Recalcati’s “Impronte” – Alain Jouffroy

Recalcati’s “Impronte” – Alain Jouffroy

The taboo of the human figure in 1950


In the middle of the XX Century – approximately from 1948 to 1956 – the Painting had chosen to be out of touch with reality, topical subjects, photographic images, cinema, posters, advertising, politics. The period of “triumphant abstractionism”, that in the last change of trend of the Paris school ended with Poliakoff, Manessier, Bazaine, then with Mathieu, was the time of a particular mysticism consisting in conceiving art as a selfreferenced reality, unrelated with trivial moments of everyday life, and exclusively soaked of intimate, unconscious and enigmatically problems.

At last form the end of  the Fifties the taboo, to which the human figure was sacrificed,  was over. But this happened thanks to the imprints, to the shapes, to the reflexions, to the shadows of the revived human body: Yves Klein, Recalcati, Pistoletto. All that appeared as a work of magic: it was necessary that the body should marry simply the Painting, without the intervention of the painter, except for allowing to leave the sign of the body on the canvas, on chalk or on plexiglass, as if the body alone or with his form, could destroy all the mysticism of abstraction.

So with the temporary renunciation of their individual expressive power, as if to proceed for simple objective reproductions, the painters had newly oriented the Painting toward the space of the real imaginary.

Yves Klein didn’t know Recalcati, neither he never met Klein when, at the end of 1959 or on the beginning of 1960, both decided, one in Paris, the other in Milan, in the space of few weeks, to throw oneself in the adventure of the imprints. Klein was already at the top of his gleaming career, and Recalcati was at the beginning. In this double light of end and beginning we need to interpret the general phenomenon of the apparition of the imprint in the avant-garde of the visual arts in the first years of the second half of XX Century: the end of the abstractionism, of which the monochrome was the logic conclusion, as goes over Malevic himself, and the beginning of a new figurative art,  today in full development in all over the world, and of which Recalcati is one of the main exponents since then.


Recalcati reinvent the figurative painting


The “impronte” by Recalcati, between 1960 and 1962, form an impressive body of about a hundred paintings exhibited in Bruxelles and Milan since 1960; they have created, for the first time in the history of painting, a new and autonomous figurative language, bound to the real human condition in his world and charged of a dramatic expressive power, that have dragged it toward the antipodes of the utopia and of the absolute. The colour black and terra di Siena confer to these “impronte” a real existential concreteness. Being autobiographical , the paintings immediately refer to the painter himself, that had literally squashed his own face on the canvas, as sometimes do children against the glasses, with that anguished attraction for what is “on the other side”, This dimension of death and eternity in which the paintings remain closed windows. The interior of the chamber and of the studio, the bars of the prison bound in a theatrical way the outlines, as if the practice of the “impronte” should have made Recalcati to discover very early the funereal rites of the representation in an imaginary space. No wonder than if this milanese painter have so much contributed to the renewal completely the way of thinking on the painting and to end the traditional idealistic opposition between action and dream, individual obsessions and social reality.

From 1962 Recalcati has often used the “impronte” inside urban landscapes – of New York and Paris – where give prominence to the anonymity of the mass or of the single individual lost in them. Recently in a most beautiful set of paintings dedicated to  Topino-Lebrun, the revolutionary french painter guillotined in 1801 by Napoleon, with flags and clothes that Recalcati have put in the space of a deserted studio, harassed by the disquieting presence of a easel-guillotine, the imprint identify himself with the personage killed, deleted from the history by the reason of State.

No other painter had ever exasperated to this point the art of the imprint until the dramatic and poetical perfection of the specific figurative painting. The technique of the objective reproduction, of which the imprint is an evident example, by Recalcati has been put on the service of the project, much more ambitious, of a general reconsideration of the condition of the individual in human history: his exemplary loneliness, his freedom constantly suppressed, his word always cut off, and nevertheless it is unfailing the vigilance of his ironic and harsh cleverness in front of all prevailing ideologies.


From “XX Siècle” September 1975