Emilio Vedova exhbition opens at the Palazzo Reale in Milan

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Emilio Vedova exhbition opens at the Palazzo Reale in Milan
Installation view, Emilio Vedova, Palazzo Reale Milano. Photo by Marco Cappelletti.

MILAN.- The Palazzo Reale in Milan is presenting the exhibition Emilio Vedova. Among the most important ever dedicated to one of the commanding figures of 20th-century art, the exhibition is curated by Germano Celant and sponsored by the Milan Municipality’s Culture office, the Palazzo Reale, and the Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova.

“This exhibition at Milan’s Palazzo Reale,” says Alfredo Bianchini, President of the Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova, “will be the crowning event of the Foundation’s celebrations of the centenary of Emilio Vedova’s birth, which began with Skira’s publication of the prestigious Vedova De America, followed by Emilio Vedova di/by Georg Baselitz, an exhibition curated by the great German artist at the Magazzino del Sale in Venice. Another important initiative was the film Emilio Vedova. Dalla parte del naufragio produced by Twin Studio and directed by Tomaso Pessina, with readings from the painter’s diaries by Toni Servillo, which was premiered at the Venice Film Festival in the Giornate degli Autori section”. Contemporaneously, the Foundation, in partnership with Marsilio, has republished Pagine di diario, first printed by Prestel Verlag in 1960, with the same graphic format chosen by the Maestro himself for the presentation of his writings.

Emilio Vedova is the result of an installation project in which the Palazzo Reale’s spectacular Sala delle Cariatidi has been posited as at once an ideal and an unusual exhibition space for articulating the painter’s artistic language. The Rome-based Alvisi Kirimoto Studio has envisaged, specifically for this show – which presents works from the 1940s through to the 1990s – a whole-environment project consisting in 30-metre long, 5-metre high wall, surmounted by an independent black metal lighting structure, which bisects the hall diagonally, as if to challenge its architectural grandeur, in what Vedova would have called “a clash of situations”. Exhibited both on the wall and on the floor in this bifurcated environment are some sixty works, some of considerable size, including the famous Absurdes Berliner Tagebuch ʼ64.

The installation, which covers the greater part of Vedova’s artistic trajectory, has aimed to co-opt the powerful theatricality of the environment to highlight, in the two counterbalanced halves, the innovative and radical aspects of his linguistic contribution to the modern and contemporary art scene. This has meant setting up a dialogue between the paintings and sculptures of the 1960s – like the Plurimi cycle – and the large canvases and floor-mounted Dischi from the 1980s. The resulting conversation between extremes makes explicit the centrality of Vedova’s work to the ongoing story of international contemporary art.

It was from the 1950s that his language abandoned the rigid formalities of abstraction to create canvases marked by a free, dramatic, deeply scored brushstroke, by large gesture. This informality of approach, freighted with materiality, which refused to let itself be assimilated to any narrative or figuration other than that of the artist’s own subconscious and emotional energy, would lead him in 1962 to break up the surface of the picture in the Berlin Plurimi series, wooden structures heavily layered with paint, which seem to embody his desire that art dedicate itself to challenging the environmental and social context. A radical project that would free his painting from any homogeneity and, in a period characterised by the linear, impersonal and reductive world of minimal and conceptual art, offer an extraneous and highly subjective alternative, emerging from personal tension and trauma.

The 1970s witnessed on the one hand a solidification of the loosely structured Plurimi now compelled to run on rigid rails, as in the cycle Lacerazione ʼ77/ʼ78, Plurimi/Binari, almost as if the aesthetic rebellion had been channelled to fold back on itself, and on the other, the irrational impulse behind the...Cosiddetti...Carnevali ʼ77/ʼ83, that connect to the Dionysiac and antiritualistic in art. Following on his collaboration with Luigi Nono on Intolleranza 1960 and Prometeo. Tragedia dell’ascolto (1984), works which open up a conception of unleashing images into a whole architectural space, it is the 1980s that will see another fundamental development in Vedova’s art. After a series of large, highly matterist chromatic paintings, he moves on to the construction of the Dischi, big circular paintings that can be exhibited either on the wall, or free-standing, as if they were dancers able to cavort in space and climb walls, in token of their mobility and architectural intrepidity.

The life and career of the great painter, who was born in Venice in 1919, and died there in 2006, is covered in the Sala del Piccolo Lucernario which precedes the Sala delle Cariatidi. Here, a chronology composed of biographical data, images and poetic pronouncements, is flanked by a selection of works covering the whole arc of his artistic output.

On the occasion of the Palazzo Reale exhibition, the Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova is to publish, with Marsilio, an artistic and biographical monograph on the Venetian painter. The book aims to trace a complete itinerary through the different languages explored by the artist. The narrative is accompanied by a rich trove of illustrations embracing the works, personal photographs and texts by Vedova, with a running historical and art-historical contextualisation.

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