The Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina (CCCS)
The mission of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi is to revitalise the public spaces of the Palazzo Strozzi, one of Florence’s finest examples of Renaissance architecture, and to establish it as an exciting, dynamic and international cultural destination for visitors of all ages and interests. Now, after just three years, the exhibitions held in the Palazzo’s grand spaces on the first floor are attracting international attention for their quality, their innovation and their diversity. The Palazzo’s courtyard now hosts a café, a shop and a permanent exhibition on the history of the Palazzo, as well as a varied programme of concerts, fashion shows and performances. From the outset, a key part of the Palazzo Strozzi project was to create a centre for contemporary culture at the very heart of Florence, and the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina (CCCS) was created in November 2007 as platform for the different approaches and practices that characterise the production of contemporary art and culture.
The centre is located in the beautifully restored spaces under the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi – known as ‘La Strozzina’ – which hosted Florence’s most important international exhibitions in the years after the Second World War until the flood of 1966. The CCCS comprises eleven rooms of different sizes, approx. 850 square metres in total. The challenge posed by the Renaissance architecture of Palazzo Strozzi for contemporary art is a stimulus to treat each new event and project almost as theatre, constantly pursuing new possibilities of artistic communication, presentation and mediation.
The exhibition Gerhard Richter and the disappearance of the image in contemporary art showcases 12 selected works by Gerhard Richter that demonstrate the range of different styles in his painting, from blurred figurative photo paintings and colour field painting to abstract pictures and monochromes. These works are confronted with works by seven contemporary artists, who also focus on the theme of the dissolution of the image. These works are united in their contextual proximity to Richter’s distanced relationship with the motif, in which he often goes as far as to negate it entirely. Richter has remained true to the medium of painting, yet questions its possibilities against the backdrop of the “end of painting” declared by Marcel Duchamp. The artists with whom he is juxtaposed wrestle with the difficulty (and sometimes impossibility) of making a clear statement on the image in today’s world. In our present media and communication-based society, artists are submerged under an immense flood of images against which they have to struggle, and seek alternative strategies. These include installations, photography, and objects in space. The exhibition continues the CCC Strozzina’s commitment to thematic exhibitions in a new way: the artists featured in this exhibition work with highly differing approaches and media, but each of them is indebted in one way or another to the work of Gerhard Richter, and explores the concept of distance as a means to cause the image to dissolve and mutate.
Richter himself said of this approach: “I blur in order to make everything equal, everything equally important and equally unimportant. I blur so that all parts come together somewhat. I also, perhaps, blur to wipe out superfluous, unimportant information.(1) ”Many years earlier, the Czech writer Karl Capek had taken a similar position on the philosophical importance of letting distinctions blur and dissolve: ‘When you climb to the top of a high mountain, you see that things somehow blend together and level out into a single plain. Even truths blend together from a certain height. Of course man does not and cannot live on a mountaintop […] but now and then he can look at a mountain or the sky and say that from there his truths and such things still exist, and nothing has been stolen from him; rather they have been blended together with something more far more free and unbounded that is no longer his property alone.’(2)
Richter’s work – and that of the artists shown with him in this exhibition – asks us to reflect about the nature of the distinctions we make, and to question our need to insist on knife-like sharpness, on fundamental precision, on ruthless clarity. Today, in a world sorely in need of tolerance and flexibility – of a softer focus perhaps – the issues explored by the exhibition are ones that reward our close and critical attention.
(1) From db-art.info ‘Gerhard Richter in the Collection of the Deutsche Bank’
(2) Karl Capek, ‘Pilate’s Creed’ (1920) in Apocryphal Tales, trans. Norma Comradova, Catbird Press, North Haven CT, 1997 p. 91