Guglielmo Cavellini’s Centenary Celebration—Part 1
Guglielmo Cavellini? Perhaps if you visited the Guggenheim’s Italian Futurist show this summer you would have glimpsed a partial reflection of his work. For those of us who are familiar with his life’s work we understand, despite he not being this or next year’s next big back-from-the-dead artist, his sensationalism is not in shows at every major gallery and museum, but in his rogue truly avant-garde theatrics through the medium of visual and performative art.
If you don’t know his story, google his name. Most likely you have already done so. The history is easy to find if you search, and so with limited space here I give you your first instruction so that I spend less time recycling what has already been thoroughly documented by those who were closest to him.
A fellow art-worlder said to me that the gallery which represents his estate, shouldn’t expect Cavellini to become a thing for quite some time, if ever. It seems his theatrics are also what got him into trouble with the art world, his performance, deemed too over the top to be taken seriously. Well then to hell with the lot of American artists, whose axes-to-culture, is a culture of Bolder/Stronger: the way it won its freedom, sailed out conquering for slave import. The way it freed its people, industrialized its Nation for most of the people, saved Europe from a deadly leader, its military might and war planes—politically known as a Super Power. Space travel, muscle cars, and television shows, its music—Americans live an audacious life. Like all other aspects of this culture, American artists have always struggled to set themselves free from the rest of the world in similar fashion.
We are a theatric in the constant making, and our relationship to time has made it a cultural Truth that it is us, just being us. Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, in his own right, awakened to some kind of truth and began living and making art in his own image, while just being himself. No monitor, no limitations—how he imagined himself.
Cavellini was born in Brescia in 1914. He was a collector, dealer, art historian and critic, as well as an artist. Eventually he began to use his home as a gallery, and by 1946 he was considered a dealer of note. For Italians his home became a de facto salon for Abstract Art. And when Pop Art came on the scene, Cavellini was there. He was a prolific artist crossing genres, and mediums and his evolution is very apparent through his work.
There are countless artists who have operated outside of a status-quo informed by an establishment. Cavellini is such an artist. The legacy of his works lives on thanks to the individuals that knew him or his work while he was alive, and by institutions who feel obliged to, have been charged with, the continued historicization of Guglielmo Achille Cavellini and his expansive body of work and ideas. Galleries and institutions around the globe, including Istituto Italiano Di Cultura New York and San Francisco, continued online and physical mail art discourse, and brick and mortar galleries, like LYNCH THAM, and Whitebox here in New York have held tight to this 14 years after his death.
Last night LYNCH THAM, who represents the artist’s estate, opened their Centenary G.A.C. show. On view are works from Cavellini’s Carbon series. The intentional act of self-making will alter a trajectory, and it is also ones past that must be reconciled. From 1968-1970 G.A.C. created a series of Carbons that involved a purging process of burning works, signaling the end of his personal history. The meaning and object become one. Irony is a word you will hear repeatedly associated with Guglielmo Cavellini, and the Carbon series is just another example. He destroyed works to make the carbon, erasing his history, yet they remain on view as a work of art.
Whitebox is hosting a month long exhibition and forum, CAVELLINI 1914 – 2014 A SURVEY, EVENTS AND MAIL ART SHOW, to celebrate the artist’s centennial. Including a survey and exhibition curated by video and performance artist Mark Bloch (Panpost), who also uses email and the Postal system in his own work. The show will exhibit Cavellini’s work, alongside a Mail-Art show “exploring the themes of GAC / Cavellini, Ego and Self-Historification. Culled from Archives + Contemporary.”
Cavellini is said to have had some 10,000 artists from around the world which he regularly corresponded with. Also around town, the Museum of Modern Art will present Analog Network: Mail Art, 1960-1999 on November 14th. Presaging the internet, Guglielmo created exhibition catalogs, which he distributed widely. We live in a bootstraps/start-up era, which makes all the more reason to take this opportunity to get to know G.A.C.