The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 21-JAN 22

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DEC 21-JAN 22 Issue
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Iconophobia or idolatry

Luca Del Baldo, <em>Buddhas for Tom</em>, 2021. Oil on Canvas. Courtesy the artist.
Luca Del Baldo, Buddhas for Tom, 2021. Oil on Canvas. Courtesy the artist.

For me the most important thing is not the destruction of an image by religious fanatics but, on the contrary: how much this “disfigurement” and violent cancellation of a historical monument or a symbol actually strengthens the relationship with it, with its ghost or trace that remains … Iconoclasm rather than destroying (even if physically it does) makes the vandalized object even more powerful … I think that my project on iconoclasm is deeply linked to the power of images/pictures and their fruition … It is not a critique of idolatry or ancient and ancestral worship for an idol (whatever it is), but how its representation affects us…

History, as you know, is full of iconoclastic acts or vandalism actions, from the Byzantine Empire to the Protestant Reformation or the French Revolution, up to the present day with the fall of the authoritarian, fascist, or communist regimes, for religious and political reasons, ect. In this destruction or removal, a whole society is reflected but, more importantly for me, the multifaceted phenomena of the image changes constantly … There is obviously a difference between a scar on by a mentally ill person or the suffragette Mary Richardson who cut Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus or, again, some “performance” artists writing on masterpieces of art or, controversially, dirtying them with paint … Social media and the internet have amplified these actions out of all proportion until they are almost banal or just search for a certain ephemeral celebrity…

Interesting how Guernica itself has become a fetish/idol, especially for the anti-fascist European Left, going beyond true artistic values (it is no coincidence that an “artist-gallery owner” like Tony Shafrazi was arrested for writing “Kill Lies All” on it). I remember the painting at the Reina Sofia Museum with the uniformed guards in front of it, as if in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, something sacred and untouchable. I think it is a unique case in the history of art. And we also think of the vicissitudes of the painting when the dictator Francisco Franco was still there.

Picasso is the primordial god Uranus and we artists try to evirate/emasculate our Father…

Iconophobia or idolatry is inherent in our history…


Luca Del Baldo

Luca Del Baldo is an Italian-born painter. He currently lives and works in Como. His latest project, on which he worked for 10 years and published by the German publisher De Gruyter in 2020, is “The Visionary Academy of Ocular Mentality / Atlas of the Iconic Turn,” a series of 96 portraits with texts written by the people portrayed, some of the most important contemporary scholars, art critics, and philosophers.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 21-JAN 22

All Issues