“I can do it Myself”. Mazzeo’s Popeye gives us a lesson about the relationship between art and mass culture.
''I could do it myself too". For those who don't not remember it (good for them), "I could do it myself" is also the title of one of the books by the "Mike Buongiorno" of the Italian national-popular critic Francesco Bonami, who with one hand manages exhibitions and hyper-conformist and hyper-aligned biennales, without any real critical idea other than making happy the gallerists and the richest and most up-to-the-minute merchants of the globe, and with the other pretends to shake off his ties with these events by writing in his "fifth grade level" essays (essays?)phrases such as "art should never make someone look stupid" (ah, well, yes, well ...).
A critic who, to talk about giants of the contemporary such as Anish Kapoor, manages to write pearls of criticism like: "Kapoor gives us the emotion of a roller-coaster while avoiding fear"; and on Haring: "Like all the good things but too fresh, such as buffalo mozzarella, Haring's language will not last long'' (if he says so ...). Now, if "Lo potevo fare anch'io" is, in Italian, the title of one of the books of this maître à penser of the international criticism, in English it takes on a sharper sound: ''I can do it Myself". And it is precisely with this title that Roberto Mazzeo, an artist and "cultural agitator", inventor of a movement called "Easypop" (whose goal is "to create a shortcut between the immediate and playful reading of the work and the concealed meaning that it hides, using popular elements that are easy to read") thought to rebaptise one of his recent collections of sculptures. "I can do it Myself" this time is uttered by no less than Popeye, while holding in his hand Piero Manzoni' s artwork.
Sometimes two pictures are enough, such as the famous casual encounter between an umbrella and a sewing machine on an operating table by Conte de Lautréamont, to say more than a thousand (banal) words. Popeye, Piero Manzoni and the phrase that best of all makes it difficult to read and understand contemporary art for those who are not in the know. There is everything in these three elements: the low and the high culture, the super-popular (the real one), and the haughtiness of the Art Market, which devours everything and transforms everything into cash (even those like Manzoni, that really never wanted to become the catchpenny of a hypertrophic, avid and voracious system); and, above all, the thought of 'the man in the street' that the same 'pasdarans' ofthe system (such as Bonami) cunningly adopt, to continue to defend and expose for the eternity what is indefensible. That of Mazzeo is indeed a small essay, in a popular style, or rather in a perfect "Easypop" style, about the contradictions of a system that since many years seems to be stuck in a cultural, formal and communicative impasse that is unable to relate to the general public unless except by showing haughtiness and cheap banality, unable to deal with the totems and idols of mass civilization, unable to compete with the great productions (from the cinema to the internet and the "new" on-demand television) on which the true challenge of tomorrow is played.