The thematic exhibition “Recto Verso” presents artworks that consciously foreground the hidden, concealed or forgotten phenomenon of “the back.” Conceived by the Fondazione Prada Thought Council, whose current members are Shumon Basar, Elvira Dyagani Ose, Cédric Libert and Dieter Roelstraete, the exhibition combines notable works from the Prada Collection as well as others on loan from international and national museums, galleries and collections.
Western art tradition has mainly conceived of paintings as frontal (“recto”) artifacts. The back (“verso”) carries significantly less cultural meaning, destined to be beyond the public’s perception, and only visible to the artists themselves or staff at museums and galleries. In this exhibition, artists flip the back of a canvas to the front by using, for example, the traditional trompe-l’œil technique, already made famous by Flemish painters, to foreground the frame not the picture. Or, double exposure photography is used to see through the work itself and emphasise the structural and physical features of the object. In the case of late 1960’s French movement Support/Surfaces, the picture plane vanishes completely, and all that is left is the support material. In other works, cryptic messages are stowed away in the back, waiting to be acknowledged.
Artists from different generations and genres – such as Carla Accardi, Louis-Léopold Boilly, Gerard Byrne, Enrico Castellani, Sarah Charlesworth, Daniel Dezeuze, Lucio Fontana, Llyn Foulkes, Philippe Gronon, Roy Lichtenstein, Matts Leiderstam, Gastone Novelli, Giulio Paolini and Pierre Toby – turn a simple gesture into a rich historical examination of truth, illusion and ways of seeing.