Erasing to Reveal: Emilio Isgrò's Visual Poetry on La Lettura
In 2022 la Lettura, launched a unique digital initiative transforming artist-designed covers into NFTs (Non-fungible Tokens).The initiative inaugurated with "Le Farfalle Sapienti" (The Wise Butterflies), a symbolic representation by Emilio Isgrò, as the cover for La Lettura #8, originally published in its physical format on January 8th, 2012. In this piece, colorful butterflies take flight from the pages of a book, embodying the boundless thoughts ignited by a compelling read. The artwork, now an NFT, epitomizes Isgrò's hallmark erasure technique, illustrating a delicate interplay between the visible and the invisible, the concealed and the revealed.
The NFT Cover: La Lettura #8 Le Farfalle Sapienti
In a recent endeavor, Isgrò unveiled an NFT cover for La Lettura #8 titled "Le Farfalle Sapienti" (The Wise Butterflies). Here, colorful butterflies emanate from the pages of a book, fluttering boundlessly akin to the free-flowing thoughts evoked by a compelling read. This work is a testament to Isgrò's hallmark of erasure, illustrating a delicate interplay between the visible and the invisible, the concealed and the revealed. It's an ironic nudge to re-read the world enveloped in a poetic aura, as echoed in his words: "Read in black and white, think in color." The whimsical imagery of wise butterflies epitomizes Isgrò's continuous exploration of visual and verbal communication, embodying his critique against the traditional mediums of knowledge dissemination and the power structures they uphold.The NFT of the cover, generated in 99 copies, was up for auction on Corriere Art Collection, the dedicated NFT "store", at a price of 780 dollars. By the artist's wish, whoever purchased the NFT was also eligible to receive a physical version of the artwork: a Fine Art print on high-quality card stock, certified for collecting.Upon its release, in an interview, when asked about this initiative, Emilio commented:“I have no prejudices. Digital and paper already coexist for the dissemination of newspapers and books, I don’t see why they cannot coexist for art. We are living through a phase of experimentation, we'll see how it will end, but starting with prejudices is counterproductive for culture itself. In a country like ours, it's right to try all means to experiment with new forms of art knowledge. I repeat, digital is welcome if it doesn’t compromise the ability to produce good art, especially towards the world of the young.”Emilio Isgrò: The Master of ErasureEmilio Isgrò, born in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto in 1937, is a multifaceted Italian artist, poet, writer, playwright, and director, celebrated for pioneering an innovative form of visual language in the post-war era. Isgrò, with a background in journalism, moved to Milan in 1956, marking his literary inception with a poetry anthology titled "Fiere del Sud." Although his venture into visual art didn't begin until the 1960s, his literary pursuits and reverence for literary expression laid the foundation for his subsequent "Visual Poetry" works, making him an instrumental figure in the Italian and international artistic landscape.
The Advent of Erasure Technique
Isgrò's artistic evolution reached a pivotal point in 1964 amidst a world burgeoning with information, prompting a re-evaluation of the interplay between written words and imagery. His response was the creation of a now-iconic technique known as "erasure" where he utilized black India ink to obliterate revered literary classics—from Dante's Divine Comedy to Shakespeare's tragedies—alongside a variety of pamphlets and newspaper articles. Isgrò's intent wasn't to annihilate words, but to preserve them by halting their hollowed-out existence via mainstream communication. This artistic endeavor was a critique of the overconsumption of words to the extent of desensitization, and through erasure, he reintroduced their potency by temporary obliteration. His signature erasure technique creates a form of writing between the visible and invisible, concealed and revealed, serving as an ironic provocation to re-read the world, embodied in his poetic suggestion to "Read in black and white, think in color."
Monumental Works and Artistic Evolution
Some of the most profound embodiments of Isgrò's erasure technique are encapsulated in his monumental works between the late 60s and early 70s, where he 'erased' three of the world's vast encyclopedias: Enciclopedia Treccani, Encyclopædia Britannica, and Encyclopédie Larousse. Over the years, Isgrò amalgamated erasure with imagery like maps and paintings, unveiling projects like the 'Semi d’arancia' sculpture series and 'Le api della Torah,' a collection intertwined with insect motifs. His erasure technique morphed from initial newspaper snippets to entire texts and books, with the choice of publication becoming a crucial part of the conceptual aspect of his work. This evolution not only resonated with contemporary conceptual art but delved deeper into the dialects and history of painting, enriching his work with political undertones by scrutinizing the nexus between knowledge and authority.