither a both-again Burri nor an heir to Pop Art, even though both influences have greatly inspired him. DICÒ is undoubtedly something else compared to both, even though he has maintained a certain imprint from them which is certainly not insignificant. Firstly, DICÒ is the expression of a different era with respect to that of Burri and Warhol, both having died over twenty years ago. Recreating oneself as a Burri or Warhol in this era means either assuming a passively academic attitude to their absolutist models, which have yet to be surpassed, or focusing a type of attention whose purpose is to reconcile the artistic legacy of the two masters with the aesthetic sensibilities of our times. For that matter, even the basic idea at the core of these argument, i.e. creating and expressive crisis between Burri and DICÒ, is intellectually flippant, as it involves artists who so far apart as to be antithetical, even though they can be grouped together as regards their innovative power.

We should mention that Burri was not the only artist to make art from fire, just as Warhol was not the only one to create images based on the dictates of modern advertising. Yves Klein, for example, could have passed himself off as a true pyromaniac. Imbued as he was with a zen philosophy, he would look to fire, which according to ancient ideas was not just symbolic but also a purification tool par excellence, used to achieve a state of spiritual immateriality. For Klein, this involved a performance in which he would burn his beloved blue acrylic paint, absolute in and of itself, as empty as the divine Nirvana. He would use firecrackers that would leave burn marks from explosions on the uniform, single-colored surface. It is unlikely that DICÒ shares the same mystical propensity as Klein, but his manner of interpreting the life-giving function of fire is not all that distant from the French artist’s symbology. Compared to Klein, what DICÒ aims for is more the control of deterioration, which is configured using a different technique, among the most sophisticated at his disposal, and one that is able to purify the objects as much as he needs, regenerating the work, without cancelling it or irreparably subverting it. On the one hand, this reveals a pragmatic conception of art, so that what counts is the object that one is able to work with, not what swirls around it. On the other hand, it gives the act of burning a connotation, which, while lacking a mystical afflatus, is still immaterial in nature. Further, the act of burning has been suffused with spirituality, superimposed, or one might even say augmented, thereby transferring to the object, changed as it is, an indissoluble imprint of one’s own personality.

In terms of representation, it seems clear to me that Andy Warhol and Pop Art act as prerequisites for DICÒ’s work, together with other references, such as Street Art for example. It is precisely this renewal of sources that allows DICÒ to extricate himself from the myth of consumerism, which is not at all overlooked, given its lasting power in our society even today, but in a way that is less psychologically conditioned, to the point of arriving at the desecration of works by means of fire in order to affirm their autonomy from the homologous automations belonging to mass logic. In substance, in respecting secular pragmatism and without any complacency by DICÒ: I burn because I am, and I do not want to be what the system wants me to be; but I burn for rebirth, to give new life and to redeem the ugly form of the existing one, to load it with new internal impulses, with a sense of life that confides in the appeal of the wreckage of industrial civilization (Nouveau Réalisme and Junk Art), something that is based upon the most refined decorative expressions, ones that are capable of presenting a work in accordance with a new character and a new spirit.

In playing with fire, Oscar Wilde once said, one never even gets signed. It is only when we do not know how to play that we get burned. Completely.

Vittorio Sgarbi
Critico d’Arte