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Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino

In 1985 the writer Italo Calvino was set to deliver a series of lectures at Harvard University. Sadly, the lectures were never delivered as he passed away before coming to America.


Each lecture was to center around a topic that was critical to the fate of literature in the coming millennium: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, and consistency. A few years later his thoughts were released in book form as Six Memos for the Next Millennium.


I stumbled upon this book through a rather curious set of circumstances. Eight years ago I wanted to learn more about architecture and I had my eye out for comprehensive books on the subject. I found an intriguing book called 10 x 10, which featured contemporary (and imaginary) architecture by 100 architects. Ten critics provided text.


At this time I had in my possession a pistol that a cousin had brought back from Europe at the close of the Second World War. I had no interest in keeping it, so I brought it to a gun collector’s trade show and walked away with one-hundred dollars, which I promptly turned over to the Museum of Contemporary Art so that I could buy the 10 x 10 book.


Curiously enough, Six Memos… popped up a few times in the book. Several artists recommended it as essential reading. I finally got around to reading Calvino’s work about a year ago, and I recently read it again. It contains many twists, anecdotes, ramblings, and striking excerpts from the likes of Dante, Borges, and many others.


I found that keeping his lecture topics—lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, and consistency—on a slip of paper in front of me when I wrote helped me immensely. Whenever I would get stuck on an idea I would refer to the topics and evaluate what I had written. My intention is for this little painting to function as a helpful signpost for an artist of any medium.


Measures 6 x 6 inches. Acrylic paint on canvas. $40. Email to purchase. SOLD MAY 2012.


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Taken on April 2, 2012