London Art Reviews

Magazine of art press and reviews from London

“Mario Schifano 1960 – 67” exhibition at Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, London.

Friday, 29th August 2014.

Incidente Mario Schifano (1963) © Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery London

Incidente (1963) © Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery London

“Mario Schifano 1960-67” exhibition paved the way to the appreciation of a great Italian artist, at the Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, London.

One of the Italian most significant post-war artists, Mario Schifano (1934–98) has been a very influential and truly radical figure. He considered painting to be the frontier of the avant-garde, an intrinsically human art form skilled in capturing the livelihood of contemporary culture. Schifano extraordinary talent was at the top in the ‘60s, a decade in which he experimented extensively with media and techniques, passing through a wide spectrum of styles that he made entirely his own.

The exhibition ‘Mario Schifano 1960 – 67’ focused upon the years when his artistic output was at its most powerful, displaying surprising range of techniques and materials the artist used during this period.

The works featured in the exhibition have important early provenance – some passing through the hands of legendary dealers like Giorgio Marconi and Ileana Sonnabend – others previously in inspired collections like Franchetti in Rome.

A break point year for Schifano was the 1960, when he started to use unconventional materials into his work and he was shot into national and international critical attention. In 1961, Schifano held his first solo exhibition in his home city, Rome, at La Tartaruga (the venue also for debuts by Cy Twombly and Janis Kounellis). A few months later he showed at Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, for “The New Realists” exhibition alongside Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselmann.

By 1962, his canvases were appropriating iconic advertising logos and text; further urban signs and details of motorway landscapes followed exploring ‘photodynamism’. In 1963, Schifano produced Incidente paintings – images of car accidents, inspired by the “Car Crash” series Warhol was making at the same moment but focused more on mechanisation and automation than on death. His Paesaggio Anemic (Anaemic Landscape) works of the mid-’60s incorporated transparent and chequered sheets of Perspex and Plexiglas bolted onto the canvas, presenting mechanical landscapes referred to Picabia and Brancusi. In 1966, he started to utilise spray-paint, a medium which he made the most of in Tutte Stelle painting (1967), scintillating depictions of stars and palm trees often seen through a prism of plastic.

The research of Schifano on materials was quick and of quality, with many and different influences, including American post-war

Propaganda (1965) © Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, London

Propaganda (1965) © Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, London

artists, Matisse, and to Italian Renaissance and the Futurist legacy.

“Mario Schifano 1960 – 67” is organised in collaboration with Giorgio Marconi, Schifano’s dealer during the 1960’s. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue by Claire Gilman (Ph.D. Columbia University), who is currently Curator at The Drawing Center, New York.

Mario Schifano was born in 1934 in Khoms (Libya) and moved to Rome with his family in the immediate Post War years. Although he received no formal art training, by the early 1960s he had risen to prominence and went on to become one of the most irreverent and kaleidoscopic Postmodern Italian painters. Using a wide variety of media ranging from painting to collage, photography and video; Schifano was very much an artist of his time, embodying the Pop aesthetic which artists such as Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann and Roy Lichtenstein were spearheading in the USA. Following decades of struggle with depression and substance abuse, the artist died in Rome in 1998, leaving behind an eclectic and compelling body of work, which has been a constant source of inspiration to contemporary artists and theorists alike.

His work has been exhibited widely both in Italy (Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Arte e Critica, 1980; Venice, 40th and 41st Biennale, 1982 and 1984; Ferrara, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, 1989; Milan, Palazzo della Triennale, 1995; Verona, Palazzo Forti, 1997) and internationally (Paris, Centre Pompidou, Identité italienne, 1981; San Francisco, Italo-American Museum, 1985; Oporto, Museo di Arte Contemporanea, 1986; Frankfurt, Kunstverein, 1987; London, Royal Academy, 1989; Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts, 1989; New York, Solomon Guggenheim, 1994; Beijing, International Exhibition Center, 1997) and is included in a number of major international museum and private collections.

Launched in 2009, Luxembourg & Dayan presents curated, museum-quality exhibitions of works by modern and contemporary artists across gallery spaces in New York and in London, holding a number of critically-acclaimed exhibitions.

“Mario Schifano 1960 – 67” exhibition was at Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, London, from 24th June until 9th August 2014.

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