“It was between 1945 and 1964 that Italian art turned to American art in regard to its investigators, collectors, and dealers. And similarly, American artists refocused on a culture whose roots and history could not be wiped out by the Fascist era.”
Germano Celant, curator, Roma-New York: 1948–1964
On view until next Feb. 25 at David Zwirner in Manhattan is the exhibition "Rome/New York 1953-1964," curated by Gallery partner David Leiber, with works by: Afro, Carla Accardi, Franco Angeli, Luigi Boille, Alberto Burri, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Piero Dorazio, Tano Festa, Giosetta Fioroni, Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Jannis Kounellis, Conrad Marca-Relli, Gastone Novelli, Achille Perilli, Robert Rauschenberg, Mimmo Rotella, Salvatore Scarpitta, Mario Schifano, Toti Scialoja, Mark Tobey, Cy Twombly.
Inspired by the exhibition "Rome-New York: 1948-1964" conceived by Germano Celant in 1993 for the Murray and Isabella Rayburn Foundation, the show at David Zwirner aims to explore, through a careful selection of paintings by the most significant Italian and American artists operating between Rome and New York after the end of World War II, the dense plot of artistic exchanges, friendships and connections between Italy and U.S.: protagonist is the development of the informal aesthetic, gesture and matter that since 1949, year of Twentieth Century Italian Art, major survey curated by Alfred Barr and James Soby at MoMA, had catalyzed the attention of critics, press and public and had inaugurated an important cycle of acquisitions of twentieth-century Italian art by the Museum of Modern Art and other institutions in the U.S.
Installation View David Zwirner. Accardi, Afro, De Kooning. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery
Installation View David Zwirner. Guston, Afro. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery
Installation View David Zwirner. Dorazio, Twombly, Scialoja. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery
It was as a result of the success of the MoMa exhibition that, at the end of 1949, Catherine Viviano, born in New York to Italian parents, decided to open her own Gallery, which would become instrumental for introducing the work of the brothers Afro and Mirko Basaldella (1950, 1951, 1952, 1955, 1957), Renato Birolli (1952, 1955, 1958), Corrado Cagli (1953, 1957), Toti Scialoja (1956), and Emilio Vedova (1951).
Toti Scialoja, Ininterrotto 1958. Sand, vinavil, hemp on canvas, 113,7x145,4 cm. Courtesy David Zwirner
Philip Guston, Untitled 1959. Oil on paper mounted on masonite, 55,6x75,2 cm. Courtesy David Zwirner
Thanks to the representation at Viviano Gallery, Afro befriended Willem de Kooning, and later hosted him for six months in his Studio in Rome while, again in the wake of the 1949 exhibition at MoMA, L'Obelisco gallerists Irene Brin and Gaspero Del Corso traveled to the U.S. to promote Alberto Burri and then, back in Rome, presented the first personal exhibitions in Italy of Robert Rauschenberg (1953) and Arshile Gorky (1957).
It is worth dwelling also on the figure of Alberto Burri, whose legacy to the successive generations of artists represented - as Lorenzo Canova writes - an extremely rich baggage of innovations and solutions that fruitfully germinated within different and often opposing researches and trends, from Robert Rauschenberg to Jannis Kounellis, who recalled in 2017 during an interview by Domus: “Italy in the Sixties had its own cultural centrality. It was late postwar, there was a hugely important and dramatic neo-realist cinema. My friends and I made every effort to understand and to read the future [..]. Much had been understood in Italy: for example, the importance of American painting. The artist Marca-Relli wrote to Plinio De Martiis – founder of Galleria La Tartaruga in Rome – that in the U.S. a new movement in painting was blossoming. With a hitherto unkown freedom, it was giving the American scene a centrality which France, perhaps exhausted by the war, no longer had. I’ll never forget the major exhibition by Jackson Pollock in Rome in 1958, curated by Palma Bucarelli. The opening was a big surprise: Pollock experienced space not as a painter, but as a dancer. And so you see, our craving for freedom brought us in contact with that American Art, but not with Pop Art.”
Alberto Burri, Sacco e oro 1953. Oil, burlap, and gold leaf on burlap, 86x101 cm. Courtesy David Zwirner
Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (gold painting) c. 1953. Gold and silver leaf on fabric, newspaper, paint, wood, paper, glue and nails on wood in artist's frame, 26,7x29,2 cm. Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York. Courtesy David Zwirner
Jannis Kounellis, Untitled 1960. Mixed media on paper on canvas, 154,3x186,1 cm.
Martin Z. Margulies Collection, Miami. Courtesy David Zwirner
Installation View David Zwirner. Mario Schifano. Courtesy David Zwirner