Figurative art is (still) contemporary

Figurative art is (still) contemporary
nifosì 2

Giuseppe Nifosì

The definition of “contemporary figurative art” refers to an art sector regarded with suspicion and persistent injury. In fact, throughout the field of contemporary art, in itself very fluid and as such difficult to sort critically, it is subject to misunderstandings and clichés. On the definition of “contemporary art” we could dwell clarifying, first of all, that art has always been contemporary, of course compared to the historical moment in which it developed. Michelangelo was a contemporary artist for the public of the sixteenth century, and this also applies to Caravaggio than that of the seventeenth century.
Is it true that when talking about contemporary art, the public will normally refer to that produced from the seventies of the twentieth century, where one of the fifties and sixties (Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art) is commonly referred to as modern art. What is striking is how “modernity”, the “contemporary” art are closely identified with not only a precise historical mom

michelangelo-buonarroti-pietà-rondanini-02-665x987

Pietà Rondanini-Michelangelo

ent, that of the late twentieth century, but with some specific characters twentieth-century art, in a way so radical to do be anachronistic to everything that is not attributable to this area.
It is certainly true that the idea of modernity is instinctively connected to that of novelty.
What is new is the modern. Everything else, that is not perceived as new, appears fatally old.
It always has been. Cennino Cennini, a treatise of the fourteenth century, wrote of Giotto: “ changed the art of painting from greek in Latin and brought in the modern”. In the opinion of Cennini, Giotto had the great merit of abandoning the ways of Byzantine art (Greek) to embrace those of classical art (Latin), that the treatise writer, already perceived as “modern”. It was the first time that this definition was applied to art.
Cennini was right. The art of Giotto was revolutionary, so new and as such modern. So modern as to be modern today. Equally revolutionary and as such modern would later Michelangelo with its unfinished sculptures and Caravaggio with its many artistic transgressions.
Now, it is indisputable that the twentieth century was marked by many revolutions in art, from those caused by the so-called historical avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century: Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism and Abstractionist. And what of the revolution in the revolution has established itself in this troubled century, marked by a great concern and a deep disillusionment, a new concept of creativity: has been elected to the originality basic requirement of making art, has been relegated to the background the manual ability, it has been exalted the power of ideas.
The outcomes of the twentieth-century art were often very radical and as such the center of violent controversy: so much so that there remains a negative rating on contemporary art thus understood, that many today still struggle to under stand.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon - Picasso

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – Picasso

It is true that when you think about the art of the twentieth century are immediately reminded of the broken figures of Picasso, the ready made of Duchamp, the dripping of Pollock, the cuts of Fontana, Burri’s sacks, the Manzoni’s Artist’s Shit, or, by moving the threshold of the twenty-first century, the sharks in formaldehyde by Hirst.
Extraordinary works, whose strength “revolutionary”, or perhaps I should say “explicitly revolutionary” has given rise to the misunderstanding, in public, that the modern and contemporary art are expressed only by their characters.
A misunderstanding which, however, also involves a fundamental absurdity because on one hand these art forms are not understood and are even rejected by many, judged as a joke, the other one tends to recognize them, and only to them, the status of modernity for excellence.
Now, though unquestionably the Fontana’s cuts affecting the collective imagination with great force, does not make it right to allow such a superficial approach to the study of twentieth-century, which is not only made of urinals, color drippings, cuts , bags, rags or piles of junk and performances. The art of the twentieth century was also figurative, proudly and modern figurative.
They are expressed through the use of figures painters and sculptors of the avant garde (expressionists and cubists in particular), those of the first post-war (metaphysical, surrealistic), those of the second world war (think of Bacon, to the painters of the Transavanguardia). The twentieth century art is populated by figures: in fact, they outnumber the cuts and the bags.
So, it is obvious that even the visual arts, as such, is entitled to be called modern and contemporary. But the risk is that also in this case the “modern” is exclusively identified with the novelty of explicit characters.
The expressionist Kirchner figures, the cubist figures of Picasso, the twisted and tormented by Giacometti and Bacon, with their deformation, distorted proportions, antinaturalistic colors, are nevertheless the result of a new idea, so modern, of making art. They are not harmonics, are not balanced, are not realized with an academic technique, in other words are not classical, and in what would be their modernity.
And this is the cliché harder to dispel: that according to which modernity, contemporaneity are to make first of all with informal and conceptual art forms, then also through the creation of figures but on condition that they are markedly anticlassiche.
The classic shape, rather precisely a certain idea of classical beauty, do not belong to the twentieth century, would not be modern (let alone contemporary) and as such would be “anachronistic”.
Nothing could be more false.
The Vanguards have been proposed as an alternative to the classical tradition, but in any way they canceled. Picasso was very sensitive to the calls of the renaissance and neoclassical culture: in his cubist masterpieces “Lesdemoiselles d’Avignon” and “Guernica” we take quotes from Michelangelo, Raffaello, Guido Reni and Ingres; he himself, in the twenties, temporarily abandoned the cubism, he returned to figurative painting of almost academic mold.

Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe

During the first post-war it is stated in Europe an almost purist Neoclassicism well exemplified by the work of Arno Breker in Germany. In the same years, even in democratic America was celebrated the sumptuous beauty of athletic body, through the work of the photographers, who, think only of Robert Mapplethorpe in the eighties, have relaunched the artistic genre of the nude in a key that does not we hesitate to define classic.
If, then, we come to the present day, it does not appear at all anachronistic the work of painters like Roberto Ferri, who through the exaltation of the figure repeat with his painting the themes of beauty, love, pain, hurt and death. Ferri is defined by the press as a Caravaggio, but this definition, necessarily simplistic, can become reductive and misleading.
The artist is inspired, it is true, to the art of Caravaggio, as well as, however, Michelangelo, Bernini, David, Bouguereau: but every classicist respecting it does and has always done so.
Caravaggio quoted Michelangelo, as indeed was also Raphael, in turn quoted by Annibale Carracci. And on the other hand Michelangelo quoted the ancient sculpture and you could go on and on with examples. The ideal beauty requires it: to build it, you have to make the best of nature and art.
So Ferri is a classicist and in his being that is absolutely contemporary: it celebrates an idea of beauty that has never waned (as evidenced, trivially, the worldwide success of actors and models who flaunt physical sculptural), and why it does it in a completely original way, reinterpreting the contents and forms of classic beauty in gently surrealistic key.

Lucifero-Roberto Ferri

Lucifero-Roberto Ferri

The paintings of Ferri, who are masterfully painted, with an excellent technique, tell us who we are today, when we lost, what we are becoming. His is a search alternative to the many informal, conceptual, neodada or post dada producing works totally different from his, and just as effective (if sometimes less communicative immediacy).
But on the other hand, the magic of art lies precisely in this: in knowing how to speak always and in any case to the human heart, with all the languages of which it is capable.

Giuseppe Nifosì