The small, edicola-sized interior of BASE Progetti per l’Arte in via San Niccolò provides unexpected proof that ‘precious things come in small packages’. In spite of its tiny setting—or, maybe, because of it—this non-profit-making exhibition space is probably the most consistently interesting and relevant venue in Florence and, with Prato’s Museo Pecci, in the region, too, for projects by contemporary artists from Italy and abroad.
Franco Vaccari, one of the most significant proponents of conceptual art in Europe, has opened BASE’s sixteenth year with a show that, on first encounter, is as spare and concentrated as the gallery itself.
The installation is called Col Tempo, and time emerges as a telling factor in how we react to what we see. It comprises only two images in black and white. One is a photograph depicting people in a street or piazza. But it has been modified so that all except two have become blank silhouettes. The couple, whose identities are visible, are a woman with a small child in hand. The woman is dressed in the clothes of an earlier era, probably the late 1930s. It comes from Vaccari’s family album.
The second image presents a complete contrast. Presented on the scale of a picture in an exhibition is a quick-response bar code, known as a QR-2D. Now in widespread use, these abstract systems of black cubes in a matrix on a white background resemble insoluble puzzles, but routinely provide instant access to products, documents and, above all, consumer advertising for those with the means to read them.
The third element consists of tables on which books are displayed. These publications allude directly to Vaccari and have, over his public career of almost 50 years, accompanied his projects across Europe, but especially in Italy as printed extensions of his ideas.
Revered in his homeland as an innovator, this Modena-born artist’s work intersects with real life in surprising ways. Indeed, Vaccari has often been among the first to embrace new technology in imaging and communication, even anticipating social networks to construct the ‘conceptual reality’ that alters the places where he shows and, for a moment in time at least, the experience of the people in them.
Not every visitor will decode this show and many lack the means to do so. Vaccari acknowledges that reality as a symptom of the age.
Franco Vaccari: Col Tempo
Until 20 March, 2014
Base / Progetti per l’arte
Via San Niccolò 18r, Florence