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The work of art between painting, fashion and design. The poetics of pop images in the art of Romero Britto  
Giuseppe Carrubba
ISSN 1127-4883     BTA - Telematic Bulletin of Art, 31th August 2004, n. 374

«Since everything in life moves
towards one final end, we should fill
our life with color and hope»

Romero Britto

Art, and its survival in the western world as a public manifestation, has taken on the role of being strongly allegoric of an ethical and moral conduct.

Through his social function, the artist has acquired an imaginary and creative mode made up of stylistic fragments absorbed from his activity and his life. He is the specialist of vision within society, and of the production of images both superficial and profound.

The mass media have transformed the artist into an icon, they have legitimized his existence and popularity, and it is through the penetration and the resonance effect of the mass media that art has constructed its specifications in the contemporary world.

In Britto's work art is a dream, a story recounted in the land of images, which gives lymph to life, shifting with business: in the art system the object-value, the aura of the work, acquires an economic-humanitarian valency, becoming, with contributions and presences on the part of the artist, a commodity of exchange at the service of life; art as an index of progress through which we can establish a hierarchy of values related to a concept of liberty and happiness.

The hyper-technological global universe cultivates a sentiment of nostalgia and memory of the past, while at the same time wanting to be modern. The artistic operation moves between the artificiality of a market expansion as a repeated economic value and the depth of a culture of a historic matrix.

With its capacity for self-determination and reproduction, art lends itself to a continual process of modification, oscillating between processes of adaptation and processes of creative and critical experimentation, thus confirming its value as humanistic progress that alternates Renaissance and Baroque, Constructivism and Expressionism, as well as pure formal and linguistic moments.

In this panorama, the thriving of art and the artist's condition of freedom, without bonds and restrictions, emerges with moral force when - as often in Britto's work - it goes to sustain philanthropic actions, covering with its spectacular quality all negative disturbance of cultural and social values.

Art thus places trust in the real, and through its language sustains a possibility of humanization and civilization, transforming itself into a therapeutic entity; it is assigned a territory that is authentic because it is unreal and separate.

Romero Britto proposes art that is a life value, a positive value, confirming a formal and linguistic aesthetics which utilizes the technical and constructive aspects of the avant-garde, but purged of the revolutionary charge of strong criticism and negation of existential and social reality, to rise up and reclaim an entity shattered by history in the form of a little Eden of shapes and colours.

The images, the stories told, the figures, are just a pretext for the construction, for the linguistic play within a naive and stereotyped imaginary world; the sign has depth and the colour a symbolic valency.

There is a poetic function filtered by an artist who successfully blends ingenuity and wisdom, richness and poverty, technological and flat colours with desire and the folklore of gaiety.

The artist is the juggler and the acrobat, he who elaborates each time a different mise-en-scène, populated by flowers, butterflies, figures.

Britto's pictures feature ambiguous constructions played out with all the signs of his artistic universe, including those of his own name which are used as a stylistic cipher and a trait of identity and authenticity.

The constructive orientation is of an inclusive kind, in the sense that the artist urges his art to absorb a certain quantity of data originating from the Cubist avant-garde up to the pop culture, from the ethnic tradition to the technological-digital culture, through an approach that is open and conscious.

In Britto the virtual and vital prosaicism mingled with the languages of modem art has created an aesthetic in which the language oscillates between the anthropological and the artistic worlds to assume the status of simple communication. This practice of design and construction invests the material object (the painting) and is transformed into a signal personal practice, in the sense that a dialectic Is set up between objectivity and cultural individuality which becomes an expression of self, a linguistic identity and a social mythicization of the commercialized product.

The language of this artist excludes all argumentation aimed at rhetoric or the ideological coupling with a cultural movement. In relation to reality the artist assumes an ironic and playful position, blending a language recuperated from the historic archaeology of the twentieth century with his own personal imagination, with a non-historical and romantic approach: disenchantment and gaiety.

Conscious that opposing reality would be anachronistic, he accepts its conditions to recount his stories within a sacred space, that of culture and of beauty.

The work of art confirms its existence though a process experienced with energy, passion and freedom, lightness and glamour.

The Hollywood and Disney colours, the culture of the video-game, the comic, the advertising poster, the star-system and fashion, still lifes, Cubism, Pop Art, naive images: all have the same value, a levelling of languages, high culture mingled with low culture.

