GRAAAFICAAA ITAAALIANAAA

January 22 – May 29, 2016
John Brady Print Gallery

GRAAAFICAAA ITAAALIANAAA explores some of Italy’s contributions to—and its ambivalence about—art on paper from the early to mid-20th-century. Filippo Marinetti’s Les Mots en Liberté Futuristes (1919), a Futurist typography attack on The Past, contrasts with Adolfo de Carolis’ Symbolist woodcuts in Gabrielle D’Annunzio’s wartime meditation Notturno (1922), a work that evokes the highest Renaissance traditions of book design and printing. The astonishing focus of attention and minute cross-hatching in Giorgio Morandi’s etching of a still life seems worlds away from Michelangelo Pistoletto’s photo-screenprint of a parrot on polished stainless steel. From Lino Pirone’s Pop-inspired, torn newspaper to Francesco Clemente’s gigantic, multi-sheet hand-drawn lithographs of world archetypes, GRAAAFICAAA ITAAALIANAAA shows how 20th-century Italian artists made drawings and prints, and manipulated paper in the most amazing ways. Although works in the exhibition can be seen as representative of styles and movements in which Italian artists participated, they must also be understood as products of an anguished century.

Italian-originated Modernist movements in which these—and other—artists participated include Stile Liberty, Futurisme, Arte Metafisica, Valori Plastici, Neo-Realismo, Arte Povera, and Transavanguardia. Italians also were affiliated with international movements such as Fauvism and Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Bauhaus, Art Brut, Pop Art, and Minimalism. Some Italian artists working after the long ordeal of Fascism and World War II developed deliberately anti-heroic, un-beautiful, and un-craftsmanlike ways of working. Their works explore the private world of the studio rather than the shared spaces and events of the public realm. The exhibition includes an ample array of subject matter: the human figure, animals, urban scenes, landscapes, still life, language-based imagery, fantasy, and geometric and non-objective abstraction. Many of these images project the artist’s profound sense of place and the history in which Italians are irrevocably immersed.

Since the 1950s, Italian artists, designers, and entrepreneurs have exerted unparalleled creative influence on international styles and lifestyles in the areas of fashion, architecture and furniture, cars, food, and cinema. Mario Finocchiaro helped forge the look of post-war, black-and-white, Neo-Realist photography with his human-centered sense of place. Trieste-born, New York-based art dealer Leo Castelli, publisher of many of the prints from the 1950s in this exhibition, would come to play a central role in promoting contemporary artists and shape the history of post-war modern art.

Most of the works in the exhibition are from the permanent collections, and six works are loaned by the Centro Internazionale di Grafica di Venezia. Amy N. Worthen, curator of prints and drawings, organized the exhibition.

entirely unexpected