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Venice Pays Homage to Zoran Music with Exhibition at Palazzo Franchetti
Zoran Music, "Mercato dalmata", 1938. Tempera su cartone, 46 x 60 cm. Collezione Privata. ©Zoran Antonio Music - by SIAE, 2009.

VENICE.- Venice pays homage to Zoran Music (Gorizia 1909 – Venice 2005) with a major, highly refined exhibition commemorating the centenary of the artist’s birth.

An artist of international standing, viewed as one of the key figures of the twentieth century, Zoran Music hailed from Dalmatia, becoming Venetian by adoption. As a place of fusion between east and west, the city on the lagoon proved to be a source of inspiration and constant point of reference for the artist throughout his career.

Hosted by Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, Regione del Veneto and Arthemisia Group, the exhibition “Zoran Music. Estreme figure”, will be held in Palazzo Franchetti through March 7, 2010.

Curated by Giovanna Dal Bon, the show features more than eighty significant works, some of which are exceptionally being exhibited for the first time. It offers a precious opportunity to explore the artist’s atmospheric world and the memories he reprocessed above all in Venice.

The artist
A Mitteleuropean wayfarer, who – in the words of the curator - remained forever heimatlos, Zoran Music was born in Gorizia, which at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a crossroads of races, cultures and languages. He spent his childhood in Dalmatia, then as a refugee in Styria and Carinthia. This was followed by Art School in Zagreb, a stay in Prague where he gathered impressions of Klimt and Schiele and the French Impressionists, a long period in Spain discovering Goya, then exhibitions in post-imperial Trieste, where he met his future wife, the painter Ida Cadorin. Then came the move to he lived, alternated with periods in Paris as of 1951, up to his death in May 2005.

The exhibition
The exhibition explores above all the last thirty years of MusicVenice. After his horrific deportation to Dachau he returned to Venice in 1946, w
This can be seen first and foremost in the corpses of Dachau in the cycle Nonsiamo gli ultimi (We Are Not the Last). After a latency of three dehere 6;s career, when he took his stark style figuration to extremes. With an oeuvre spanning almost the whole of the last century, Music’s austere, minimal style is indicative of a process of paring things down to their essence. This can be seen first and foremost in the corpses of Dachau in the cycle Non siamo gli ultimi (We Are Not the Last). After a latency of three decades, in the 1970s Music stated, “I had to go back to Dachau”, alluding to the obsessive resurfacing of those images. Captured in drawings done in secret during his imprisonment, many of which got blown away by the wind on the lorry ride back from Dachau to Venice, he translated those indelible images of his memory into paintings stripped of emphasis, with a harsh, simple purity.

The Figure grigie (Grey Figures) of the 1990s and his final self portraits are also very intense: figures that resist the forces pulling them apart. His wife Ida – his companion in a life devoted to painting - was also a constant source of inspiration: he painted her again and again, alone or in the Doppio ritratto (Double Portrait), where he is depicted painting her, conscious of being in the presence of the unfathomable mysteries of the female identity.

Then there are his stunning images of Venice: interior, highly intimate visions of the city which include works that have never been shown in public before. Venice was the place where Music felt free, where he lived in almost monastic simplicity and spent every day painting in his studio, an attic in Palazzo Balbi Valier in the San Vio district. In his later years Venice appears enveloped in a cloud of ink, or lit by the orange glow of oil pastel, as in the atmospheric visions of Punta della Dogana, Canale della Giudecca, Molino Stucky, and Piazza San Marco.

This thought-provoking exhibition reveals the captivating atmospheres that Music created in his works: vibrations of light, dissolving contours or intense meshes of lines that scratch the surface. Music forged “…figures that inhabit the confines of a painterly/existential territory, at the outer limit of space”, as Giovanna Dal Bon asserts, “Detached from figuration, removed from any function of “resemblance”, they reveal something beyond what is portrayable, forging new relationships within the figure; in this, perhaps, they are extreme”.

And to those who asked him what lay beyond the surface of his paintings Music answered: “Beyond lie the depths. The place where things cannot be explained, a kind of fog where it is difficult to move”.

Themed sections
The exhibition is designed in the form of a “journey” that recalls Zoran Music’s wayfaring nature and his nomadic existence between eastern and western Europe. The show is structured into eight sections according to themes rather than chronological order, “areas of intensity” that mark the artist’s existential and creative development.

