Art for Modern Architecture – Years of Lead (1980), 2017
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The ongoing series of collages entitled ‘Art for Modern Architecture’ was begun by Marine Hugonnier in 2004. Each work comprises a newspaper front-page with its pictures hidden by small blocks of coloured paper. Originally, the artist used blocks of bright geometric pattern extracted from Line, Form, Color—a book by Ellsworth Kelly, the American painter, sculptor and printmaker. Even now, long since Hugonnier began making her own, single-colour blocks out of silkscreened paper, Kelly’s influence continues to resonate in the collage series. For instance, Hugonnier’s use of newspaper—a literary genre with special resonance within our social structure—recalls Kelly’s principle that art should serve a structural function in modern life.
This particular collage has, at its base, a vintage edition of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, dated 1980. Indeed, the collage belongs to a subgroup of ‘Art for Modern Architecture’ created in response to Pietro Consagra—a sculptor who was at his most active between the 1960s and 1980s. This date has another, broader significance however: in 1980, the Years of Lead (1969-1980) came to a dramatic climax in Consagra’s native Italy. After more than a decade of political turbulence (fuelled by the leftist paramilitary group, the Red Brigade), Bologna was hit by the deadliest terrorist attack of the era. The newspaper Hugonnier selects for this collage reports this massacre. Its headline reads ‘Apocalypse in Bologna. 76 dead, 147 injured’.
In obscuring the images from this infamous and well-reported event, Hugonnier disrupts the normative narratives of propaganda, spectacle and power, and, thereby, she undermines the authority of each. What’s more, in being highly economic with her information—or, rather, in explicitly withholding information, the artist creates a profusion of imagery. That is to say, each individual viewer is encouraged to bring their various recollections or imagined recreations of the scene to bear upon the artwork.