Paolo Cotani (1940 - 2011) is among the leaders of the Grado zero della pittura (the point zero of painting) movement in the 1970s, which was based on the infinite possibilities of the "re-foundation of the language," and the consciousness of seeing art and its functions of radical renewal.
The first solo exhibition dedicated to the artist in the spaces of Via Margutta (Paolo Cotani - Tensioni 1971-2007) highlighted the unique aspect of his research, which explores the paintings’ surface unknown potential. In his series Tensioni e Torsioni he presented new forms of expression by working with three dimensional surfaces.
Today, since the artist passing four years ago, the gallery Erica Ravenna Fiorentini pays homage to Paolo Cotani, retracing the most important steps of his artistic career. The exhibition focuses on the essential feature of his work: the act itself of painting.
Paolo Cotani’s conceptual approach of art emphasizes a self-reflexive and meta-linguistic attitude of his poetics.
In his work the idea is never too far from the action. According to the model of the Greek teknè: action and knowledge together, action and thought; the action of painting - and with painting - as the means of knowledge.
Paolo Cotani was born in Rome in 1940. In 1964 he moved to London where he stayed until 1970. He was awarded the Chair in “Techniques and Materials of Historical Avant-gardes” at the Chelsea College of Arts.
Cotani also worked for theatrical productions, assimilating different cultural influences that would be crucial for some aspects of his artistic research. Giorgio De Marchis described him as “the most English of young neo-abstract Roman painters”.
In 1968 Cotani had his first solo exhibition at Galleria Al Ferro di Cavallo in Rome and in 1970 he was represented in the USA with David Russel by CCAC Gallery in Oakland (CA).
Cotani adhered to the artistic research which concerned the analysis of the syntactical tools of the language known as Grado Zero della Pittura (Zero Degree of Painting).
In 1975 Cotani took part in 9e Biennale de Paris. Manifestation Internazionale des jeunes artistes at Musée d’Art de la Ville de Paris and two years later he was invited to Documenta VI, to Galerie Nordenhake in Malmö and to Zestien Italiaanse kunstenaars (Sixteen italian artists) nel Museum Boymans – van Beuningen di Rotterdam.
In 1979 Cotani had his first retrospective at Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara.
In the 80s he made a number of visits to America: New York stimulated a reflection with regards to his work of the 70s. His friendship with the photographer Ralph Gibson kindled his interest for this new expressive medium.
The meeting between Cotani and Gibson was “consecrated” by the exhibition “Metafora” (1981), firstly held at Cantieri Navali della Giudecca in Venice and then at Castelli Graphics in New York. The photos by Gibson were flanked by recent Architetture by Cotani.
At the end of 90s in Italy and abroad he took part in a number of group exhibitions which reread the art panorama between the 1960s and 1990s. In particular one can mention the exhibition “Le soglie della pittura. Francia-Italia 1968-1998“ held in 1999 at the Rocca Paolina in Perugia with the critical supervision of Sauzeau, Bonami and Corà.
In 2004, at the Universidad de Castilla La Mancha in Cuenca, the exhibition entitled “L’immagine negata” proposed recent compositions which Cotani created by starting out from photographic negatives.
During 2005 Rome offered to Cotani the occasion for comparison with other artists: “L’oro e il blu”, with Gianfranco Zappettini at Arco D’Alibert, and “Translating Rooms. La stanza interiore”, with Gregorio Botta at Understudio.
In 2006 he took part in “Pittura 70 – Then and Now”, a further look at the art of the 1970s proposed at the Italian Institute of Culture in London.
In 2007 Erica Ravenna Fiorentini exhibited “Tensioni 1971-2007“, focusing on Cotani’s latest research, and the Museo della Permanente in Milan proposed works by Cotani as part of the exhibition “Pittura analitica. I percorsi italiani 1970 – 1980“.
In 2008 the work entitled Chorus Line gave its name to the solo exhibition organised by Andrea Alibrandi at the Galleria Il Ponte in Florence.
Amongst Cotani’s most recent exhibitions one can mention those of 2009: “Le superfici opache della pittura analitica” at the Fondazione Zappettini in Chiavari; “Pensare pittura. Una linea internazionale di ricerca negli anni settanta” at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Villa Croce in Genoa; and the anthological exhibition held at the Galleria LAC Lagorio Arte Contemporanea in Brescia entitled “L’aragosta è un mostro delicato”, organised by Marco Lagorio and curated by Micol Forti.