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Carla Accardi: Opera Aperta

Carla Accardi

04.04.2024 | 16.05.2024
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Art and life, for me, run parallel. While I mythologised art on one hand, on the other, I sought to uncover its essence. I wished for people not to be so confined in front of the artwork; rather, I desired for the public to appreciate art by discovering the life behind it. But above all, I aimed to be an artist of my time, I wanted to discover what contemporaneity was.

- Carla Accardi, 2008

MASSIMODECARLO is pleased to present Carla Accardi: Opera Aperta, an exhibition dedicated to the renowned artist Carla Accardi, celebrated as one of the most significant figures of the 20th century. With works ranging from 1977 to 2013, the exhibition wants to honour the centenary of Accardi's creative brilliance while delving into the iconic practice of the “lady of the abstract” (“la signora dell’astratto”).

Born in Trapani, Sicily, in 1924, Accardi had a prolific career that spanned over six decades, characterised by a relentless pursuit of experimentation and innovation in artistic expression.

Emerging from the abstract-informal context of the post-war period and as a founding member of the Forma 1 group (comprising artists like Ugo Attardi, Pietro Consagra, Piero Dorazio, Mino Guerrini, Achille Perrinio, Antonio Sanfilippo - Accardi's husband - and Giulio Turcato), Accardi swiftly established her unique voice by immersing herself in elements that would later define her body of work: colour, sign, and abstract form.

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In 1954, Accardi's encounter with the French critic Michel Tapié encouraged her ongoing exploration of themes closely aligned with informalism. Tapié, in his characterisation of her work as "art autre" or "Informel," positioned her on an international stage alongside prominent American artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Tobey. However, Accardi's embrace of informality transcends mere trendiness. Her chromatic sign is both liberated and meticulously controlled. Within this balance of freedom and restraint, Accardi captures the essence of life, rendering her work distinctly contemporary.

After exploring white signs on a black background in the mid-1950s, investigating the interplay of light in search of a primal force, Accardi shifted her focus. She turned her attention to the relationship between form and space through geometries. In works like Quattro Triangoli, Senza titolo (6 quadrati) and Quadrato, colour is concentrated on the very edge of the form, while repetitiveness amplifies the informal content. These works from the late 1970s and early 1980s are crafted with sicofoil, a cellulose acetate, and mounted on frame-like bases of varying shapes. These renowned “transparencies” are characterised by the industrial plastic material that allows light to penetrate. The culmination of her conceptualism, these window-like artworks direct attention to the frame, departing from the typical pictorial aura associated with colourful canvases. Reflecting on the material, Accardi states: "I have always been open to new things, new mediums, to the extent that, like young people in every era, I avoided using outdated methods. I never purchased an easel. To avoid painting on one, I worked on the floor and then utilised a table. One day, this material arrived at my studio because they wanted to reproduce one of my works. I was intrigued by it. I thought: I want to experiment with it because it might unravel the mysteries behind art."

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The exhibition also presents a series of large canvases from the 2000s, displaying the artist's creative vigour, increasingly liberated from conceptual constraints and inspired by Matisse. Accardi's abstract language emerges as vibrant, daring, and dynamic. The signs intertwine and materialise into abstract forms, pulsating with rich colours. “A sign exists in relation to others since it forms a structure with them”, Accardi explains. The artworks are distinguished by their lyrical, poetic, and evocative titles, such as Nel Sole d'Inverno (In the Winter Sun), Sorrisi di Lampi (Lightning Smiles), Riavvolte dalle Onde (Rebounded by the Waves). These titles echo the artist's principle, as expressed in a 2004 interview: “First to evoke emotions, then to convey understanding”. This encapsulates her refined painting approach, featuring meticulous compositions, fluid signifiers for communication, and an emotionally charged use of colour.

Carla Accardi: Opera Aperta, titled after a 2011 artwork within the exhibition, aims to capture Accardi's embrace of art, life, and profound freedom. Her scattered commas across the canvases narrate a dynamic story, illustrating the perpetual quest to unravel the essence of the world, its light, and its hues.

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Window - South Audley

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The Artist

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Carla Accardi

Carla Accardi (1924 - 2014) is one of the most important exponents of abstract painting in Italy after World War II. Born on October 9, 1924, in Trapani, she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence before moving to Rome in 1946, where she founded the influential postwar group Form 1 (1947–51), the main reference for abstract art in Italy in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Her early paintings consisted of interlocking geometric forms. In the 1950s, Accardi was involved in the wide-reaching attempts to revolutionize abstraction through the hybridization of geometric and gestural painting, both in Italy and in France, where art critic Michel Tapié took an interest in her work. In 1953 Accardi began to introduce pseudo-calligraphic signs into abstract images, while reducing her palette to white-on-black compositions to explore the relationship between figure and ground.

In the 1960s, however, there is a rejuvenation of color in her works with references to the metropolitan culture and optical effects. Accardi’s artistic research was characterized by a continuous experimentation radicalized with the use of transparent plastic supports that accentuate the nature of the painting as a luminous diaphragm. In 1961 indeed, she began painting on sicofoil, a transparent plastic, instead of canvas. She showcased these new strategies at the 1964 Venice Biennale. By the mid-1960s, she was using these new materials sculpturally. This phase of Accardi’s oeuvre, which was celebrated in the Ambiente/Arte section of the 1976 Venice Biennale, would prove infl uential for Arte Povera. In the 1980s she returned to canvas and shift ed her focus to the use of signs and chromatic juxtapositions. In 1988 she participated again at the Venice Biennale, while in 1994 she took part to Th e Italian Metamorphosis 1943–1968, held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1994.

Her work is part of many important collections, including the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea of Castello di Rivoli (Turin), the Gallerie Civiche of Modena and Bologna, the Palazzo Reale in Milan, and the Museo Civico in Turin. Th e artist died in Rome on February 23, 2014.

Carla Accardi