- Domenico Gnoli
- Waist line
- signed, titled, dated 1969 and variously inscribed on the reverse
- acrylic and sand on canvas in artist's frame
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1970
Dusseldorf, Galerie Schmela, Domenico Gnoli, 1970
Darmstadt, Kunsthalle; Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; Paris, Centre National d’Art Contemporain; and Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Domenico Gnoli, 1973-74, p. 60, illustrated
Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie, Domenico Gnoli – Peintures, Dessins, Gravures et Sculptures, 1996
Luigi Carluccio, Domenico Gnoli, New York 1975, p. 140, illustrated
Vittorio Sgarbi, Domenico Gnoli, Milan 1983, p. 153, no. 187, illustrated
Yannick Vu, Domenico Gnoli a Mallorca / in Majorca 1963-1970, Palma 2006, p. 209, illustrated in colour
An abstracted surface of monotone grey hues variegated by faint vertical lines that guide the composition, the consecutive configuration of the work is interrupted only by a conventional grey button. This object of visual spartanism and banality transfixes the viewer's gaze, as the proximity of the undulating rhythm of the ribbed herringbone pattern creates an oscillating visual effect. As a result of the horizontal waistband that divides the composition and the starkly flattened perspective, the sense of distance is collapsed and the work succeeds in dwarfing its audience. Exposing the still life aspect of a buttonhole, a shirt collar or the tip of a shoe, Gnoli employs an arbitrary focus to shift our perception of the mundane, documenting not just that which is overlooked but capturing unique facets of the 1960s quotidian from a magnified perspective. Through a metamorphosis of the ordinary into an abstract synergy of texture and pattern Gnoli instils the everyday with something ineffably new and unique.
The son of an art historian, Gnoli's life as an artist was preordained: “I was born knowing that I would be a painter; because my father; an art critic, always presented painting as the only acceptable thing. He pointed me towards classical Italian painting, against which I rebelled soon enough. However I never lost a Renaissance sense of taste and craft” (Domenico Gnoli quoted in: Yannick Vu, Domenico Gnoli a Mallorca / in Majorca 1963-1970, Palma 2006, p. 32). With his own assertion of his Italian heritage in mind and his unique ability to harmonise an analytical description of details with a dream-like reality, Gnoli’s work was often linked to the classical Italian tradition of painting extending from the Quattrocento as far Morandi, De Chirico and Carrà. The Surrealist tactic of unveiling a new image of the world is reflected in his illusionary magnifications, whilst at the same time his extreme amplifications negate any pre-existing objectivity moving ever closer to abstraction. The linear composition of Waist line brings to mind the geometric abstractions of Frank Stella or the vertiginous visual effects of works by Op artist Bridget Riley; a connection that becomes all the more relevant when considering the artist's career defining exhibitions in New York in the 1950s and his desire to create something exceptional for his solo exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery later that year.
However, despite these classical and modern connotations his works remained utterly unique. The profound attention to detail and distinct perception of reality that has defined Gnoli’s practice stood in complete contrast to the general trends towards an art that rejected any element of figuration and promoted an unrestrained expression. As pointed out by Achille Bonito Oliva: “For Gnoli the figure is the focal point of art, and holds the central position of language, as bearer of the intention and desire of the power of the imaginary” (Achille Bonito Oliva quoted in: ibid, p. 16). He found his enlarged and abstracted details of everyday life to be the ideal vehicle to explore and reinvigorate figurative traditions, staying true to his artistic heritage yet establishing an entirely new creative expression. His corpus is thus imbued with an air of timelessness, surpassing conventional limitations of era or decade to project a singular beauty of figure, form and detail.