Multifaceted artist and tireless experimenter, William Xerra (Florence, 1937) explored the infinite possibilities of art through the encroachment between disciplines and the contamination between techniques and languages. After his debut as a painter in the 1950s in the wake of Morandi and Sironi, he approaches informal and new dada research, thus winking at conceptual investigations. However, the first decisive relationships are with poets, in particular with protagonists of Visual Poetry such as Emilio Villa and Corrado Costa.
The exhibition documents part of his widespread research and includes a nucleus of small works that testify to the decisive discovery of the interim loom, the temporary loom used by restorers, which would become a recurring element in the works of the 1990s. By gluing objects and clippings, the artist creates a memory graft that gives new meaning to the original components. The exhibition also presents a series of large canvases created between 1984 and 2003, with interventions sometimes several times on the same piece in an always open dialogue between painting, drawing, collage and assemblage. Xerra intertwines high culture and popular culture, composing parts of old works found on the markets with the postcard of the Annunciation of Recanati by Lorenzo Lotto, the drawings of her granddaughter, neon writing, a metal coat hanger and a pink stole, to which she adds his hand a Picasso nude traced with a black mark and a black rectangle à la Malevich. He juxtaposes and rekindles these disparate units with skilful direction within a rigorous composition, resulting from a geometric tradition that reaches from the golden section to Russian constructivism.
The sacred is another important component of Xerra’s poetics, as emerges from various elements and from some titles – Crucifixion (19) and XIV station – and as evidenced by the recent permanent installation of one of his Via Crucis from 1999 in the church of San Fedele in Milan.
The latest research is exemplified by the acrylic works on anodized aluminum of the Aluminum plate series, dating back to 2017. They are thin and light sheets in which Xerra’s love for painting and writing resurfaces overwhelmingly together with her keywords: Well, Stay well, I Lie, Lives and Infinite. Finally, the six drawings from 2021-2022 are the result of a synthesis that comes from decades of tireless work and reveal the artist’s ancient obsessions: the boundless domination of white, the presence of a minimalist sign, the weight of the margins and the objective and absolute value of that “nothing which is nothing”.