Flashback, Eclipse is a groundbreaking study of 1960s Italian art and its troubled but also resourceful relation to the history and politics of the first part of the twentieth century and the aftermath of World War II. Most analyses have treated the 1960s in Italy as the decade of “presentism” par excellence, a political decade but one liberated from history. Romy Golan, however, makes the counterargument that 1960s Italian artists did not forget Italian and European history but rather reimagined it in oblique form. Her book identifies and explores this imaginary through two forms of nonlinear and decidedly nonpresentist forms of temporality — the flashback and the eclipse. In view of the photographic and filmic nature of these two concepts, the book’s analysis is largely mediated by black-and-white images culled from art, design, and architecture magazines, photo books, film stills, and exhibition documentation.
The book begins in Turin with Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Mirror Paintings; moves on to Campo urbano, a one-day event in the city of Como; and ends with the Vitalità del Negativo exhibition in Rome. What is being recalled and at other moments occluded are not only episodes of Italian nationalism and Fascism but also various liberatory moments of political and cultural resistance. The book’s main protagonists are, in order of appearance, artists Michelangelo Pistoletto and Giosetta Fioroni, photographer Ugo Mulas, Ettore Sottsass (as critic rather than designer), graphic designer Bruno Munari, curators Luciano Caramel and Achille Bonito Oliva, architect Piero Sartogo, Carla Lonzi (as artist as much as critic), filmmakers Michelangelo Antonioni and Bernardo Bertolucci, and, in flashback among the departed, painter Felice Casorati, writer Massimo Bontempelli, art historian Aby Warburg, architect Giuseppe Terragni, and Renaissance friar-philosopher-mathematician Giordano Bruno (as patron saint of the sixty-eighters).
“Adapting the cinematic and temporal processes of flashback and eclipse recruited by Italian artists and film directors in the 1960s, Golan creates her own montage, in which art and politics, history and criticism, as well as the memory and actuality of Fascism become enmeshed through techniques of ‘mimetic subversion.’ The result is a dazzling mosaic that stages contemporary auteurs, like Pistoletto and Antonioni, in conversation with the historical figures of Aby Warburg and Giordano Bruno. Based on this subtle historiographic strategy, Flashback, Eclipse not only challenges prewar and postwar periodizations in Italian art, but also reevaluates the performance of anachrony in the writing of art history.” —Spyros Papapetros, Associate Professor of History and Theory of Architecture, Princeton University
“Romy Golan explores the historical unconscious of 1960s Italian art as she opts for a new kind of temporality that is nonlinear and fractured. With a great command of film history, graphic design, and exhibition history, she presents us with an unprecedented study of Italian artworks experienced through their mediation, suggesting that we ought to look at the filters — the mirror images, hues, and experimental mise-en-page — that obliterate and reveal these works.” —Maria Antonella Pelizzari, Professor of Art History, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York
“This masterful book reveals the richness and complexity of a poly- centric, dispersed, even anarchic art scene — the Italy of the 1960s — that no institution was powerful enough to unify, label, and export. It was known that Italy had been the laboratory of some of the most radical political experiments of the twentieth century, for better or for worse. Here we discover that, around 1968, it delivered the unexpected elements of a new political economy of the arts.” —Patricia Falguières, Professor of Renaissance Studies, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales