Emilio Isgrò
(Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, Messina, Italy, 1937)

Il discorso di Pericle, 2022


Acrylic on canvas mounted on book mounted on wood; 3 indivisible elements
48 × 67,5 × 5,3 cm each
[Photo: Courtesy Archivio Emiliò Isgrò, by SIAE 2024]


Emilio Isgrò made his first erasure in 1964, when he was working in Venice as the director of the cultural pages of the Gazzettino. By carrying out this action, from that very first time, he intended to call into question the canonical meaning of the word or words that he chose not to erase from the written page each time.
In Il discorso di Pericle he erased three double pages featuring the speech of the Athenian orator commemorating those fallen during the first year of war (431 BC), told (or reconstructed) by Thucidydes in Book II of the History of the Peloponnesian War. This text offers a proud image of the city that holds an undisputed hegemony in the Greek world. Pericles underscored the superiority of the cultural and political plan, elevating it to the “master” of the Greeks, and leaving in the shadow the reasons for which its hegemony had become burdensome and menacing for the many pòleis. Although it is an idealization, what Pericles says about the meaning of democracy and the values that make up a human being is what made Athens a legend over the centuries, and a model against all violence, abuse of power, and social injustice.

Emilio Isgrò currently lives and works in Milan. In 1966 he held his first solo exhibition at the Galleria Traghetto in Venice and in 1976 his first retrospective at the Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione (CSAC) in Parma. In 1977 he was awarded first prize at the XIV Bienal de São Paulo in Brazil. In 1977 he participated in the Venice Biennale, where he also exhibited in 1978, 1986 and 1993. His works have been exhibited in major international museums, such as the MoMA in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. In May 2014 his self-portrait Dichiaro di non essere Emilio Isgrò was acquired by the Uffizi in Florence. From June to September 2016, Milan paid tribute to him with a major retrospective held simultaneously in several venues: Palazzo Reale, Gallerie d’Italia and Casa del Manzoni. In 2017 three of his important works joined the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In September 2019, the Giorgio Cini Foundation in Venice dedicated a major retrospective to him, curated by Germano Celant, and in December of the same year the city of Milan awarded Isgrò the Ambrogino d’Oro.