Giovanni Di Stefano
Works from 1983 to 2022
The evolution of the forty-year long artistic research by Giovanni Di Stefano (Rome, 1958) is hard to understand without interpreting his works as actual interactive experiments having an open scientific value, rather just an aesthetic one. This aspect, which directly links him to the Eventualist Theory, is clear from the very beginning of his career and it is key to understand his entire production, of which the exhibition presents an anthological overview.
In 1982, when he was a twenty-four-year-old student of the Academy of Fine Arts, Di Stefano joined the Jartrakor Research Centre, which was founded in Rome in 1977 by Sergio Lombardo, Anna Homberg, and Cesare Pietroiusti. Since the beginning, it was clear that he adhered to Eventualist principles. This is shown in his Experiments of Blind Painting from the early 80s, a wide selection of which opens the exhibition. In these works, the artist delegated the production to another blindfolded executor, who had to cover – using either a marker or graphite – the surface of a simple geometric shape (i.e., a circle or a square, drawn on cardboard) in a set time frame. As a real scientist, Di Stefano provided the materials and explained the rules of the experiment. Then, he observed and studied the results, looking for any match between the aesthetic result and the executor’s personality. Sometimes, he was personally involved in the blind painting experiments, like in the event held in Jartrakor on 13 January 1984. On that occasion, the artist, who was blindfolded, used a graphite stick on a circle drawn on a wide cardboard paper (270 x 270 cm) fixed to the ground, thus putting on an actual one-hour-and-forty-five-minute-long performative act, during which the artwork absorbed all his ‘body’ signs.
Throughout the eighties, Di Stefano continued to be interested in visual deprivation, and, in the following decade, he took up a new research path and tried to break away from the material aspect of graphite in order to approach ‘cooler’ materials, such as the laser which was used starting from the early nineties to create particular photo-graphs conceived without any expressive intent. In all these works, including the modular one of 2002 on view at the exhibition, the executor worked in a dark room, where he ‘drew’ on photosensitive paper using a laser beam. This was an unconscious process, because the sign could only be seen once the photographic paper was put into the developer. Just like in the abovementioned experiments, the executor, who was certainly aware of his physical actions, could not immediately verify the results of his acting.
In 1998, Di Stefano moved to Basel, Switzerland, where he still lives and works. In the first decade of 2000, also due to the fact that he moved to Switzerland, Di Stefano focused on other kinds of experiments based on spontaneity, which led him to go beyond blind painting and pictorial space, like in the case of Lines (2009), which is made up of 18 MDF modules painted in black, or the multimedia one Rips (2007). Here, as made clear by the video that is an integrated part of the work, chance and error are considered the pillars of a creative process that does not need any other decorative elements (e.g., like the colours) to carry meaning. As a matter of fact, just like most of Di Stefano’s works, this piece is in black and white, and space is divided by linear elements created in an involuntary way by executors who ripped some papers into four parts, without paying aesthetic attention to the process.
Such different techniques, which were related to the Eventualist principle of expressive abstinence, were further developed in the following decade. However, the most characterising field of the last ten years of Di Stefano’s research is his focus on some pictorial ‘geometrical’ works, where figures were realised in a random way using darts. Throwing darts cannot be deemed to be an absolutely random process, since the executor’s ability and focus are directly connected to their will. However, as in the blind paintings and other experiments carried out by Di Stefano, rather than being interested in the final aesthetic result, the artist focuses on the experimental action that leads to that result, which is characterised by what we may call ‘significant errors’ that, as such, shall be analysed as elements of strong creative value. The exhibition ends with the impressive dArts (2015) and two recent smaller works presented to the public for the first time, which are also made using darts and pave the way to further possibilities for future artistic-scientific experiments still to be explored.
With a text by Anna Homberg and an interview to the artist curated by Cesare Pietroiusti
The exhibition will be open until Saturday, 2 July 2022