LA PITTURA È FINITA
Poses and impostures of Alberto Greco in Italy
Unpublished photographs by Claudio Abate
©Archivio Claudio Abate
Alberto Greco travels to Italy, probably in July 1962. In Genoa, he published his Manifesto Dito dell Arte Vivo in titalian, dated July 24 and printed on posters that he pasted on the walls of the city:
“Living art is the adventure of the real. The artist will teach to see not with the painting but with the finger. He will teach to see again what happens in the street. Living art searches for the object but leaves the found object in its place, does not transform it, does not improve it, does not take it to the art gallery. Living art is contemplation and direct communication. It wants to end the premeditation that gallery and exhibition mean. We must get in direct contact with the living elements of our reality. Movement, time, people, conversations, smells, rumors, places and situations. Living art, Dito movement ”.
Greco had started his live art actions a few months earlier, in Paris. Exhibiting a poster with the text “Première Exposition Arte Vivo” Greco points out people and objects with a chalk circle and his signature, inaugurating a type of intervention that he will later extend in Rome, Madrid, Buenos Aires and New York.
During his time in Italy, Greco pushed the poetic program of the vivo dito to the limit, expanded it and transformed it into different forms of action. In Rome he meets the photographer Claudio Abate, who accompanies him on his tours to the historic center of the city, in which Greco walks with colored chalk, according to Francisco Rivas1, covering streets and walls with ephemeral graffiti: “ La pittura è finita. vivo-dito art by Alberto Greco. Live art and the adventure of the real”. At that time he refers to his friend Lila Mora: “I have written all the walls of Rome. Great scandal. I don’t know why I am considered a propaganda genius here”2. The street becomes a space for the inscription of a writing that is drawn and scrawled between the pose and the imposture of the body.
Abate photographs Greco in action, while he writes the words VIVO ART on the street, interrupting or diverting the traffic of cars, calling the attention of the people who walk through the place. In another photograph, he registers Greco standing, posing in front of a brick wall on which we read, in large letters: “Alberto Greco ma chi è? Un genio”. We do not see Greco during the development of the action, as in the previous photographs, but at the moment of its conclusion, in front of the wall that he has just written. It is possible to interpret this and other vivo ditos made by Greco in Rome, in dialogue with a previous action that took place in Buenos Aires, in November 1961. During this action, Greco covered some central walls with the slogans “Alberto Greco ¡¡Qué grande sos! !!” and “Alberto Greco. The most important informalist painter in America”, but not through the chalk line, but through the printing of typographic posters used in urban advertising.
In a later vivo dito, also recorded by Abate, Greco dresses as a nun, one year after his emblematic exhibition at Pizarro gallery in Buenos Aires, embodying the violation of the limits of the painting that he proposed in that exhibition.
On January 4, 1963, together with Carmelo Bene and Giuseppe Lenti, Greco premiered an experimental play, entitled Cristo 63, at the Laboratorio Theater, an independent room directed by Bene. Conceived as “Spettacolo Arte Vivo”, the work had to take place, according to Greco, “in the middle of the street or inside a tram or on the subway platform,… with all the adventure of the real, incorporating the unforeseen”. The public, for their part, could “act whenever they please and tell a story, if it is their own, much better”3. The work resorted to improvisation, with a structure not defined in advance, although it incorporated references to the passion of Christ and fragments taken from James Joyce’s Ulysses and Genet. The very night of its premiere, the police intervened, closing the play and closing the theater. Greco, who represented the apostle John, wore a blue-green velvet robe, which he got up at a certain point in the play and, according to some testimonies, urinated in the stalls, where the Argentine ambassador was. The graphic media recorded the scandal of Christ 63 and characterized the work as vulgar and blasphemous, with a “bizarre symbolism” typical of those characters that “psychopathology treatises define as exhibitionists”4.
After the hasty closure of Cristo 63, Greco must leave Italy. His next stop is Madrid.
1 Francisco Rivas, “Alberto Greco [1931-1965]. The novel of his life and the meaning of his death ”, Alberto Greco, Valencia, IVAM Center Julio González, 1992.
2 Cited by Francisco Rivas, ob. cit.
3 The quote belongs to Alberto Greco’s Great Vivo-Dito art manifesto-roll, made in Piedralaves in 1963.
4 Marta Marchetti, “Cristo ’63 by Carmelo Bene. Omaggio a Joyce”, Acting Archives Review, year VIII, nº 16, November 2018.