The world of night rules on the dark, monochromatic canvases hanging in the Centre National d’Art Contemporain. Bernard Noel asks Antonio Recalcati about these pictorial disasters. The artist answers that for him, to be a painter is to be both mad and possessed by the void: “My Imprints are gestures of no return… The imprint is my negative”. The painter throws himself or some of his clothing on a thickly coated canvas: The image retains the void of his absence.
In 1960 the 22-year old Recalcati went through a crisis in his painting, a crisis reflected in the darkness and closeness seen in his canvases. Looking at them we can feel the lack of air that must have choked Recalcati, when he pressed his face against the canvas, unable to live with painting and unable to live without it.
Alain Jouffroy notes that in 1960 both Recalcati and Yves Klein (without knowledge of each other’s work) renewed their ties with the prehistoric origin of art by doing imprints – in their case not of hands on grotto walls but rather of bodies on canvases. But while Klein asks his female models to imprint their bodies, painted blue, on the canvas, while he maintains a distance, Recalcati use his own body in the dark, alone. His results frighten us by deriding our traditional values of health, happiness and the “normal”. He shows us a sick universe, a “sad hospital” of a world where man is alone and enclosed in a police system that fingerprints him. Recalcati does not ease life for us any more than for himself. While Yves Klein’s removed and aristocratic attitude keeps him within the tradition of the Western nude, with its total lack of obscenity, Recalcati wants no part of serenity or nobility. He is deliberately indecent and obscene. He identifies with the gutter. His imprints are lonely males whose sad bodies and wretched masculinity dominate unhappy canvases. He brings their worn underwear out and displays it indecently on the surface, their traces showing soot and misery. Recalcati is more interested in the impossibility of living than in the possibility of painting. The texture of the underwear evokes the skin, the sweat, and the fever of male bodies deprived of a feminine presence before it speaks of a painting. Instead of hiding misery, it display it.
Recalculation’s paintings evoke a dark, sad world of narrow streets and brothels, of the underworld and male couples doing the tango. In the absence of women’s bodies, misery thrives against society which represses and divides men and women. Recalcati waves is Imprints like the black flag of despair, as if his paintings were the last in the world.
From “XX Siècle”, 1976, n°46