HsiaoCHIN, AntonioDIAS
The exhibition at MACTE (Termoli) reconsiders the recent history of Italian art as the product of a dense network of cultural exchanges on a global scale. Traditionally, the study of the transnational dimensions of the artistic movements that emerged in 20th-century Italy has emphasized comparisons with coeval tendencies in Europe and the United States. This exhibition proposes a change of approach by establishing a dialog between the histories of postwar Italian art and experiences rooted in other geographies.
The exhibition brings together the work of nine artists born in Asia and South America: Betty Danon, Antonio Dias, Jorge Eduardo Eielson, Hsiao Chin, Tomás Maldonado, Roberto Sebastián Matta, Carmengloria Morales, Hidetoshi Nagasawa, and Joaquín Roca-Rey. In the decades after World War II, each of these individuals spent significant periods in Italy and, in some cases, moved there permanently. They became affiliated with movements such as Concrete Art, Arte Povera, Feminism, New Tendencies, Analytical Painting, and Radical Design; however, they have seldom been recognized for the contributions they brought to these tendencies. By way of critical distance and proximity, their works laid bare some of the fundamental tenets of Italian late modern art, revealing the latter’s inherently Eurocentric nature.

The exhibition’s title evokes the subterranean or marginal position that many of these artists were forced to occupy by the cultural politics of the Italian art system. The exhibition, however, considers “subterraneity” a condition that can be critically re-appropriated as a motor for and instrument of artistic creation: an index of the distinctive historical-biographical and geopolitical experiences of the invited artists. In their practices, they expanded and stratified Italian art’s concrete and imaginary topographies to include territories located south of the equator. They engaged the cultural politics of Third-Worldism and the decolonization movements. In subdued and coded ways, they investigated the condition of subalternity, histories of colonialism, and a present marked by the coloniality of power. Collectively, they embraced political, aesthetic, and spiritual concerns often unfamiliar to the dominant discourses of Italian society of the time.

The exhibition invites viewers to to recognize how forms belonging to the vocabulary of Western modern and contemporary art can take on different meanings when they are appropriated and reworked by non-Western artists. Although they were born in conversation with the European artistic tradition, the works on view have deep roots, digging into the visual cultures of the globalized world’s peripheries.
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