Marco Petrus | Andrea Viliani, Matrices of a Permanent Revolution
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Andrea Viliani, Matrices of a Permanent Revolution

in Matrici, Marsilio Editori, Venice 2017

The Campania region and Naples are the crossroads of ideas about a kind of progress that, in order to be carried out with all its revolutionary content, necessarily starts from below. Joseph Beuys was an artist who, perhaps, captured Naples’ revolutionary spirit more than anyone else, even though he was not Neapolitan. And he said that a “revolution” was still possible because here there still exists a popular radical feeling, a possibility for action based on the daily exercise of thought and, therefore, of confrontation, of hospitality, and of coexistence.
Thought and action: two aspects from which any revolution, and hence any utopia, can be born. And so it is to these same two aspects that we can also relate any failed attempted revolution, any counterrevolution, any dystopian drift. Good and evil are deeply interwoven in Naples, precisely as a result of the latent potential that this territory – volcanic and timeless, philosophical and folkloristic, abstract and realist, conceptual and baroque – expresses: Lucio Amelio said that “earthquakes” (a possible synonym for “revolutions”) were permanent here, a condition of the spirit and of society more than a seismographic fact. An earthquake as a procedural condition, at one and the same time interior and exterior.
And so there emerge utopias that contain in themselves, almost innately, the specular risk of their dystopia, a malaise that contains in itself the seeds of revolution, of change, of a reconstruction, of a rebirth.

This is the sense, an intimately dialectical one, behind Marco Petrus’s series of paintings Matrici: perspective palimpsests of a neighbourhood that is symbolic of this exemplary utopian-dystopian relationship: Scampia and its Vele buildings.
In his art Petrus concentrates on the essentials of an urban context; he collects the archetypical elements of a piece of architecture and uses them to represent what can be identified as symbols of a city and a territory. The symmetrical lines, the planar surfaces, the sections of colour, the harmonious structural plan, and the upward-looking views of his Matrici communicate a coherent project, a sensation of control, a need for order, and a rewarded request for community life. Any kind of disturbance seems banished from the scene of the work (and, therefore, from our vision), while the composition develops through regular juxtapositions and superimpositions. So Petrus does not reproduce the Vele buildings in themselves but, rather, reveals all their utopian and revolutionary content. At the same time, though, he does not stay quiet about their fate: at first one of entropy, then of criticism and, a recent development, of their demolition. By painting the Vele buildings today Petrus reminds us that their revolutionary justification remains intact, “regardless” as the comic actor Totò would have said (he was another player of Neapolitan parts and also a Neapolitan, so doubly Neapolitan). Regardless, that is, of their fate, of a history that has decreed the progressive loss of the original plan. But if the Vele buildings disappear, the intellectual earthquake that they embodied will not disappear: their value as a demonstration of that revolution that Naples will continue to call for, of that progress that will always have need of its people. And by putting the surname of this painter of symbolic architecture in another way, “Petrus” or “Stone”, it comes to mind that these stones were not laid down in vain, inasmuch as they are the “matrices” of a permanent revolution.

In 2013 the Fondazione Donnaregina per le arti contemporanee, a contemporary art foundation, set up a support project, Matronato, aimed at pinpointing and promoting projects that for their value and preparation might be able to stimulate social cohesion and stimulation, a dialogue between various cultures and between various disciplines and generations. In order to do so, starting from the production and mediation of art, it is presenting scientific and humanist research as a source for genuine collective progress. For these reasons, Marco Petrus’s Matrici project, presented at the Gallerie d’Italia – Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, Naples, seems not only coherent but more than ever necessary. And so all the more necessary are the thanks of this foundation and of the MADRE museum to Marco Petrus himself, for his serene and resilient revolutionary understanding; to Michele Coppola who, together with all the collaborators of the Gallerie d’Italia, has accepted this project to be held in Naples itself; to Michele Bonuomo, the show’s curator, a Neapolitan and a friend and collaborator of Amelio; and finally to Beuys himself, he too a fan of Totò and, in his own way, also an accomplice in this revolution that, regardless, continues in and around Naples, also thanks to all of these…