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London – Blain Southern gallery solo exhibition about Carlo Carrà was very fascinating. Curated by Ester Coen, the exhibition “Carlo Carrà – Metaphysical Spaces” presented paintings and drawings, at the Blain Southern gallery, London.
The Italian avant-garde artist Carlo Carrà is popular for his essential work in both Futurist and Metaphysical movement.
The Blain Southern exhibition focused on the paintings of Carrà. Lends are from public and private collections, and many are rarely shown in public. Significant works have been presented, revealing the intellectual and artistic legacy of Carrà. For the first time, the influential “Il Pino sul Mare” (1921) was displayed in the UK – a work considered very important by significant art historians. A dozen other works were displayed, including ”Mio Figlio” (1916), “Penelope” (1917), a group of Carrà’s key paintings that have not been presented together in over fifty years.
Leaders of the Metaphysical painting movement were Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico. The Metaphysical style is characterized by unreal views and sudden juxtapositions of elements. Even though the study of the two artists at first developed independently from one another, in 1917 together they officially drawn the rules of ‘Scuola Metafisica’.
Metaphysic was the result of the difficult approach of the two artists, when connecting with the soul by exploring a world of ordinary objects and buildings. De Chirico adopted a style made of multiple vanishing points and clashing perspectives.
Carlo Carrà, instead, realised works more pleasant and close to the reality, based on a single perspective. The stillness he conveyed seemed to go beyond surface appearance in search of a more spiritual, yet natural, dimension. His Metaphysical painting developed from his knowledge of the Italian Renaissance. Painters like Giotto and Paolo Uccello were the source of inspiration for its work, because Carrà felt the soul of the artist could be better shown using few focal points and horizontals.
The archetypal compositional techniques Carrà admired in these works led to his break with the dynamism of Futurism
and to his creation of paintings with a stillness and form, which he termed a ‘condensation of expression’.
Confronting the dominant French vanguard, Carrà intended to bring Italian painting to its ‘essential purpose’ and so he reinvented Italian painting. Although the movement technically spanned only a few months, Carrà and a great many other artists drew from its doctrine even after its dissolution.
Furthermore, the Blain Southern gallery presented also a number of rarely seen works on paper, alongside archive documentation and photography from the Carlo Carrà family archive.
The exhibition at the Blain Southern Gallery presented the main metaphysical works of Carlo Carrà. It gives a great impression of stillness. It reflects a very Italian style, in an environment that brings back ideas of summertime in Italy. July was the most appropriate moment to open this exhibition. The Italian summertime is a particular period of the year, when everything changes, the mood of the people is different, and the everyday activities get slower by the hot weather. The work on show reflects this very nice period of the year. It also reminds the atmosphere of the poems of Eugenio Montale, Nobel laureate, who also firstly published in 1917.
Carlo Dalmazio Carrà was born in Quargnento, near Alessandria (Italy) on 11th February 1881. The son of a disgraced landowner, Carrà started to draw when just 12 years old, during a forced stability in bed. Soon after, he began to work as a mural decorator in Valenza.
In 1899-1900, Carrà went to Paris for the Exposition Universelle, to perform some pavilions decorations. Then moved to London, where he became interested in the works of John Constable and William Turner. In the UK, he was involved in politics, maintaining relations with groups of Italian exiled anarchists. However, he broke up soon, and went back to Italy in 1901.
In 1906, Carrà entered the Brera Academy, as a student of Cesare Tallone. There, he met some young artists destined to be leaders on the Italian art scene: Bonzagni, Romani, Valeri and Umberto Boccioni.
Carrà had a brief stint with Divisionismo, which he appreciates for its revolutionary style against the provincial Italian painting environment. In 1909 he joined the Futurism movement of Marinetti, and in 1910 with Boccioni and Russolo, he signed the Manifesto of Futurist Painters and the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting.
The radical political and artistic positions of Carrà are reflected in the monumental painting The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli, stylistically reworked after a trip to Paris in 1911, when the artist approaches the Cubism. In 1904, by accident Carrà attended the funeral of Galli, an anarchist killed during a strike. He was deeply impressed, and began to draw some sketches that years later will transform in one of his major works.
Back in Paris in 1914, a year later Carrà and the De Chirico brothers, Giorgio and Alberto Savinio, initiated the Pittura Metafisica movement, using the term “metaphysics” written by Guillaume Apollinaire in a review of a paintings exhibition by De Chirico, at the Salon d’Automne in Paris (1913).
As well as the enthusiasm of the artists, the “Metaphysical School” is also born from an unexpected coincidence. Due to the war and military service, in early April 1917 both De Chirico and Carrà are admitted to the neurological hospital Villa del Seminario, near Ferrara in the countryside. Both stayed there until the middle of August, together with painters metaphysical Savinio, Govoni, De Pisis, while Alberto Savinio was serving in Thessaloniki, Greece. Carrà was released from military service and returned to Milan, while de Chirico remained alone in Ferrara. They started a long correspondence, creating the “school” of metaphysical painting.
In 1918, together with the De Chirico brothers, Carrà collaborated with the magazine ‘Plastic Values’. A year later, he published his book Metaphysical Painting.
Like many other futurists, firstly Marinetti, Carrà was seduced by the fascism of Mussolini. He adopted reactionary opinions, and became ultra-nationalist and irredentist.
In 1922, Carrà also abandoned metaphysics, driven by the desire to “just be yourself”. The painting must grasp that relationship which includes the need to identify with the things and the need for abstraction “and contemplation of the landscape is resolved then in the “construction” of a framework, both mountain and marine.
In recognition of his art, in 1941 Carrà was appointed professor of painting at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Milan. In the years of post war Carrà gradually changed the atmosphere of his landscapes and seascapes, with damped surfaces, less compact strokes and greater brightness. In 1962, at the Palazzo Reale in Milan was organized a retrospective exhibition of his work.
Following a sudden disease, Carrà died on 13th April 1966.
The exhibition was curated by Ester Coen, an expert on Futurism, Metaphysical art and Italian and International avant-gardes. Coen is Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of L’ Aquila. She was assisted by Elena Bonanno di Linguaglossa, Director, Blain Southern in close collaboration with Archivio Carlo Carrà.
(This article firstly edited on 4th March 2017)
The exhibition “Carlo Carrà – Metaphysical Spaces” has been at the Blain Southern gallery, London, from 8th July until 20th August 2016.