In his famous piece, Apollo Temple, 1964, the New York artist Roy Lichtenstein gives new life to the ruins of a Greek temple by redrawing the image using the bright and eye-catching colours of the American Pop Art palette.
The new picture is similar to the happy discovery of a child that has come into touch with a wonderful new world and has tried to make it their own by stirring together imagination and colours. Lichtenstein had already toyed with classical themes in work such as Entablatures in the 70s. His free interpretations depict the neoclassical friezes and cornices of 1930s America in a bombastic, two-tiered cultural translation spanning ancient Greece and American Pop Art.
The most surprising aspect in this work is their hypertextual nature and their ability to link very different elements, which emerge through a clear, relentless inventiveness charged with an uncanny logical solidness and intuitive force. This is not unlike Alessandro Dal Pont's strategy, whose work on show illustrates a hypertextual character that is destined to expand semantics to the extreme. The artist freely unravels and manipulates images from American cartoon culture, discovering in it a rich humus of conceptual ideas into which he draws the wealth of classical Greek mythology. The visual short-circuit that Dal Pont delivers to popular American culture and Greek mythology is a sort of Archimedes lever that the artist uses to orchestrate a complex semiotic drift, where each element assumes another shape.
The exhibition resembles a double match or conceptual hypothesis, where Dal Pont works like a doctor subtilis, ready to operate with conceptual and critical meticulousness on the discovery of classicism by the New York artist; he forces a radical inversion that rediscovers American pop by soaking it with the western mythological tradition. This is, however, not a painless task. In fact, Dal Pont blisters Pop Art and American comics' glossy, triumphant and heavenly smoothness by salvaging history and cultural complexity. It is as if the artist had opened up a dark and troubled horizon, forcing "popular culture" to adopt an historical posture, while subjecting itself to the mediation of life and its ineluctable perfection. So Greek mythology becomes an ancestral forefather of the Old World, its traditions and its philosophical and cultural awareness. Now, the two-dimensional spectrum of the cartoon drawing evolves into a complex three-dimensional sculptural expression: Lichtenstein's needle-sharp graphic style becomes living, organic material and the regular Pop pattern gives way to a mysterious metaphorical structure. Thus the exhibition becomes a sort of America-Europe round trip. Initially, this geographical and cultural mirror play appears to be a refined stylistic exercise, but it is really a humanistic action, ready to offer a new paradigm of comparison between the two cultural entities.
The Due Dee (Two Goddesses) animation is haunted by the unmistakeable cartoon outlines of Donald Duck and Grandma Duck, each keen to mirror the other in an unexpected show of metaphoric identity. In the same way that Lichtenstein employed a mirror and the idea of reflection to charge the conceptual duplication of images - a recurrent theme throughout his work - so does Dal Pont's hypertextual intuition, in the case of Grandma Duck recall the mythical figures of Demeter and Persephone. Hellenic tradition tells that Core-Persephone is in perfect concord with her mother, and Core-daughter is willing to become the future wife of Hades and in so doing become Queen of the Underworld. This harmonious coexistence between mother and daughter - the two goddesses, as they were called in the myth and the cult - is destined to break down during the ensuing tension that arises between Demeter and Hades as they fight for possession of Persephone. The sixty thousand carefully selected grains of sweet corn that make up Popcorn are ideally suited to portray Demeter, the Goddess of grain and fertility, and a source of life and wellbeing for men and the countryside. This almost precious divine periplus invests Popcorn with a metaphysical aura, rendering its presence perfectly mysterious, so that it becomes a symbolic image of the Eleusinian rituals dedicated to Demeter. But the first part of the title also illustrates the artist's use of metaphor, identifying it as the semantic passage from America to Europe, from popular culture to Classical Mythology - this golden wonder, originally grown in the New World, was unknown in Europe until Columbus' voyages. REM counterpoises Popcorn from a wholly lower, bleak and funerary position.
The closed eyes of someone absorbed in sleep flutter feverishly; their pupils chase magical images until they slowly suffocate and die, represented by the dying flies inside the eye-cups. This piece almost looks. Its fleeting glances provide a mysterious and claustrophobic vision, built around playful aesthetics, whose anthropomorphic elements spark our creative imagination. The creation facing us comes from a vaguely pop Underworld. Mythological tradition would prefer it if he were invisible, but here he is portrayed as a graphic element lost on a storyboard or in a cartoon animation. Gli Sposi takes the most emblematic melange between pop syntax and symbolic semantics to its limit in this the most complex and enigmatic of Dal Pont's pieces. At first, it appears to be a simple representation of a happy wedding ceremony, embracing a shared sense of harmony. This is achieved and celebrated by the conceptual use of comic strip imagery. To this, male and female iconography, floating somewhere between seriousness and gaiety, communion and ingeniousness have been embroidered. But the harmony between them reveals itself to be fictitious, tainted by alarming and sepulchral details, which have crept in. These intruders are destined to reveal themselves gradually, heralding the piece's descent into an inextricable abyss. The containers recall two sarcophagi, or two mortuary portraits: the red male part is just about managing to keep his balance precariously on taught red strings; alone and adrift he is on the verge of toppling. The eye-cups to the side allude to the glance of the two entities and allow us to see a mysterious circular hole inside the boxes. This is the imperfect and extreme point of contact between the two lovers. The two upper tear-bottles form a similar bond and, again, the red male part appears to be pushed towards the edge by his female counterpart. As with some kind of sculptural explosion, all the inner details reveal themselves towards the outside, each detail is a box on a map of continuous correspondence, whose overall effect creates a perfect symmetry of love and death. This is the portrait of a shadowy and painful union, such as that between Hades and Persephone in the dark realm of the dead.
The descent of the divine young maiden signals the end of Core-Persephone's childhood and the beginning of her traumatic entry into adulthood. At the same time it marks her break-up with Demeter. So Gli Sposi looks like the shabby and melancholic scene at end of a teenage party: abandoned paper cups, still full, litter the place; the presents are tucked away in a corner and Donald Duck's twisted expressions betray an attempt to hold back the echo of the earlier hoots and cries. Alternatively, the two portraits resemble overlapping flowers with broken stems, or even a cubist version of two corollas at the end of their mortal coil in the throws of ejecting their aromatic scent for the last time. Dal Pont's tightly wrapped conceptual skein comprises a complex labyrinth of sounds and stories from different cultures that together make up an artistic language that hangs from a thread of memories, quotations and dreamlike details. Lichtenstein's Apollo Temple was once a metaphor for a dream, suspended between reality and imagination in a fantastic and prodigious journey to discover the Greeks' classical tradition. There is a strong hermeneutic tradition at work in Dal Pont's desire to regenerate traditions, while blurring the differences between cultures. He also displays an intuitive grasp of the fact that truth is not born of selection but grows through enrichment. So pop aesthetics and mythology, popular and ancient Greek culture are therefore not alternatives contradicting each other but cultural paradigms that can be matched and manipulated - almost "readymades". They are the exemplary semiotic messengers of an artistic operation that embraces the multiplication of meanings. Let's imagine him as a sleeping man in Lichtenstein's temple, whose intention is that of conjuring up the exhibition in his mind and inventing the whole world full of an infinite number of recollections and harmonies, spanning past and present, reality and fantasy, reflection and identity.