La caduta di Icaro
The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
'La caduta di Icaro' by the Italian artist Giulio Paolini consists of nine perspex plinths supporting an antique chair which are arranged in three rows of three. There are eight chairs standing and one is turned over with its seat pointing down. Above this, there are white paintings hanging from the ceiling by a nylon thread and the symbol of one of the nine planets in our solar system is shown on the back of each canvas. The size and position of each canvas corresponds to the place occupied by the planet concerned in the solar system and only the canvas with the “earth” lies on the ground, with the jacket of an old Italian suit lying on it. The other parts of the suit are hanging spread out over the other canvases.
The title of this work refers to the story of the mythological figure Icarus. With wings made of feathers and wax, Icarus flew too close to the sun, despite his father’s warning. The wax melted, the feathers came unstuck and Icarus plunged into the sea. Paolini provides a free version of this story. He said: “The protagonist (Icarus) who is performing in this “scena di conversazione” falls onto the canvas on the ground (the Earth) in his attempt to touch Venus.” In Paolini’s version it is therefore not the sun, but Venus, the goddess of love, who is the cause of Icarus’s fall. Paolini does not present Icarus as a person. The “falling” objects in combination with the title tell his story.
Paolini places an existing story and existing objects in a new light. In this installation the arrangement and structure are important elements. They make the work comprehensible. However, they do not explain it. With 'La caduta di Icaro' Paolini raises questions about our art and culture. Is art too far removed from the everyday world we live in, just like Icarus? Is an artist who tries to achieve a higher ideal doomed to fall back to the earth? Paolini’s work is about art and tradition and about the relationship between art and reality. In this respect it corresponds with the work of other Italian artists who became known in the late 1960s by the name Arte Povera. They considered it their task to open the public’s eyes to processes taking place in reality.
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