Gina Pane (Biarritz, 1939 – Paris, 1990), renowned as one of the leading exponents of Body Art,is the protagonist of the exhibition scheduled to run at the Osart gallery from 29 November 2018 to 23 February 2019. The retrospective,curated by Valerio Dehò,aims to narrate the poetics of the Italian-French artist through a selection of works produced between 1968 and 1988, originating from important Italian collections. The exhibition consists of Observations (constatazioni)– photographic sequences documenting some of Gina Pane’s most famous Actions– and Partitions, installations, frequently wall-hung, that also bear partial traces of the earlier Actions. These were presented for the first time at the PAC in Milan in 1985, in the show “Partitions Opere Multimedia” curated by Lea Vergine.
The exhibition is organised chronologically and opens with Pierres déplacèes [Displaced Stones], 1968: a photographic sequence in colour produced in the Valle dell'Orco in the province of Turin, a place the artist was very fond of. Here she collected small stones with very precise characteristics (“with a northern exposure, covered in moss and set within moist soil” ) and then moved them to a southward-facing location. This work illustrates one of the first actions in which the artist goes beyond the initial phase in which she created minimalist sculptures (calledStructures affirmées, or Affirmed Structures) to ponder the relation between man and nature. The famous Alpi marittime (Maritime Alps) series of photos by Giuseppe Penone, again located in Piedmont, dates to the same period.
Then we find the famous performance Azione Sentimentale [Sentimental Action], at the Galleria Diagramma of Milan in 1973. The original action, divided into four phases, was addressed to a female audience. The women were invited to arrange themselves around circles traced on the ground with chalk, in the centre of which was the word “Donna” (Woman). The artist, dressed in white, carried a bunch of red roses, from which she removed the thorns, proceeding to stick them into her own arms. She then removed the thorns, letting the rivulets of blood trickle forth. The red roses of the bouquet became white, and the white dress was stained with red.
Also dating to the early 1970s were Action mélancolique 2x2x2, 1974 and Action Psyché (Essai), 1974-1975.
In Action mélancolique 2x2x2 [Melancholic Action 2x2x2] melancholy is explored by evoking the relationships of couples in all possible combinations. The wound that appears in the performance was made by the artist close to the ear, alluding to the famous gesture of Vincent Van Gogh. Here, the Other makes its appearance, and alongside the “I” represented by Gina Pane there appears the “you” represented by the naked back of a girl. The heart drawn upon it, therefore, sets the amorous relationship in a space no longer codified by gender but by the absolute force of the sentiment. As the artist explains, “The Action allows others to become aware of the conflict and to pass from an isolated situation to a unifying one.”
The Action Psyché (Essai) [Psyche Action (Essay)] displayed here condenses the most agonising phases of the action in three photos. In one, Gina Pane is shown with her eyes closed as tears of blood fall from the eyelids that she previously slit with a razor blade. Another is described by the artist herself: “Four lines start from the centre of the body: the navel “I” is the centre that extends outwards in four directions unifying the furthermost points in a synthesis of love.” The ideological and plastic beauty of Action Psyché offers a perfect description of the pictorial philosophy of Gina Pane’s language, who thus goes beyond the preferential language of Body Art.
And if the psyche is the fulcrum of the organism, in the work Io mescolo tutto: Cocaina, Frà Angelico [I mix everything: Cocaina, Frà Angelico], Gina Pane uses the body as the psyche’s natural instrument. This action was performed on 30 October 1976 and was the first in a museum: the Galleria Comunale d'Arte Moderna in Bologna. While two youngsters throw a ping pong ball to each other along a table set against a wall, the artist takes a splinter from a shattered pane of glass and uses it to draw on her forearm the outline of some pieces of a game found on the ground. In several works the shattering of glass – which is an important material for the artist – represents a way of getting out of the frame “going out into the street, into the world, not as mannequins but as flesh and blood.”
From 1981 on Gina Pane ended the cycle of the Actionsand began that of the Partitions. For motives of physical limitation, the artist abandons the use of her own body as language and returns to sculpture with the performative action behind her. In L'Homme à la branche verte qui n'avait pas lu les Fleurs du mal – Partition pour une blessure [The man with the green branch who had not read Les Fleurs du Mal – Partition for a wound], 1982, Gina Pane returns to the idea of the wound with a photo that recalls Action Sentimentale and occupies a central position in the installation.For the artist, the wound symbolises life rather than death; the blood represents an offering of love to one’s neighbour, a fount of energy that frees man from his limitations. Those who despise it are considered ridiculous, exactly like the man shown with the green branch who had not read Baudelaire. The cycle closes with Le Son de F. L'homme indien en prière (version 3) [The sound of F. The Indian man at prayer (version 3)], 1986-88. This work, dating to the second half of the 1980s, is made up of several panels, assembled mostly from copper and iron, on which the artist intervenes. As Gina Pane stresses: “it is as if I were working with my own body made of flesh and bone, nerves, muscles and blood.” Indeed, “copper is a live material, as soon as you touch it you can see the traces.” The geometry of these panels recalls the polyptychs positioned above or behind the altars in the mediaeval churches, while the T-shaped layout also evokes the shape of the cross. The title refers to Saint Francis, one of the central figures in Gina Pane’s Partitions. She devoted several works to the saint from Assisi, fascinated by his poverty and by his vision of faith as harsh discipline.