His hallmark is a thread of blue, yellow and red acrylic color. With this particular practice he has invaded public places contaminating spaces usually dedicated to ad, has involved people in the production of installations, performances, workshops trying to change the relationship between artist, audience and collector donating the Filo (the thread). The Filo refers to an infinite imagination of ties or relationships but also support and respect because the Greek root of its name contains the meaning of love/friendship. Lorenzo Pezzatini is a Florentine artist who has changed the traditional concept of painting in a time strongly influenced by conceptualism separating the color from the canvas and giving it an objectual and three-dimensional value, independent of the traditional support of the canvas. I took advantage of a pleasant day with Lorenzo Pezzatini and his family to learn more about his practice and world and I report the interesting talk.
Because of the centrality of the Filo in your artistic practice can we start from this? What is the Filo?
I can tell you how it originated, what it means to me and what brought me in life to make this kind of choice... but what it really is I do not know and I do not truly want to know... The Filo was created in the 70s as a detachment of the color from the canvas/surface. After years of painting in 1976 I came to the conclusion that the representative, figurative painting was on my own come to an end. I began to paint with acrylics and doing a reducing search on color, on the surface, on the representation or non-representation I began to use primary colors up to the programmed realization of so-called last painting, a true classic of modern art. It was a unique, final and cathartic event and for me it has been a farewell to the history that I carried with me coming from Florence and living in the United States.
How did you develop this detachment of the color from the canvas ?
The 70s were years when you could see a lot of Conceptual Art: the galleries were empty and a general climate that led to the so-called dematerialization of the art. Discovering the acrylics it was easy to experience the separation of color from the canvas. How did I do ? I carried out a separation: not using more color on the surface but to exploit its properties as a matter/color. The acrylics allowed this because are made of a polymer, a plastic substance that has a body and a specificity of matter. The linearity of the Filo is from a squeezed tube. Once dried the color I began to make little marks, color on color, painting on painting, matter on matter until I realized that these plastic worms needed a three-dimensional soul. I found a way to deposit the color on a cotton thread. It was as if the canvas were frayed in its essential minimum constituent (the threat), and get the color I separated from the canvas. When I created the Filo for me it was an epiphany, a desire to make it continually and for six months I did only this: more than 1000 meters of Filo. The occasion was the exhibition in December 1977 at the end of my BFA degree course at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. I produced Filo obsessively every day. The idea was to paint the space, occupying the whole gallery with the painting/Filo. Title of the exhibition: A Bridging Statement. By the end It occurred spontaneously to create a Filo spool, a container/home that could give the Filo back to me whenever I need it. In synthesis my practice allows me this: to collect/accumulate and to give/receive. This is my beginning. This is my "generative cell". It is the cause that allows me to act being at the same time a part of me, one with me.
How did this freedom facilitate you?
In effect, this allowed me to enjoy a great freedom of movement. I had a dignity of language, a language also innovative because I was presenting me as the ''artist of the Filo" so I began to develop the form of the "Artist in Presence": I as an artist, in the presence with my Filo.
The Filo connecting two ends can be understood as a means of communication. Outside the studio the Filo you created becomes an instrument of connection and communication, am I wrong?
From this point of view the Filo is fantastic. The Filo is my medium. It has a material, sensual, artistic and original essence and to be born it has to be made. It can be cut and tied again, it can be donated, and falls out of the economic sphere to return to the symbolic exchange one, to the communication that transcends its pure physical and material essence. Its making and making again is an intrinsic part of my life. Because that ritual that I put in motion with myself gives me that energy necessary for communication. Do you want to know who I am and what I do? Well I have no problems and I give you the opportunity to do it, there are no copyrights or patents. Maybe at the end of the 70s with the beginning of the post-modern the artist exhausted the strength of the demiurge, the creator. This kind of artist did not make sense anymore. I just wanted to re-establish a contact with the audience.
Late 70s, early 80s were years decidedly unfavorable to painting. How have you lived those years?
Coming from the United States I was not very close to the experience of the Transavanguardia but I was more familiar with the conceptual, the performance, the body art. But I had found my way (my Filo), and I was aware of not finding market for those works but that my economic resources could arise from projects like the “Artist in Presence” and the production of jewelry that in the early 80s gave me the money to live in NY.
Here in which years are we?
Here we are in the early 80s when I lived between NY and Rome and after the achievement of a M.F.A. at the University of Massachusetts. In Rome I had a major exhibition at the Gallery Lascala together with representatives of the group of Piombino, although they interested in social interactive actions. I made over a hundred billboards in both Rome and Florence. One of the last actions in 1995 overlapped literally Oliviero Toscani advertising for Benetton. After removed it I used it as a backdrop during a performance at the Venice Biennale where I was near the entrance dressed as a Filo militant soldier.
Let's go back to our days. After the permanent installation at the SENSUS Foundation in Florence where we met you've just finished a project in Sardinia is it true? What's about?
A Florentine art dealer, Rosanna Tempestini, invited me to an art festival where there were artists, sociologists, linguists. There I chose to continue my research with this tape that I called Filotape and using it on the ground forming complex geometries reminiscent of medieval Cosmatesche. With the help of some students I have done this circle that I called balloFilotondo in honor and celebration of the Sardinian round dance with the figures of men and women holding hands and forming a star.
In your career did you make “strange” actions, what do you remember with more affection?
The three actions on the occasion of the Venice Biennale! I was not a guest artist but one of those who use the space outside of the Biennale gardens in the days of the press opening. In 1993 I was a living sculpture, in 1995 I was a soldier defending the art world intended as a concentration camp and in 1997 I was a mechanic of the art and I was materially making the Filo in public.
How many kilometers of Filo you've made?
It is a question that many people do and it is interesting. Very few, however, are interested in the quality because there is a quality given by the individual touch that is repeated a thousand times and always different, creating the principle of the difference in repetition. You think like a field of grass where each blade of grass is different from the others. Can I read you something I wrote for Artext?
“Filo is never painted but always made, created in the infinite sequencing of unique morphological moments and forms that give origin to a qualitative and quantitative growth aimed towards infinity. The Filo form rises from the deconstruction of the canvas and the extrusion of colour-matter from the orifice of the paint tube. From this indissoluble pair a new episode of the eternal subject-object dialogue springs out, a sort of lay epiphany that unravels in space and time. Filo becomes the medium through which colour transforms itself into an object of the world and allows the maker to know and experience the world itself and his personal relationship with reality in the eternal play of life. A kind of cultural DNA .All this through the pleasure of a continuous discovery of the form and of the possibility for creating a 'loving bridge' with the others. Ultimately the Filo wants to reach a 0 degree in the relationship between the artist and the user. Its purpose is to give birth to an atmosphere of magic and playful parthenogenesis, 'virginal' in its intentions and therefore detached from the economic sphere. If the encounter is positive, a vital lymph feeding the roots of memory will be drawn out, generating pure and profound energy”.