Domani, a Palermo #16 – John Kleckner Grazie, Prego, Scusi

July 2 – September 17 2011
Francesco Pantaleone arte Contemporanea – Via Garraffello 25, Palermo

John Kleckner was born on a farm in Iowa. One of those typical places where time goes by slowly, and you learn how to wait, and details become important. This aptitude for reflection, for patience, this care for details and methodical research was then transferred into the artistic practice of drawing, subsequently refined during the years of study at the academy. In the first years after 2000 he moved to Berlin with that generation that today represents the most interesting and multifaceted international community of artists. During John’s training period, his passion for the history of art mixed up with his interests as a young man, so he discovered Surrealism and Dadaism, which accompanied reading Marvel comics, and watching B horror movies. He was enchanted by Pre-Raphaelite landscapes crossed with the Star Wars’saga on a psychedelic soundtrack of Nirvana. Those were the Nineties, and artistic culture fluctuated between a refusal of the rampant commercialization of art works and the growing of a counterculture that tried to free itself from social and economic schemes; between “high” literary references and fantasy and popular mythology, a training ground for a hardcore punk style crowded with invented figures produced by the visionary imagination of the artist. Remote universes and astral landscapes drawn with a super-light stroke of black ink was the basis of the Forty Seasons project, a collection of 40 drawings inspired by forty hypothetical seasons seen as timeless scenarios inhabited by mythological figures, where the typical style of the illustration is enriched with watercolours. John’s drawings started showing a growing tension between figuration and abstraction over the following years, due to the conflict generated by his quest for a formal equilibrium. A surgical accuracy in describing images, on the one side, and a conscious interest for the matter, on the other side, become the cornerstones of Kleckner’s production over the recent years. In addition, one should mention the use of prints and other paper materials that the artist finds, selects and employs as a support and a setting for timeless histories, noir atmospheres, epic fictions, and an invented mythology that emulates certain popular imageries full of romance which the artist unveils in their material flimsiness. These are the experiments that have inspired the work created for the exhibition Grazie, Prego, Scusi, the title of the famous song written by Mogol in 1965. However, in this case, this is the score used by John Kleckner to build one of the collages of the series produced as a conclusion of his stay in the cycle “Domani, a Palermo”. Kleckner experiments with the most traditional of contemporary techniques and uses the surrealistic practice of matching different parts and materials by putting together drawings of small birds, animals or insects portrayed with Indian ink in the style of Albrecht Dürer, with vigorous strokes of colors that invade the surface of the paper and leave only some captions legible. It’s a simple trick: the spray covers the image drawn on the sheets taken from Twentieth century art history publications and the caption remains as a comment of the new composition. The diptych Spring, Early Spring, for example, consists of two papers fully masked with a light blue and a dark blue color, a technique used by the artist to metaphorically interpret that stratification of styles, stories and civilizations that is really experienced in Sicily. One group of the collages is dedicated to the Quattro Canti, a topographical intersection of the two main streets of Palermo, Corso Vittorio Emanuele and via Maqueda, which house, in the niches of the four corners of the Seventeenth-century palaces, the statues of Spanish kings and, at the top level, those of the four virgins of Palermo, the saints Cristina, Ninfa, Oliva, and Agata. Kleckner has embellished the collage with very precise drawing of a tiger mosquito, with Indian ink virtuosities worthy of recalling the best 19th century engraving tradition. This technique is based on a composition principle that uses the unconscious mechanisms linked to a pictorial gestural expressiveness, on the one side, and to the creation of poetic and extremely controlled images, on the other, whose meaning established a relationship with words and with other elements derived from a certain comic strip imagery. This is the first exhibition in Italy for Kleckner: this production is part of his research for a further opportunity to work on the limits of techniques by highlighting that conflict of styles, manners and traditions that probably represent the most faithful portrait of the town of Palermo.