Interview of Raffaella Perna (curator and art historian) on Lucia Marcucci work. August 11, 2021
• What does Pop Art mean to Lucia Marcucci? Has she ever considered herself a pop artist? If so, why? Has she ever felt like a member of a group or community involved in Pop Art? Why or why not?
Among the artists involved in the experience of Group 70 – an Italian visual poetry movement formed in 1963 in Florence – Pop Art was considered to be a trend insufficiently critical of consumer culture and capitalist system.
The works of Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein were seen more as an acknowledgement of the new visual imagery and consumer culture rather than a critique.
The visual references that Pop artists and artists of the Group 70 look to were similar, belonging to the universe of mass culture produced by the economic boom. Lucy Lippard in her now historical book on Pop Art (1966) immediately noticed this affinity.
But the use of images from advertising, comics and magazines in Marcucci’s and her fellow artists’ works had a more explicit political purpose. In fact, Italian artists spoke of “semiological guerrilla warfare”, using a keyword coinvented by the group.
For this reason, Lucia Marcucci’s work, although formally close to Pop Art experiences, presents more ironic, combative tones and highlights an antagonistic spirit, which is more critical and political. The artist never felt an integral part of Pop Art, which she actually regarded with a certain suspicion.
• What were the sources of her imagery or her pictorial subjects?
The main sources of Lucia Marcucci’s art belong to the mass culture visual sphere: images and slogans of magazines, newspapers, photostories, advertising and cinema. Among other things, she has made a number of artist’s films, including Volerà nel 70 – now very well-known in Italian experimental cinema – using the practice of found footage, which could be considered the filmic equivalent of her images collage. From the 1970s onwards, the use of the body became more evident: for example, in the Impronte series made in the 1970s, Marcucci recalls images of prehistoric Venuses, thus reconnecting with the iconography of the Great Mother.
• Has she ever dealt in your work with major issues and events relating to the period 1961-1973? If so, which ones?
Yes, in her collages Marcucci tackled issues that were central to the politics of the time: there are constant references to imperialism, the Vietnam War, anti-militarism or social issues such as abortion and divorce. Women’s condition is of crucial importance: the artist contested beauty stereotypes to which women’s bodies were forced. In her photographic work “La ragazza squillo”, the artist plays ironically on the double meaning of the word ragazza squillo, which in Italy means prostitute. In “Come ama come lavora” the artist already felt the weight of the stereotype stating that a woman had to be efficient in the public and productive sphere and at the same time devoted to domestic care duties.
• Did the role given to women in the society of that time have an impact on her artistic production and your being an artist?
Yes, Marcucci always spoke explicitly about the difficulty for a woman to make her way in the Italian art world of the 1960s.
• Has she ever received support from galleries, critics, or collectors?
Lucia Marcucci’s work was appreciated from an art critical point of view – I am thinking, for example, of the early support of critics such as Renato Barilli and Gillo Dorfles – but the system of galleries and collectors were not very open to the radical and politically committed experimentation of visual poetry.
• Did she make a living by selling her art or did she do other work (teaching, commissions or other) to supplement her salary?
Lucia Marcucci worked as a teacher.
• As a woman artist, did she ever feel limited in any way at that time as regards the possibilities of being noticed or exhibiting your work?Marcucci, as I said, has often recalled the difficulty for a woman to establish herself in the art system, but at the same time, she has always felt equal to her male colleagues and has always been reluctant to participate in women-only exhibitions. She only did so in certain circumstances, I am thinking, for example, of some exhibitions curated by Romana Loda or the exhibition Materializzazione del linguaggio curated by Mirella Bentivoglio – another Italian artist linked to visual poetry – as part of the 1978 Venice Biennale. But Marcucci was suspicious of these exhibitions because she considered them to be a sort of ghetto. In her opinion, these kinds of exhibitions did not undermine the subordination of women, but rather, in a way, reaffirmed it. For Marcucci, women had to play on an equal footing with men, even though she was well aware of the enormous difficulties women faced in their daily lives and at work.
• What does she think of that situation today and how does she perceive the renewed interest of the public and critics in your work from that period?
Lucia Marcucci looks forward to this phase of well-deserved critical recognition. She is an artist who has struggled all her life, always maintaining great consistency in her work, and it is an important sign that she is now recognised by national and international critics and historiography. I believe that a crucial role in this process has been played by both the growing interest in female artists, not only in the Anglo-Saxon area, and the recent critical reinterpretation that extends the boundaries of Pop Art to different, non-hegemonic, and more politically committed experiences, such as Visual Poetry.