Published on the occasion of her long-deserved retrospective organized by Muzeum Susch from June to December 2021, this book testifies to the singularity and innovative vision of Italian artist Laura Grisi within contemporary art history. Although her work has mostly been “reduced” to Italian Pop art—if not entirely overlooked—from the outset Grisi worked beyond that category, pertinently intercepting various lines of international artistic research (Conceptual art, Optical art and Kinetic-Programmed art, Minimal art) and applying them in her own original synthesis. Within an activity whose fundamental motif is the “journey”—from remote locations visited and documented, to the multiplicity of mediums used—Grisi embodies a stateless and nomadic female subject who defies the politics of identity, the univocity of representation, and the unidirectionality of time.
Born in Rhodes, Greece, in 1939, educated in Paris, and living between New York and Rome where she died in 2017, Grisi spent long periods of her life in Africa, South America, and Polynesia. This involvement with cultures beyond those of the Western world was destined to indelibly mark her own experiences in the search for a cosmic thinking or “science of the concrete” (Levi-Strauss). Despite making photography the original method of her research in the early 1960s, she subsequently moved to “Variable Paintings” in the mid-1960s (with sliding panels and neon tubes). By the end of the 1960s she was creating dynamic, environmental installations in which she artificially reproduced natural phenomena such as fog, wind, and rain, before ultimately arriving at a descriptive, verbal form and mathematical language as a conceptual tool in the 1970s and 1980s, in order to explore the mechanics of human perception and knowledge. Grisi’s entire body of work strives to take into account the breadth, multiplicity, imperceptibility, and infinite proliferation of all that is possible, but starts out from precise constraints, from paradoxical gaps, from linguistic and semiotic limitations, in accordance with an approach that is close to the Nouveau Roman, to Nouvelle Vague cinema, and the French Oulipo group.