The study dedicated to Mario Sasso (b. 1934), organized by the National Gallery of Modern Art and curated by Silvia Bordini, shed light upon the entire career of an artist who was a pioneer in adopting technology as a further development of his research as a painter. These are the tools used by Sasso to «paint» and to better know the world, the one reflected in the personality of people, the one that converges with urban landscapes, the one that takes shape in contemporary dynamic and ubiquitous spatiality. Silvia Bordini, who organized this day, has been studying the work of Sasso for some time now and through the filter of an open vision – in projects created together. She demonstrated the spontaneous manner in which she has always considered works produced for television, paintings, video installations as if they were different facets to be included under the hallmark of a single artistic quest.
Participation of special guests and experts Francesca Gallo, Pietro Montani and Claudio Zambianchi, artists such as Maria Grazia Pontorno along with the many others who contributed to the day made it possible to retrace the roots Sasso’s creative output beginning with Professor Claudio Zambianchi’s lecture about the artist’s first paintings. It is here that the leitmotif which was to accompany his diversified and multi-faceted career right up until his more recent «electronic production».
For decades his creativity, a combination of knowledge of technique and a predisposition for experimentation, was stimulated by 46 years (1959-2005) of collaboration with Italian television channel RAI. It was Mario Sasso himself who introduced his experience, an essential premise to his work, and an important parenthesis in the history of Italian television and culture.
In the late 1950s, aside from television commercials, variety shows and film cycles were preceded by introductory themes, a programming schedule layout of its own right in no way associated with commercial purposes. This meant freedom of expression in terms of creativity without any compromises and Sasso did exactly that in relation to his aptitude for painting. The artist gave a wonderful interview with Francesca Gallo for the book dedicated to Silvia Bordini in which he stated: «I was immediately intrigued by the possibility of ‘warming up’ the video image and I began doing so even before tools like the paint box (Photoshop’s first real ancestor) came along – a kind of pen that could be used as both a pencil and a brush». From this initial experience, Sasso immediately understood that «video tapes and video installations had a choreography based upon rhythmic and chromatic colours that needed to be orchestrated» (Sasso). Painting was interwoven with graphic art and videos during this first stage of experimentation. Themes like the first 3D productions created to present the television news broadcasts in 1984 (tg2) and 1986 (tg3) – with music by Brian Eno – have become a part of Italy’s collective imagery and were soon recognized as works of art in and of their own.
The theme created for «Non è mai troppo tardi / It’s never too late», the historic programme dedicated to teaching literacy to Italians, retraces a piece of history that told of an Italy of the not-the-so-distant past which was radically fragmented – aside from traditions and customs, it was mostly divided by regional dialects. Twenty-five out of over one hundred themes produced for RAI were followed by video clips of countdowns created for the RAI Sat network layout in 1990 by artists invited by Sasso such as Baruchello, Canali, Nespolo, Luzzati, Plessi, Cucchi, Verde, Paik, Patella, Boetti and Studio Azzurro, called in to experience 10 seconds of shooting to put together the recognizable signs of each with a different genre of television.
Mario Sasso’s long artistic experience resulted in a bona fide «television genre» which finds continuity in the more recent electronic evolution and his production of video installations which has been particularly intense since the 1990s. The primary role painting plays in his works remains such even when shooting methods are entrusted to hand motion and left to chance.
Experts took turns speaking to expound upon different aspects of the artist. Pietro Montani’s lecture localized Sasso’s art; dedicating particular attention to his urban video-landscapes and the works he created on topographic maps in a space beyond Cartesian coordinate systems. The «cinematic eye» leaves the system to become an eye that operates within the living environment. Space takes shape in that which exists between itself and the filmed area – between real and virtual – and, as such, a non-topographic territory. Francesca Gallo continues with the contextualization of his work among experimentations of contemporary artists whose pictorial quests also led them to electronic means. The young artist Maria Grazia Pontorno recalled the five years during which she worked as Sasso’s studio assistant. Her account was essential to the completion of this portrait of an artist who cultivated his creativity through dialogue with others, an exchange aided by his membership to the Associazione Operatori Culturali Flaminia 58. The headquarters for this association of artists revolves around a courtyard, a hidden paradise that opens behind the doors of a busy street in Rome, around which are located the artists’ studios along with the white-cube like exhibition space. The mission of this venue is projected towards the promotion of art with particular attention to experimental forms of expression.
Mario Sasso nurtured his work and research throughout many important collaborations. Among these, remarkable is the one one with composer Nicola Sani who wrote – among other things – the soundtrack to monumental installation La Torre delle Trilogie, a work dedicated to the theme of light, of water and colour, experimentation of the technique of vertical editing, presented at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Rome in the year 2000. Collaboration with artists and cultural open-mindedness are at the base of Sasso’s creativity but these are also lessons and an inspiration for a generation of today’s artists destined to battle individuality.
The conclusion opened a discussion on the possibility of creating electronic art workshops in support of creativity and experimentation with new artistic idioms. In Italy’s case this would mean investing in the country’s most precious resource: culture. From a global perspective, this means for Italy to be tuned with many other European countries and the United States, to name a few, who recognized the importance of researching new technological means of expression years ago as both an applicative tool as well as a creative potential.
 M. Sasso, in Francesca Gallo, Mescolare i codici, cercare nuovi linguaggi. Intervista a Mario Sasso, in F. Gallo and C. Zambianchi (edited by), «L’immagine tra materiale e virtuale. Contributi in onore di Silvia Bordini», Saggi di storia dell’arte, Campisano, Rome 2013 (IT), p. 160
Mario Sasso, Teli e Pacchi, mostra Urban Life, ph7 Gallery, Roma 2008 (1) Mario Sasso, Le città continue, video-stills, 2000 (2) Mario Sasso, Telecamera su Roma, Galleria comunale d’arte moderna, 1999 (3) Mario Sasso, Sigla Tg3, realized for the news of RAI’s channel 3, soundtrack by Brian Eno (4) Count down, still-sequence recently realized as an homage to Paolo Rosa, from the series of count downs realized for RAI- Radio Televisione Italiana in 1990, courtesy Mario Sasso (5) Mario Sasso, Torre delle Trilogie, 1997-98, presented in the same venue at the GNAM- Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome in 2000.