Howard N. Fox


A New Romanticism – Sixteen Artists from Italy, dal cat. della mostra, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, 1985

The natural world of Bartolini’s pictures is a dream state that derives from an archaic vision of the natural world; his is an evocation of nature and what, in a postromantic and postindustrial age, the romantic myth of nature has come to connote. [...] But in Bartolini’s philosophical presumption that nature is invented by man, there is perhaps another possibility to be reckoned with: that Bartolini is perpetuating the romantic idealization of nature through art as a genuine spiritual affirmation and as the consummate creative expression of the human imagination. Bartolini’s vision of the natural world is not corroborated by nature itself: mountains, trees, and streams may in fact be demonstrated empirically to be present in the external world, but our concept or myth of nature as a more-or-less systematized belief that we have inherited through two centuries of Western culture exists only in the mind and in art, which is an extension of the mind. [...]
Bartolini’s art is a clear example of the contemporary reinvestigation of this disparity between the “brute fact” of the external world and how the human psyche ascribes meaning to it. It is an investigation reflected in the art of this exhibition, and in that of the contemporary avant-garde generally, of the relationship between what is called the real world, or the physical world, and the intellectual and imaginative perception perhaps “reconstruction” is the more apt term- of that world. It is not Bartolini’s primary aim to demonstrate this phenomenological problem; vet the viewer’s awareness of that aesthetic and philosophical problem is the fulcrum upon which a true understanding of Bartolini’s art, as well as the romantic spirit in so much contemporary art, turns. And there is no reason to presume that the problem is investigated here ironically. For whereas the Italian art of the late sixties and early seventies was preoccupied with the ‘issues of art and materials in real time and real space, for Bartolini and the other artists in this exhibition, the transcendent issues are those of imagined time and imagined space.