Roberto Rizzo, processes, not objects

Giovanni Maria Accame, in the catalogue of the exhibition Roberto Rizzo - Paintings, Grossetti Arte Contemporanea, Milan, January 2003

The idea of painting which Roberto Rizzo proposes is the idea of a transformed and transforming observation, an observation that has, in the praxis of reflecting, found its instrument with which it takes different realities towards a confrontation which can bring about a contrast, a contamination or a future memory. The experience of 1950s American painting and the successive indications given by radical painting, including the analytical trends of the 1970s in Europe are a clear reference to this artist but it would be deeply restrictive and distracting to think about this as the only source of a more articulated formation.
Between the generation of younger artists and those preceding them, one of the greatest differences that distinguishes the culture and the way to understand the actual work, is actually represented by the variegated diversity of interests and cross-references that, in contrast to the more defined linearity of attentions one could grasp in the works of the older generation, is today a common characteristic. The irregularity with which one, and also the gaze of Rizzo, is being moved and moves over diverse and not compulsory artistic things, does not stop him to have engaged with the methods of inquiry and the performance of existing and, in some cases, also uncompromising work.
It is certainly this way of questioning and reflecting which allows him to seize and to bring together the several roads of this experience within a coherent field of pictorial exploration. Whatever the origin of the stimuli and images, they are being transformed in the language that Rizzo has matured over years. His work presents a process that has developed with determination but surely not without difficulty. Brought to my attention by Carmengloria Morales, I have visited his studio already from those days onwards when he had just left the Brera Academy. Every time, the tendency to choose the less predictable solutions and, in particular, to generate from contrasting situations, has been leading his paintings towards negotiating persistent battles. Also in the attempts of those early years, his painting took shape around an idea, and if that idea was considered crucial it could not be shelved even when it was a difficult one.
Much has remained of this original formula as it seems to conform to the character of the artist, his way of being. The capacity of controlling the internal juxtapositions however, has changed a lot. In painting as in life, every choice entails a process of elimination. As much as one believes to construct by the process of adding, it is always much more that which we exclude that takes itself forward in our construction. Now Rizzo knows to exclude that much which would be a hindrance to the comprehension of his ideas. Above all has he given room to empty space as an essential element for guiding the eye and to make contemplation possible. Without the empty space nothing of that what happens would happen. And in his present works, the continuous sense of happening forms the setting to every other perception. The shape of support, contrasts and relations between the parts and the interruption of the surface, all contribute to stage a happening that, in itself, concentrates the intentions of the artist. This is certainly not a sort of painting that coagulates around improvised and transient moods. The idea that precedes the work requires the time and the space needed for a picture that is born first in the thought and then in the gaze. A conceptuality of painting which, following Reinhardt and Ryman, is nowadays present in many protagonists of this area of experience, from Knoebel to Halley, and with which Rizzo, for the teaching of Carmengloria Morales, has had confronted himself from very early on.
It is certainly the idea of the limit as such that has prevailed in the work of the past two years, clarifying but also enriching itself with further problematic implications. Departing from the actual borders which every work of painting has, from that space of the work ideally, so Rizzo holds, absolute, but in physical reality only relative, he has arrived at other margins of things and of ideas. Making the corners round is therefore a way to accentuate the peculiarity of this artistic discourse recalling history but also the actual physical state of the object. Here, the boundary of the painting becomes a place where history and phenomenology meet. The structure of the surface is witness to all the historical forms proposed by painting in centuries and, at the same time, sign of a physicality in process of positioning itself in our very own space of life, entering the radius of our perception. History and presence make part of a relationship with contemporary art that, immersed in the very act of living a certain experience, cannot be peculiar.
It is probably a way of reacting against an excess of individual emotional nature that Rizzo acts intentionally on two distinct archetypal forms of painting: the monochrome and the moving of the chromatic mixture. Two moments which, in the realisation of his works, develop from precise roles. The cold monochrome moment, impersonal, only sometimes covered by slight vibrations, wants to create a space of visual and mental rest that heightens the attention of the viewer. It is in this silence, which is already an important moment of the work, where the second form appears. At this stage, a form of painting necessary and consequently also extremely symbolic. The pictorial drafting which builds up in those already circumscribed forms, never going beyond the borders, better still, cut out with sharp contours, contains all the sentiment of the act of painting. Out of that evolves, so at least it appears to my eyes, a light form of poetry, without straining. The conceptual construction that, held deliberately on measured ranges and that presides over these works, does not obstruct the forming of an internal expressiveness in itself, but it is for its measured nature that it is more resistant in time and penetrating deeper into our thought.
There is yet another element which I have already recalled and which cannot be neglected: the not absolute but prevalent presence of an interruption, a suspension of the surface which therefore divides itself into two parts. This is an intervention which does not want to have the dramatic force of tears and not even the programmed division of a diptych. The interruption of the continuity of the plane has the function of creating an opening, a threshold that permits to cross the painting not only horizontally but also vertically. The emptiness that inserts itself into the space of the painting is not only to understand as an exit from its unitary state but also as an ideal excursion beyond its depth. This improvised absence of the surface has actually not the character of a generic emptiness but that of a determined absence that is obtained by a precise act of subtraction. That is why the emptiness created like this is a perceptive break, a higher observation of the objective limits of the work, but also the presence of an absence. It is a boundary symbolically dense of meanings because it is container of every possible becoming.
It is probably not without some surprise that, after having carefully observed the work of Rizzo, to discern how every act of his, carried out so formally, is put into discussion by another intervention with opposite characteristics. The balanced harmony that seems to appear in these works is in reality the outcome of a continued tension between opposing forces. It is probably in this way of proceeding that the artist succeeds in touching the limits according to how much he has declared he wants to. In fact, by proceeding to show in every thing the boundary, he affirms the concept of how no element, be it material or not, can be totally autonomous, can exist only in itself. And behind the permanence of the image, is therefore the glance through his conception, the same one which in the concrete presence of the painting does not see an object but a process.