Navarro or Scirpa? Heated argument at the 53rd Venice Biennale. By Emanuele Zucchini. Arte Contemporanea

Arte Contemporanea, september-october 2009

Navarro or Scirpa? Heated argument at the 53rd Venice Biennale Ideas are in the air, and sooner or later, someone will claim them as their own. This is perhaps the conclusion that could be drawn from one of the halls at the Arsenale hosting the 53rd Venice Biennale. In fact, this Biennale offers an interesting view of the contemporary art world, along with some topics that are causing no little debate. In particular, in the Chilean pavilion, one cannot help noticing the remarkable similarity between works by Ivan Navarro (Chile, 1977) and those by renowned Italian artist Paolo Scirpa (Syracuse, Italy, 1934). A part of Navarro’s work is very similar to that developed by Scirpa in the 1970s, with his Ludoscopes, in which neon lights and mirrors are used to create a succession of colourful forms that recede towards an illusion of infinity. Scirpa presented the Ludoscope, as it was baptized by art critic Carlo Belloli, in 1972, attracting attention from scholars, artists and critics because of its success in combining art and science. Navarro’s works presenting a marked similarity are titled Death Row and BED, and their affinity to those by Scirpa are immediately obvious […] The assembly of mirrors and lights creates an illusory reality, displaying a view of infinity that looks tangible, giving viewers the impression that they could enter, just as in Scirpa’s work. Therefore the similarity is not connected to conceptual aspects, but to the aesthetic form that has been employed. In BED, the work is presented using another visual icon frequently adopted by Scirpa, the well: in this case, our eyes are tricked by the mirrors and reflected lights, in an infinite series of reflections of the word “BED,” whence the title. My intention here is not to criticize this part of the Chilean artist’s work, but just to point out that it has reached Italy 30 years late […] From this point of view, Navarro’s work resembles a project in the course of development, based on one of the most interesting and visually successful episodes of art in Italy; it could be considered as a tribute to Scirpa which on one hand can only give us a sense of joy and pride, while on the other, we would have preferred this debt to have been acknowledged.

Emanuele Zucchini
Arte Contemporanea, september-october 2009, pp. 84-86