Guglielmo Achille Cavellini (also known as GAC, which is how he signed his name) was a genial, multi-dimensional character who created contemporary art for fifty years-- from the end of the Second World War to 1990, when he died. Through his work, he created a type of enlightened judgement, which justly brought the wavering old system back to individuals and their thoughts. An innovative artist of his time, it seems that most people still do not fully understand the scope of what he accomplished-- both in his professional and personal life.
At the end of the 1950s, GAC left his first expressive efforts and discovered a new type of art in Europe (abstract art.) This contemporary genre illustrated the latest direction in painting, and Cavellini fell in love with it. He became a major collector and offered his opinions freely. To many, his value could be limited to this. However, this was only a jumping-off point, which led him to create a cutting-edge concept of art as an individual choice-- an integral part of his life.
In 1960 he resumed abstract painting with force, after having been greatly interested in it for many years. This can be seen as a forerunner to his writing works, which subsequently took shape. He continued to experiment, and in 1965 he churned out a set of works which constituted a further step toward a diversified use of materials. He recovered everyday objects-- mainly toys, model soldiers, razor blades et cetera-- and mixed them with waste materials to create a kind of “dramatic theater,” laden with memories and social denunciation.
Crates with destroyed works followed (1966-1968,) where he incorporated his previous efforts along with pieces by other artists that he was most inspired by. Here the quotation-appropriation element first appeared (1967-1968,) a concept which took a more defined shape with work made from painted wood. In these pieces, he played with characters from art history and early postage stamps, starting an acknowledging process of celebration. Coal, which was a constant symbol for him (1968-1971,) contained the concept of burning-- to create something new by purifying oneself. It was here that he mixed, more openly, concepts that he had only touched on before. By experimenting with different media—and being influenced by other artists and the image of Italy in countless situations-- he developed symbols that acquired the status of “real works.”
In 1970 he created a series entitled Proposte (Proposals,) where he used other artists' most critical work on a historic and artistic level. Play and irony take on an even greater presence, leaving the uncertainty that this is an extreme, harmful act. In 1971 a crucial turning point occurred in his work: he decided to pay attention exclusively to himself to denounce a system, which he felt was filled with insurmountable envy and narrow-mindedness. He coined the term Autostoricizzazione (“Self-historicism”) as a way to put his judgement into practise. This term may seem like a narcissist escamotage, but this concept was so strong that it slipped into the art system and overflowed to its most vital ganglia, revealing all its contradictions.
His "Mostre a domicilio" (Home-delivery exhibitions) were a sort of “flag” for many young artists with whom he had a tight postage-art exchange. In fact, this exchange was so extensive that a remarkable and compelling archive museum was set up with works from all over the world. On several occasions, Cavellini defined that exhibition as his most important work. He then produced posters that would be used worldwide by countless museums to celebrate his centennial, and he included his name with dates ranging from 1914 to 2014. In this moment, the artist's fantasy goes wild. Free from any shame of self-celebration, he appears in his postage stamps with a grimacing expression.
In 1973 he wrote Pagina dell’Enciclopedia (“Encyclopaedia page,”) which starts with a simple autobiographical account and ends in a real hyperbole on the worship of personality. His writing thus became a “painting code,” which was maniacally and insistently used on any medium: columns, dummies, canvases and enormous clothes. This is how Cavellini should be seen: as a real innovator, forerunner and leader of a new way of communicating in art. He stepped over old canonical relations, giving a concrete answer and vitality to his message of provoking judgement within the territory of art.