During my recent visit to Venice, I was lucky to discover the Italian artist – painter, Emilio Vedova, who impressed me. Emilio Vedova was known as the ‘Italian brother’ of abstract expressionists Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.
This post is triggered by the Exhibition “…in continuum”, that was on show in Venice until the end of November 2011.
The biographical notes that follow and the short description of the exhibition come from the site of the Emilio and Annabianca Vedova’s Foundation.
Born in Venice into a family of workers and artisans, from the 1930s onwards Vedova began an intense activity as a self-taught artist, drawing figures and buildings. In 1942, the young Vedova joined the anti-Novecento movement known as “Corrente”.
An anti-Fascist, he worked for the Resistance from 1944 to 1945 and in 1946, he was one of the co-signers of the “Oltre Guernica” manifesto in Milan. In the same year in Venice he was one of the founders of the “Nuova Secessione Italiana” followed by the “Fronte Nuovo delle Arti”.
In 1948 he made his debut in the Venice Biennale, the first of many appearances in this event: in 1952 an entire room was devoted to his work, in 1960 he was awarded the Grand Prize for Painting and in 1997 the prestigious Golden Lion award for Lifetime Achievement.
In the early 1950s he created his celebrated cycles of works: “Scontro di situazioni” (Collision of Situations), “Ciclo della Protesta” (Protest Cycle), “Cicli della Natura” (Cycles of Nature). In 1954, at the second São Paolo Art Biennial he won a prize that would allow him to spend three months in Brazil, where he encountered an extreme, hard reality that would leave its mark on him. In 1961 he designed the sets and costumes for Luigi Nono’s “Intolleranza ‘60” (Intolerance ’60); in 1984 he would work with the composer again on “Prometeo”.
From 1961 onwards he worked on his “Plurimi” creating an initial Venetian series followed by works made from 1963 to 1964 in Berlin including the seven pieces forming the “Absurdes Berliner Tagebuch ‘64” (Absurd Berlin Diary ’64) presented at the 1964 Kassel Documenta where he also showed in 1955, 1959 and 1982. From 1965 to 1967 he worked on “Spazio/Plurimo/Luce” (Space/Plurimo/Light) for the Montreal EXPO.
He carried out intense teaching activities in various American universities followed by the Sommerakademie in Salzburg and the Academy of Venice. His artistic career was characterised by a constant desire to explore and innovate.
In the 1970s he created the “Plurimi Binari” in the “Lacerazione” (Laceration) and “Carnevali” (So-called carnivals) cycles followed by the vast cycles of “teleri” (big canvases) and his “Disks”, “Tondi”, “Oltre” (Beyond) and “…in continuum…” (…in continuum…) works. He won numerous prestigious prizes and awards. His last important solo exhibitions included the major retrospective held at Castello di Rivoli in 1998 and, after his death in 2006, the sister shows at Rome’s Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna and the Berlinische Galerie (Berlin).
June 1, 2011 – November 30, 2011
Emilio Vedova began his artistic research in the 1930s surrounded by the seventeenth-century Baroque atmosphere of Venice. In the following decade, he was already a major figure in the post-war art scene, and in the 1950s, together with Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana, he became a leading exponent of Italian and European art informel alongside abstract expressionist painters from the United States such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. The winner of the Gold Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 1997 Venice Biennale, he endlessly fought for the freedom of the artistic experience against all forms of repression.
…in continuum, compenetrazioni/traslati ’87/’88 (…in continuum, compenetrations/transferred ’87/’88) is a cycle of 109 large canvases conceived and executed between 1987 and 1988. White on black and black on white paintings made using a unique technique, which Vedova called “blind painting”… in continuum is a sort of accumulation “with no beginning or end” that invades space in free and random layers. The potential gesture of arranging these canvases in ever-changing images in motion is meant to express the unstable precariousness of our lives and actions.
In an article on Italymag, we read:
[From the dark geometries of his experiments with cubism, Vedova’s work from 1950 onward grew increasingly abstract, placing him in league with the European ”Art Informel” movement that paralleled the work of abstract expressionists in America like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.
”My [works] are not creations, but earthquakes,” Vedova once said.
”They are not paintings, but breaths”.
Vedova’s experimenting would eventually carry his work off the canvas altogether into the groundbreaking new terrain of artificial light play and installation art, for which he was featured in the Italian pavilion at the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal.]
Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza – Venice 1961
Vedova worked with his friend Luigi Nono in the production of Intolleranza, at “La Fenice” in Venice, 1961.
The Italian Pavilion in the Montreal 1967 Expo
In 1967 Emilio Vedova was appointed by the Italian Government to create an installation for the Italian Pavilion of the Montreal Expo. Vedova came up with this great ideas of using small glass slides, especially created to reproduce his abstract painting, and then projected on the asymmetrical walls of the Pavilion. He then asked Nono to compose some electronic music, but Nono had no time, and suggested to ask Marino. He replied: “I could do something, but keep in mind that I am no composer”. The result is Parete (Wall) 1967, a spectacular and intense 30-minutes loop of pure and intense electronics, a magmatic cascade of harsh sounds and deep drones, and a fantastic counterpart to the harsh and expressionistic painting of Vedova.
P.S. For whatever reasons, Vedova has not been a darling of the publicity circus in Europe and the USA. Artists of lesser qualities have been publicized and known, but not Vedova. In any case, this is a matter for another discussion.