Things are no longer original, but the quality resides in the evocative power of language, in the art of utilizing it through the play of cultural references.

Research rather than the argumentation of existence is transformed into a linguistic demonstration. The interpretation of the images Is not open but Is established by a consensus, so that there is a unity. The iconic elements are understood thanks to the systems of collective knowledge.

Like TV waves, electronic films, glossy photos, these images are informative ectoplasms of prosaic and childlike affection disseminated through all the social strata of the planet; they are thus subject to fascination in the continual cultured and popular references: they are purified languages, codified in the collective and globalized imagination.

Britto proves to be coherent with the original and profound passion of his activity, through an experience and a sustained research that is in complete harmony with the postmodernist rule and method. He lives intimately the arguments of the present, locating himself both in time and beyond time by reason of a capacity of language which makes him comprehensible to all, establishing a full and absolute autonomy of thought.

Each brushstroke presupposes the successive intervention of colour; the brushstroke is a formal structure which contains its own pictorial solution. The colour finds its progress and its containment within the lines; both define and divide the space, delimiting its borders. The project of the work is predictable and tends towards the maximum objectification of its procedures; brushstroke and colour.

The colour is evocative and symbolic, provided with the maximum capacity for abstraction because anti-phenomenal, without shadows, it achieves its greatest degree of evidence, absolutely flat, perfectly spread out as in the art of stained glass and cloisonné enamels.

The image assumes a fatal kitsch role, in that by offering itself as an ephemeral and transitory phenomenon it becomes a spectacle of pure perception and an instrument of seduction.

The kitsch becomes charged with connotations that are sinful, fantastic, dreamlike and infantile, entering into relation with the desire of contemporary man for the conquest of happiness.

The language of art becomes democratic and accessible to all, against all transcendence and sublimity, aspiring to a formal and imaginative function and enjoyment, freed from meaning and functionality.
Kitsch is the art of happiness because it allows everyone to enjoy.

Against all the cryptic and indecipherable languages based on continual innovation and transgression and on the abolition of any form of pleasure, we witness the affirmation of an art connected to mass culture, with an easy and happy language. A highly decorative art of popular fantasy, which draws its vital lymph from the anthropological and contemporary imagination of man within the social and media world.

Britto is the postmodern artist who is projected onto the plane of recreation to live happily his condition as aesthetic man.

The term aesthetic has to be understood not in terms of the classic idealistic concept linked to beauty, but of its original philosophical meaning of sensitivity, allembracing and all-encompassing perception, as in the Greek word aìsthesis, sensation.

The advanced development of technology and computer science has set man in a condition of perennial travelling over the entire surface of the globe. Subjected to continual cognitive and informative solicitation, he has organized his mental condition into receptors that travel along the optical fibres of binary language, thus creating an individual who is sensitive, mobile and synaesthetic.

Man is thus increasingly involved in the information process, intensifying his own experience and knowledge. In this context, art does not necessarily have to be an exceptional product with an elite language; in Britto it expresses its quality in accessibility, in its being an informative surface of signs and colour, geometrical and floral patterns, fantastic figures and animals; an art which appeals to both children and intellectuals; a pure exercise for the joy of the eyes and the senses.

In the world of art, the painting becomes a product of information and of success. The artistic product is associated with the aesthetics of the banal and in its creative development establishes a formal model capable of setting up relations that are easy to recognize and identify; thus the banal becomes a political fact of affirmation, defining art within the world of the ordinary man. The banal is the idea of an art that is dreamed and an art applied and adapted to the life of every day: the banal becomes intimate and mythical.

The sculptures are aesthetic fetishes, gadgets of a humanism gathered in the search for a shipwreck of its signs. Accumulation, stratification of objects and signs of a material reality, to be collected on an aesthetic tourist trip. Picasso, the cartoons, electronic images, objects assembled and constructed through a geometric spatiality, the symbols of art and cinema, of fashion and industry, all in a mix which is not incompatible for the identification of the work and of its eclecticism.

The trick conceals the clown in the spectacle of art.

From the catalogue "Happy" - Romero Britto
Sala Garzanti, Via della Spiga, 30 - Milan - Italy
Coveri Gallery, Lungarno Guicciardini, 19 -  Florence - Italy
July, 2004



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