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Pino Pascali (1935-1968)
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Pino Pascali (1935-1968)

Testa di Drago

Pino Pascali (1935-1968)
Testa di Drago
painted canvas over wood armature
60 x 33½ x 22 in. (152.4 x 85.1 x 55.9 cm.)
Executed in 1966
Galerie M.E. Thelen, Essen.
Stella Baum, Wuppertal.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1995.
Essen, Galerie M.E. Thelen, Pino Pascali, May - June 1967.
Bremen, Neues Museum Weserburg, Arte Povera from the Goetz Collection, June - May 2000, p. 155 (illustrated in colour p. 253). This exhibition later travelled to Nuremberg, Kunsthalle Nürnberg; Cologne, Kölnischer Kunstverein; Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig; Gothenburg, Konsthallen Göteborg and Munich, Sammlung Goetz.
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Pino Pascali, February - March 2006, p. 67 (illustrated pp. 56-57).
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Lot Essay

Io son come un serpente
ogni anno cambio pelle.
La mia pelle non la butto
ma con essa faccio tutto.
Quel che ho fatto di recente
Già da tempo mi repelle

Io, sono un punto a sinistra del foglio.
Traccio la I continuo in o salto alla s passo alla o percorro la n
termino in o

I am like a snake
I change my skin every year.
I do not throw my skin away:
With it I make everything.
What I have just made
Has already repelled me for some time now.

I am a point on the left hand side of the page
I draw the 'i' go on to 'o' jump to the 's' pass to the 'o' go through the 'n'
and end in 'o'.

(One of two poems composed by Pascali for the exhibition of 'finte sculture' at the Galleria l'Attico in Rome 1966.)

'I do not believe you make shows in galleries, you make the gallery, you create the space.' (Pino Pascali cited in L'Attico 1957-87: Trent'anni di pittura, scultura, musica, danza, peformance, video, Milan,1987)

Testa di Drago (Dragon's Head) is one of the famed 'finte sculture' (fake feigned fictive sculptures) that Pascali made for his celebrated show at the Galleria l'Attico in Rome 1966. A combination of real and mythical creatures suggested by hollow ('fake') sculptural forms made out of canvas on a wood frame in the manner of theatrical props, this menagerie of fantastical animal form transformed Fabio Sargentini's gallery into a mystical space that he compared to Noah's Ark.

Pascali's finte sculture were an extension of the aesthetic of 'play' that Pascali had first launched upon the art world with his exhibition of life-size toy/fake weapons at the Sperone gallery in Turin a year earlier. This aesthetic was a serious attempt to explore the world through creative and playful experiment in much the same way that a child explores his or her own universe by playing with the things it finds around it. Permeating the gallery walls and floors, the swimming dolphins, dragons and dinosaurs' heads, Loch Ness monsters and sharks fins, generated a sense of the gallery space being an artificial and permeable membrane bordering on another world, bordering on fantasy. In this way Pascali articulated his belief that ideas, concepts, the way in which we interpret and understand the world in terms of supposedly concrete entities such as words, images or things, is also built upon such artificially constructed spaces within our minds. His art is an attempt to demonstrate an ability to transcend these borders and to reveal the wider and richer nature of reality extending through and beyond such a framework of thinking.

Similarly the form that these 'feigned or fictitious' sculptures takes is neither vague nor precise but an approximation that captures the essence of the idea of the thing that it depicts. 'The important thing with these objects' Pascali said, 'is that they look like sculptures...the fiction which automatically determines their identification with a certain image; a certain word in the dictionary, cannon, sculpture, Brancusi...(the important thing is that)...they are what they are, they are made of stretched canvas over wooden ribs and they look strangely like sculptures, like the images we have within us.' (Pino Pascali, cited in Carla Lonzi, Autorittrato, Bari, 1969.)

It was for this reason that many of the finte sculture are of extinct animals, nearly extinct animals and imaginary but known creatures of myth and fantasy such as a dragon. In attempting to capture a formal description of the 'idea' of these animals which we all share, Pascali may well have been influenced by the elegant and reductive art of Brancusi but he was also quite likely to have been inspired by the simplistic but equally communicative rendering of form used by, Johnny Hart in his favourite comic strip, B.C.

Concentrating on extinct, nearly extinct and imaginary animals, behind these 'ideas' of animals lies also a sense that such concepts exist in a perpetual state of transition and evolution. Underpinning each of the finte sculture therefore is also a question of survival - one that asks which 'images' are relevant or necessary to our contemporary and 'adult' worldview and which can or should be discarded and forgotten. Paradoxically, Pascali also discovered that, it was 'through fictions of this sort that I succeed in proving to myself that I exist, precisely because I believe in them myself...I am so sure that as I make this work I really am succeeding in existing, I am able to look at myself in the mirror.' (Pino Pascali, cited in Carla Lonzi, Autorittrato, Bari, 1969.)

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