Fabio Mauri, The End, 1960. Courtesy of the Estate of Fabio Mauri and Hauser&Wirth
23.03.19 - 25.08.19
For the first time ever in Denmark, HEART presents a solo exhibition featuring Italian artist Fabio Mauri. Alongside fellow artists such as Piero Manzoni, Mauri was a central figure on the Italian art scene of the 1960s. Focusing on issues such as rebellion, propaganda and nationalism, Mauri’s works raises many questions – including the subject of how he saw fascism seducing individuals, peoples and states.
From 1954 onwards, Fabio Mauri was part of the Italian avant-garde movement that rebelled against the traditions of art, particularly those of traditional painting. Mauri worked concurrently with other Italian artists such as Piero Manzoni, who tried to purge painting of all narrative content and meaning by getting rid of colour and recognisable motifs on the canvas. Like Manzoni, Mauri worked with monochrome surfaces, for example in the series Schermo (Screen) from 1958 to 1968. Mauri, however, did not set out to strip the surface of all meaning; rather, he wanted to explore how a work of art can produce memories, questioning what we each associate with the materials and forms seen in the work – as well as how art documents our story.
Mauri was interested in the meaning and significance conveyed by art, exploring, among other things, the meaning of the final screens seen in cinematic films, featuring the words ‘The End’. What might be the significance of such endings? All things in life must come to an end, and so the words ‘The End’ become a kind of memento mori. The term ‘Memento mori’ means ‘Remember that you must die’ and is used to describe works of art intended to remind us that life does not last forever. We are all going to die. Often, a skull is used as a symbol of human mortality, but in Mauri’s work the skull has been replaced by ‘The End’, which we may read as the ultimate conclusion to all – death.
A key element of Fabio Mauri’s work is his interest in man’s dual nature as both good and evil. He was not afraid to face death or, through his art, of revisiting and staging evil. This is why he chose, among other things, to reprint Nazi press photos in the work series Manipulazione di Cultura / Manipulation der Kultur (Manipulation of Culture), 1971–75. Here, we are brought face to face with evil, war and destruction.
Fabio Mauri's works comprise countless drawings, paintings, installations and what he himself called ‘theatre performances’. After World War II, many artists were reluctant and afraid to use the war and its history in art. Mauri accepted the challenge, actively using the war as the starting point of his works.
Mauri’s works reflect his personal interests as well as the major issues of his day, including political ideologies, death, war and our perception of history. His endeavours testify to an urge to document things that tellingly reveal human behaviour and history right down to the smallest detail. Therefore, he also explores how film and media contribute to shaping the way we see the world.
In the 1970s, he began to work with performance art while taking his starting point in fascism. For example, he uses the black ‘The End’ screen familiar from cinemas as the backdrop of a performance he calls What is fascism. Tellingly, Mauri uses a full stop rather than a question mark in the title, thereby suggesting that his performance is the answer! Unlike many other performance artists, Mauri did not use his own body as an artistic medium. Instead, he involved young drama students who received directions in the form of a written manuscript. Text was absolutely central to Mauri, and he wrote the texts for virtually all his installations and performances. As an artist, he moved between the realms of literature, art and theatre. His interest in texts was no fluke: Mauri was born into an Italian printing family which owned the publishing firm Bompiani. Mauri worked there himself from 1957 to 1975, and the company still exists today. In 1979, Mauri was offered a position as Associate Professor at the Academy of Arts of L’Aguila, where he taught experimental aesthetics until 2001. Experimental aesthetics is an art form that challenges and experiments with the ways in which we understand, encounter and sense art, just as Mauri did by combining literature, art and theatre in his own works.