Origins (1935-1949)
Here we find Music’s first works, the Motivi Dalmati (Dalmation Motifs), which date back to when he lived on the island of Curzola and observed the daily “migrations” of women dressed in black riding on donkeys, going to and from the market; and his first watercolours of Venice on his return from Dachau: optimistic, enchanted views of luggers and wherries, familiarly bobbing on idealistic stretches of azure water.

The Wayfarer (mid 1990s)
Zoran was well-versed in border crossing: Styria and Carinthia in childhood, Dalmatia, Kras, gusty Trieste, postimperial Vienna, impressions of Prague. He condenses and incorporates these transits in the figure of the Viandante (Wayfarer), various versions of which are presented here, consummately depicted in coal black line.

Venice, again (1980s and 1990s)
Zoran felt a proud sense of involvement in the foundation of Venice: “… In the past my region was covered in oak trees, and the wood from those trees was used to make the stilts that Venice is built on. Not to mention the trees of its prisons. In its own way my country contributed to the power of the Serenissima”.

In these paintings Venice is less luminous than in earlier works, with more browns and ochres. There is greater awareness and maturity in these Interni di cattedrali, (Cathedral Interiors), in Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Cathedral), Canale della Giudecca, Punta della Dogana and Molino Stucky. In these works now being shown for the first time Venice appears lit by a glow that emerges from the “near darkness”; eroded and corroded by a gaze so insistent and adoring that it becomes a disintegrating force.

Grey Figures (late 1990s)
At the centre of the exhibition, with the paintings displayed on easels, the Figure Grigie (Grey Figures) represent the fulcrum of the “journey” that leads to the disintegration of the body. In these self portraits flows of lava grey obliterate physical features and transform them into “extreme figures” of great concentric intensity.

"I had to go back to Dachau" (1970s)
“ if in a trance I clung obsessively to these sheets of paper…blinded by the nightmarish horror of those fields of corpses…an inexorable need…not to lose sight of this formidable and tragic beauty”. During his imprisonment Music drew the victims of the Holocaust and thirty years later he revealed, “the eyes of the dying still accompany me: hundreds of piercing sparks that followed me as I walked on, stepping over them. Glittering eyes that silently begged for help from someone still able to walk …”. From the depths of his unconscious, after a latency of decades, the corpses of Dachau obsessively began to surface. It was 1970, and the title We Are Not the Last contains the inevitability of an ever-renewable condemnation. But there is nothing emphatic in these heaps of corpses treated like a stark, barren, pared down landscape.

Intense Space (1990s)
Zoran observed the progressive decline of the human body and his latest figuresexpress this in perfect solitude. The same solitude of his childhood, on the margins of an Austro-Hungarian empire of crumbling borders. “I need this solitude”, he stated, painting seated figures, nude, lost in thought or simply bent over, legs crossed, holding one foot. The gazeless figure of L’anacoreta (The Ascetic) is a striking depiction of the disarmed nudity of someone choosing simply to second their own decline.

Variations on Ida and Self Portrait (1980s and 1990s)
Music painted himself throughout his entire career. He treated his image like a bare landscape, and his wife Ida is the only human being who appears on his canvases apart from himself. Intimately connected to the golden essence of Byzantine Venice, Ida appears for the first time in 1947, to be followed by numerous other portraits. Her stylised oval is two-dimensional and iconic, with a haze of hair: outlines in light that surface against dark backgrounds. Inviolate mysteries. Ida accompanies him and every time he tries to say something beyond himself he encounters her.

Double Portrait (1983–2001)
The last section presents the preparatory drawings and oil paintings that recount the convergence and germination of two figures in the painted space: initially Zoran is alone, on the margin, then Ida appears on the other side, and the figures arduously draw closer. This lengthy genesis takes from 1983 to the final red line drawing in 2001. They are works that hint at positions, infinitesimal shifts, trajectories of gazes. Zoran reinvents his artistic space to receive the two figures, to the point they coincide.

Palazzo Franchetti | Giovanna Dal Bon | Zoran Music | Istituto Veneto di Scienze | Lettere ed Arti | Regione del Veneto | Arthemisia Group |

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