This exhibition, conceived and curated by Michele D'Aurizio for the Museum MACTE, offers to reconsider the recent history of Italian art as the product of a dense network of cultural exchanges on a global scale. Traditionally, the study of the transnational dimension of the Italian neo-avant-garde has emphasized comparisons with coeval tendencies in Europe and the United States. sub proposes a radical change of approach by establishing a dialog between the histories of post-war Italian art and experiences rooted in other geographies.
The exhibition brings together the work of nine artists born in Asia and South America: Betty Danon, Antonio Dias, Jorge Eduardo Eielson, Hsiao Chin, Tomás Maldonado, Roberto Sebastián Matta, Carmengloria Morales, Hidetoshi Nagasawa, and Joaquín Roca-Rey.
In the decades after World War II, these artists all spent significant periods in Italy and, in some cases, moved there permanently. This exhibition suggests that their research, although it develops in conversation with the Western artistic tradition, is rooted in distant visual cultures that emerged on the periphery of the globalized world. These artists have been affiliated with cultural movements such as Concrete Art, Arte Povera, Feminism, New Tendencies, Analytical Painting, and Radical Design, but have seldom been recognized for the differences they brought to these tendencies. Their artworks challenged and hybridized those movements’ theoretical and aesthetic frameworks, revealing the latter’s inherently Eurocentric nature.
The exhibition’s title evokes the subterranean or marginal position that many of these artists were forced to occupy by the cultural politics of the Italian art system. The exhibition, however, considers "subterraneity" a condition that can be critically re-appropriated as a driver for and instrument of artistic creation: an index of the distinctive historical-biographical and geopolitical experiences of the invited artists. In their practices, Italian art’s concrete and imaginary topographies suddenly expand and stratify, multiplying to include lands of origin located south of the equator and intertwining with the cultural politics of Third-Worldism and decolonization movements. They open local artistic debates to investigate the condition of subalternity in relation to a past of political colonialism and a present marked by the coloniality of power, and embrace political, aesthetic, and spiritual concerns often unfamiliar to the dominant discourses of Italian society at the time.