Galleria Bianconi, Milan
Buster Keaton’s Walk 1964 - 1966, by Fausta Squatriti
The show examines the origins of the artist's work by presenting the cycle entitled La Passeggiata di Buster Keaton [Buster Keaton’s Walk], created in the early 1960s but never previously exhibited.
The title is taken from a play by Federico Garcia Lorca which he described as a farce, written in 1928 after his meeting with Salvator Dalì. The contradiction between the light-heartedness of the walk and Keaton’s enigmatic melancholy became the starting point for the very young Squatriti’s playful depiction of spaces in which debating figures in alluring acid colours describe themselves differently from how they are. Congregated on the edge of a cloud, they throw themselves into the void while the trumpet of doom announces joyful, oblivious defeat.
The canvases are both very large and very small; one of the latter illustrates example no.1 from Squatriti’s first artist’s book, inspired by pataphysicist Alfred Jarry’s Tatane, also on display in the exhibition.
In their eagerness for change in the early 1960s, the Milanese bourgeoisie jettisoned the carved and stuccoed frames that traditionally adorned family-owned paintings, replacing them with the simple, narrow white variety favoured by architects. The young artist fell in love with the discarded frames she discovered at Viganò the framers and created canvases to suit them. This sophisticated but misinterpreted approach anticipated the advent of Kitsch, whose popularity was to take off a few years later, mostly due to the study by critic Gillo Dorfles.
The frames clash with the rampant pink, blue (but also black) spatiality of the paintings, destabilising their contagious gaiety. Misunderstood at the time, Squatriti convinced herself she’d made a mistake and removed almost all the frames. Today, however, they are once again on show, reunited as an integral part of the canvases.
Also on display are six masks Squatriti made in 2012 for Ora d'Aria, a short theatrical performance conceived and created by taking fragments of writing she received from her poet friends and assembling them according to the Surrealist method of randomness. Now, fifty years later, the poetic intent of Buster Keaton’s Walk can be retraced through them: a world never actually abandoned. The masks, which portray six important states of mind in human psychology: Melancholy, Death, Arrogance, Fear, Lust and Madness, become the main characters in a performance staged by the theatre and performing arts group Associazione A, directed by Irina Galli. The sharply ironic polyphonic text offers us not so much characters as a sort of choral song of beings made from words rather than flesh, represented by the masks that perfectly bring them to life.
The staging focuses on the relationship between actor and mask, whereby the actors fully embody the stylisation their mask represents. The actors’ living bodies are negated, leaving room only for the identity of the words themselves in their purest performance.