Naïve Set Theory at Galleria P420, Bologna

Galleria P420 is currently showcasing the exhibition Naïve Set Theory by Paolo Icaro. The name references the mathematical theory developed by Georg Cantor whereby a set is made up of different elements. This choice of name discloses that every piece of art showcased is related to the rest, in other words, it is an element that is part of a whole. Icaro has constructed a dialogue between the different artworks in which concepts such as gravity, levity and the capacity to convey gesture through art are studied. This exhibit brings to life an artistic ensemble in which every piece is central but is also a part of a greater whole. Paolo Icaro has chosen to share the space with young artists Bettina Buck, Marie Lund and David Schutter, unveiling the conceptual complexities behind their work.


Galleria P420

Paolo Icaro, Bettina Buck, David Schutter, and Marie Lund: Naïve Set Theory
Installation view at Galleria P420, Bologna. Photo courtesy of Artribune.


Paolo Icaro’s piece Gesto, made in terracotta, is the result of the artist’s physical force upon the block of clay. By aggressively attacking the clay with a wooden board Icaro symbolizes the artist’s rebellion against authority and its restrictions. In the case of the artist, matter itself is the authority, as it is both the origin of art and also what establishes its limitations. Gesto condenses Icaro’s bold impulse to destroy matter; it freezes the artist’s gesture through time. Levity is suggested by the delicacy of clay which is juxtaposed with the gravity of Icaro’s strikes. Lunatici is yet another example of Icaro’s direct gesture on art. The plaster has been manipulated by the artist’s hands which have torn off part of the container’s filling. Icaro’s Lunatici are a candid reference to the moon’s reflection in a bucket and the feelings of elevation and mysticism that are intrinsic to the sky. However, once again the sublimity of the moon’s poetic image is in opposition to the weight of the plaster and lead which compose the artwork.


Paolo Icaro, Galleria P420

Paolo Icaro, Gesto, 1963, fired clay. Photo courtesy of Galleria P420.


Paolo Icaro also explores how the body is a limitation for the artist. Lassù: per un Blu K is exemplary of how the body limits Icaro’s artistic expression as the piece’s height is determined by Icaro’s own height. The blue Klein sponge placed at the peak of the plaster tower is also an allusion to levity and evokes the infinite sky above. Quota too, by presenting two chairs placed not facing one another, suggests not only contemporary non-communication, but also the absence of a body. Cardo e Decumano further confronts the idea of limitation. The piece connects both rooms and is the central element around which the other works are organized. Although apparently confined by the walls of the gallery, the piece seems to have a continuation beyond these limits and beyond human bodily measure. The artwork references an extension which is yonder and out of reach.


Paolo Icaro,  Galleria P420

Paolo Icaro,Lassù: per un blu K, 1990, plaster and synthetic sponge, 206cm. Photo courtesy of Galleria P420.

Paolo Icaro, Galleria P420

Paolo Icaro, Lunatico gouged, 1989, lead and plaster. Photo courtesy of Galleria P420.

Paolo Icaro, Galleria P420

Paolo Icaro, Cardo e Decumano, 2010, steel, environment. Photo courtesy of Galleria P420.


David Shutter explores the numerous possibilities offered by paint. Layers and layers of brush strokes capture the artist’s gesture and movements on the canvas. The viewer is prompted to dedicate some time deciphering the paintings, as variations in light and different viewpoints reveal many subtle and surprising variations of the same colour. In his work, Shutter attempts to engrave the gestures performed by the masters of European art in their renowned masterpieces. From memory, Shutter mirrors these gestures in his drawings and canvases thus alluding to earlier works of art and bringing into question the concept of authorship. Marie Lund’s The Very White Marble likewise looks into authorship and gesture. Lund’s piece consists of a wooden sculpture which the artist herself has disfigured by erasing its previous features with a chisel. The outcome is a wooden sculpture that somewhat recalls a tribal African sculpture and which bears the marks of the artist’s direct action/gesture on the wood.


Marie Lund, Galleria P420

Marie Lund, The Very White Marbles, 2015, carved found sculpture, wood. Photo courtesy of Galleria P420.

David Shutter, Galleria P420.

David Scutter, GSMB W 21, 2015, oil on canvas. Photo courtesy of Artribune.


Bettina Buck’s art often revolves around the body and its adaptability. Two Girls Looking is made up of two strips of foam rubber placed against the wall, one at a 90 º angle and the other folded down on itself. Both rigidity and flexibility are manifested and the notion of the body is expressed by the piece’s title. Her diptych of photographs further studies the ambiguities of the human body and form. It seems impossible to tell whether the artist in the photograph is facing forwards or the wall and the body is held tight to the wall by a set of ropes. The body is reshaped by gravity and forced to remain still like a sculpture. In like manner, Numericals is a series of photographs by Icaro in which a friend of his was asked to interpret the numbers 1-10 with his body. The stills represent the suspension of time and movement, hence turning an animated being into a sculpture. The body’s slightest gestures are captured through stasis and converted into sculptural art forms.

Naïve Set Theory, curated by Cecilia Canziani and Davide Ferri at Galleria 420 until 26 March 2016.


Bettina Buck,  Galleria P420

Bettina Buck, Untitled (Dyotich), 2013, performance photograph. Photo courtesy of Galleria P420.

Paolo Icaro, 'Naive Set Theory'. Galleria P420, Bologna.

Paolo Icaro, Numericals, 1978, vintage b/w photographs. Photo courtesy of Galleria P420.

Leave a Reply

by Clara Ollier
in Focus on Europe

Wed Development by Digital Art Factory