Savage Events

Superstudio's ideal cities were 12 in the English version, 13 in the Italian version, but rumors of an unpublished 14th city have been circulating for a while. The Last City does exist and will not be a secret for much longer.

Black Square is extremely proud to have the chance to publish, for the first time, this mythical 1978 text within Savage Architecture. Savage Architecture - exhibition and book - is about to be launched with three events this week in London. Authors Gian Piero Frassinelli (former Superstudio), Matteo Costanzo & Gianfranco Bombaci (2A+P/A) and editor Davide Sacconi will be here to explain and discuss the work.

Celebrations will start the Architectural Association on Thursday, 6 pm, with the opening of the exhibition and book launch. 

The  actual discussion will take place at the Italian Cultural Institute, 39 Belgrave Square, on Friday at 6 pm, with a roundtable debate between Sam Jacob (Sam Jacob Studio), Markus Lahteenmaki (Drawing Matter), Jacopo Benci (British School Rome) and authors 2A+P/A and Gian Piero Frassinelli - chairman Davide Sacconi. 

Finally, on Friday, from 10 pm on, we look forward to seeing you at Nomad, 58 Old Street, for a Savage Party with music by Signorina Van de Rohe. During the party, Signorina and AYR (the collective formerly known as Airbnb Pavilion - Alessandro Bava, Fabrizio Ballabio, Octave Pero & Luis Ortega Govela) will play a preview of a Savage Video - we won't spoil the surprise saying who stars in it... but we can promise it's going to be fun.

Signorina van der Rohe: pink is the new black.

Signorina van der Rohe: pink is the new black.

25 sacks of plaster

Let's toast to Black Square's first year!

25 sacks of plaster, cast for The Supreme Achievement's opening

15 spectacular students for our first workshop

12 cautionary tales by our favourite architects to be published next February 

8 films redrawn in our new book Interior Tales

4 new partners in crime: our friends at CAMPO

3 months since we became feminists

1 new adventure brewing up with Dogma (surprise)

25 sacks! Lera Samovich & Olivia Marra at CAMPO

25 sacks! Lera Samovich & Olivia Marra at CAMPO

The 15 Supreme Achievement participants: Marco Uliana, Lera Samovich, Davide Matteazzi, Claudia Mainardi, Angelica Palumbo, Moad Musbahi, Antonio Laruffa, Hunter Doyle, Marta Kruger, Sofia Pia Belenky, Roberto Boettger, Lukas Akinkugbe, Adriano Tasso, Stefano Madelli and Gerta Heqimi

The 15 Supreme Achievement participants: Marco Uliana, Lera Samovich, Davide Matteazzi, Claudia Mainardi, Angelica Palumbo, Moad Musbahi, Antonio Laruffa, Hunter Doyle, Marta Kruger, Sofia Pia Belenky, Roberto Boettger, Lukas Akinkugbe, Adriano Tasso, Stefano Madelli and Gerta Heqimi

Francesco Marullo of Behemoth, one of the 12 collectives that took part in The Supreme Achievement (with Sofia Pia and Hunter).

Francesco Marullo of Behemoth, one of the 12 collectives that took part in The Supreme Achievement (with Sofia Pia and Hunter).

One of the 8 narrative perspectives of Interior Tales (courtesy 2A+P/A).

One of the 8 narrative perspectives of Interior Tales (courtesy 2A+P/A).

The CAMPO quartet - Matteo Costanzo, Davide Sacconi, Luca Galofaro and Gianfranco Bombaci.

The CAMPO quartet - Matteo Costanzo, Davide Sacconi, Luca Galofaro and Gianfranco Bombaci.

Black's Maria had a very militant autumn. Here, in her proud feminist bitch act.

Black's Maria had a very militant autumn. Here, in her proud feminist bitch act.


The Master of Black Shapes

Ellsworth Kelly died yesterday. His brilliant work is impossible to capture in photos as he strived his whole career to achieve a complete unity of form, colour, and materiality. We could say that you cannot get more abstract than Kelly: his most famous works are shapes made out of aluminium, completely even and smooth in colour. None of the covert symbolism of Ad Reinhardt's ton-sur-ton crosses. None of the histrionics of Barnett Newman's single gesture on his Onements (nor, of course, of Newman's penchant for drama and pretentious references in the choice of titles). None of Rothko's hypnotic landscape-like depth. None of the industrial quality of Donald Judd. None of the geometric rigour of Frank Stella.

