A memory of Ugo Carrega - When the Gallerist was also a Publisher, a Writer and an Artist

It was Mirella Bentivoglio in April 1974, during “Polistirolo, Collage, Plexiglas”, a Tommaso Binga solo exhibition in the Galleria L’Obelisco in Rome (that of Irene Brin and Gaspero del Corso) who told me that Ugo Carrega, of whom I had a triple memory that saw him poet/ artist, writer/publisher and gallerist/ promoter/merchant, had opened in Milan, in an explicit reference to Marcel Duchamp, the Mercato del Sale, a new space/gallery/association dedicated to the concept of “New Writing”. I went there a couple of months later, for the “At the time of writing” exhibition by Amelia Etlinger, of which the restless and versatile Carrega was a great supporter. An opportunity not only to ask him the two “TOOL” notebooks not received, but also to remember the meeting dated May 1970 in Milan for his solo exhibition in the Schwarz Gallery, and what happened on May 10th of the following year in the “Centro TOOL’’. Could I ever miss (I lived in Turin for several months) the opening of “Dichiaro di non essere Emilio Isgrò” the work/ installation/ show that, in its seven vertical elements on canvas, reiterated the statement of the friend/ eraser on the denial of identity?

But actually the story of the artistic militancy of Carrega begins long before 1974, and it can be started from “éini” the dossier in the cyclostyle of experimental and visual poetry (1958), followed by the role of editor of “Ana eccetera” the magazine directed by Anna and Martino Oberto (1963), and the six issues of “TOOL. Quaderni di scrittura simbiotica” also published in cyclostyle from 1965 to 1967. Year in which, once he arrived in Milan, he theorized the “New Writing” in a wider and deeper reflection on the use of word and sign, and then published in 1968 the “Manifesto of New Writing” with Vincenzo Accame, Martino and Anna Oberto, Corrado D’Ottavi, Rolando Mignani, Liliana Landi and Vincenzo Ferrari, as well as the “TOOL Bulletin” (1968-1970) and in 1969, together with Mario Diacono, the magazine “aaa” published in only three issues. The openings, although limited in time, of the “Centro Suolo” (1969-1970) and the “Centro TOOL” (1971-1973), engaged in visual poetry, are the next moments of the commitment and operation of Ugo Carrega. But it is the birth of the “Mercato del sale”, in April 1974, entirely dedicated to the “New Writing” and to the exhibition, editorial and poetic initiatives connected, which completes and better defines its role in the history of visual poetry. How many names, collaborations and proposals made by the poet/ gallerist / promoter, on the walls of its Centers, with an international perspective that put together Bentivoglio, Binga, Etlinger, Oberto, Isgrò, Ferrari and Accame with Gianni Bertini, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Armando Marrocco, Betty Danon, Luciano Caruso, Sarenco, Shohachiro Takahashi, Franco Vaccari, Irma Blank, Bruno Munari, Ketty La Rocca, Stelio Maria Martini, Concetto Pozzati, Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, Eugenio Miccini, Magdalo Mussio, Lamberto Pignotti, Ben Vautier, Arrigo Lora Totino, Luca Maria Patella, Hermann Nitsch and many others, even peripheral as Francesco Saverio Dodaro, Enzo Miglietta, Franco Gelli, Oronzo Liuzzi, Dario Damato.He carried out periodic analyses/reflections such as the “Collection of New Writing” (1977), “Active Writing. Artistic processes of Writing in twelve Exhibition demonstrations” (1979- 1980), “A census of Italian visual poetry” (1980), “Italian visual poetry” (1984) and in 1989 “The sign of the word and the word of the sign”.

Finally, we should mention the many solo and group exhibitions, the presences at the Biennale di Venezia in 1972 and 1993, and the help given in 1998 to Paolo Della Grazia in the foundation of the Archivio di Nuova Scrittura (ANS). He died in Milan on 7 October 2014.

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He’s been talking about art (many times even about its different relationships with the applied science) since the early 60’s and he always had dealings with the artists directly. Lecce, Bologna and Urbino are the places where he was formed. Rome, Turin and Naples the places where he took action. Free and creative, he has lost the count of the holes in a canvas, he broke a napoleon glass for freeing a captured fly, he experienced 1968 and debated about it, he has an endless Calendar full of words, he burnt down on a pyre papier-mâché horses, and… Thirty years ago, bearing in mind Minotaure, he invented “ARTE&CRONACA”.

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