From Ian Davenport’s candy-coloured stripes we arrive today at the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s ‘Everyone Gets Lighter’, a rainbow coloured neon arch most recently installed on the side of the Kunsthalle Helsinki alongside Rondinone’s exhibition of the same name, as part of the Helsinki Festival last autumn. The phrase itself is taken from a poem by the poet John Giorno who died of a heart attack, aged 82, a few weeks after the exhibition opened. As his New York Times obituary observed, Giorno may have first found fame as the subject of his lover Andy Warhol’s 1963 movie Sleep, but it was as a beat poet determined to “shake poetry loose of the page and embed it more deeply in the fabric of everyday life” that he will be remembered. And as the husband of Ugo Rondinone.
In common with the last few artists in this sequence, Rondinone is another great colourist, using the possibilities of both colour and material with diverse delight. The knowledge of Giorno’s death brings an inevitable sadness to this otherwise upbeat selection, but that is typical of Rondinone’s world in which a note of melancholy frequently underpins an apparently cheerful first impression. Rainbows were everywhere in his Helsinki exhibition, as they are now in these days of honouring the bravery of health workers around the world. The latest iteration of his 6 year project ‘Your age and my age and the age of the rainbow’ stretched floor to ceiling across some of the gallery spaces with literally thousands of children’s drawings of rainbows. That connection to the present moment is perhaps one reason why Ugo suggested this work for the Unseen Masterpiece, as well, of course, as it being a tribute to his partner of the last 22 years.