However, we could also say that because of this, Kelly was the most concrete of all abstract artists. His work needs to be seen. It cannot be expressed in a sketch, a photo, or a brief description. Its colours are saturated, dense, impossibly even. Others have worked with the idea of a shaped canvas - perhaps Stella most notably - but none as consistently as Kelly. In Kelly's work the aluminium surface is frame and canvas at the same time: shape and substance. Painting and sculpture. It is truly what Judd would call a 'specific object' that is as impossible to categorize with words as it is to record on film. The pieces are large, often in scale with the human body, allowing the viewer to lose himself in the flatness and intensity of their colour. As Kelly himself said, 'the form of my painting is its content'. Many XXth century artists would have liked to be able to say the same, but not many succeeded in this quest as much as Kelly did. In books and websites, his works are sometimes titled 'forms', and sometimes 'shapes'  - I am trying to understand whether this is a mistake or a choice. In general terms, shape is defined as the 'outer appearance' of form (which is supposed to be the fixed, unchangeable, and radical base of the shape).  As such shape is subject to change but also individual interpretation, whereas form is supposed to carry with it the oneness of Plato's ideas. In any case, Kelly's specific objects could also be interpreted as shapes, perhaps to insist on their possibility to be understood and misunderstood in different ways. 

Can we then charge Kelly's work with being 'literal' and lacking 'presentness', as Michael Fried did with most minimalist art? Can we apply Fried's critique to it - namely, can we say these are 'theatrical' pieces that depend on the viewer's presence to have any meaning at all? Perhaps not. While it is true that Kelly's shapes defy digital diffusion and can only be seen in person, this does not mean that they depend on the viewer. On the contrary, their strong formal aspects make them, if anything, very complete in themselves, almost monumental in their precision, smoothness, size, and geometry. They are mysterious and somewhat impenetrable, they exist in and of themselves with a solidity and absoluteness that seems to ignore - rather than challenge - the viewer. They can be interpreted as fragments, of course, and as such they can be seen as 'incomplete'. However this is not at all the impression that they give in real life, as their scale makes them clearly alien to the everyday context. They are obviously manmade, yet also timeless, non-referential.

In this he perhaps managed to do even better than one of the people who inspired him the most as a young artist: John Cage. When Kelly lived in Europe in the 1950s, he looked up to Cage as a mentor and friend and indeed there are similarities between their researches. The attempt to make of art only a frame is something Cage and Kelly shared, albeit in very different ways. Cage himself told an interviewer in 1978 that decades before de Kooning would tease him saying 'it's not like I can do art by simply framing some breadcrumbs', to which Cage took some breadcrumbs from the dinner table, framed them with his fingers, and retorted that it's exactly what one should do. However, Kelly's frames do not play with the aleatory, neither they depend on chance. Kelly made of the frame his main job and that's what makes his work so elusive - but perhaps also so architectural (not theatrical: architectural). On the other hand Cage's music embraced a certain unselfconsciousness and playfulness that are very much part of Kelly's work as well. Without ceasing to be rigorous, Kelly's art has a refreshing effortlessness to it.

Obviously in over 70 years of career Kelly produced works of different kinds but we mainly refer here to his monochrome shapes, which constitute the bulk of his work and he produced in a consistent manner since the late 1950s, never abandoning a clear line of research and yet never repeating himself. The relationship between form and colour in these works is extremely interesting - why should the red panel be triangular, and the yellow rectangle with two filleted corners yellow? Is it an attempt to make different forms of perception coincide syaesthetically, or is it the ultimate demonstration of the fact that our understanding of colour is historically constructed? In this, his monochromes are much more challenging than others (from Ryman to Klein).

He often worked with black but as you can expect his black artworks (paintings? sculptures? objects?) are never really square. 

Nick Walters, the studio manager of Ellsworth Kelly, at work.

Nick Walters, the studio manager of Ellsworth Kelly, at work.

Ellsworth Kelly, Black Form, 2011.

Ellsworth Kelly, Black Form, 2011.

Ellsworth Kelly, Black Shape from the Mnuchin Gallery Singular Forms 1966-2009 exhibition (2013).

Ellsworth Kelly, Black Shape from the Mnuchin Gallery Singular Forms 1966-2009 exhibition (2013).

Dark Blue Panel, Dark Green Panel, Red Panel, 1986.

Dark Blue Panel, Dark Green Panel, Red Panel, 1986.

Ellsworth Kelly, The Mnuchin Gallery Singular Forms 1966-2009 exhibition (2013).

Ellsworth Kelly, The Mnuchin Gallery Singular Forms 1966-2009 exhibition (2013).