From 12 November 2016 to 13 March 2017 the Peggy Guggenheim Collection presents the exhibition My Weapon Against the Atom Bomb is a Blade of Grass. Tancredi. A Retrospective, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, Associate Curator of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
With over ninety works, this much-awaited retrospective marks the return to Venice of Tancredi Parmeggiani (Feltre 1927 – Rome 1964), among the most original and prolific Italian painters of the second half of the twentieth century. Tancredi was the only artist, after Jackson Pollock, whom Peggy Guggenheim placed under contract, promoting his work, making it known to museums and collectors in the USA, and organizing shows, including one in her own home, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, in 1954. More than sixty years later, Tancredi returns to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, his reputation now beyond question, with remarkable paintings that re-create, step by step in intimate galleries, between creative fury and lyrical expressionism, the brief but meteoric trajectory of this great postwar painter.
Beginning with rare youthful portraits and self-portraits, and with Tancredi’s first experiments with paintings on paper in 1950-51, the famous Springtimes, the exhibition narrative moves on to document Tancredi in the early 50s, a period marked by the crucial encounter with Peggy Guggenheim, to whom he became a protégé, and who gave him studio space in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. The bond between them is documented by a number of works still today in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, since enriched by the donation in 2000 to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation by Giorgio Bellavitis of nine further works on paper. The exhibition brings back to Venice paintings donated by Peggy to major museums in the United States. Masterpieces such as Springtime (Museum of Modern Art, New York), Space, Water, Nature, Sight (The Brooklyn Museum), and Untitled (Composition) (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT) are exhibited here for the first time since Guggenheim donated them. Thanks to his special relationship with Guggenheim, Tancredi’s art became internationally known, such that he acquired fame at an early age. This was the period in which Tancredi matured a personal style, micro-spaziale and polychrome, defined by some critics as “molecular”. This involved a distinctive fragmentation of the pictorial mark, a fundamental component of draftsmanship in his works on paper and canvas, and a luminous palette. The energy of his marks, combined with the vibrancy of his colors, creates a new harmony, leading to some of the most felicitous examples of his production. Tancredi was always drawn to juxtapositions of vivid colors and to expressively abstract compositions which, thanks to the incessant motion of the brush, and a technique full of life and intensity, spread to all corners of the canvas. He would later affirm, in 1956: “I used a very simple ‘form’ to control space: the ‘point’. The point is the least measurable geometric element that there is, but the most immediately comprehensible; a dot gives the idea of the void on all sides, from behind, at its sides, in front; any dot you may make is, formally, geometry, any form relative to the dimensions of my picture have by law emptiness on all sides.” In 1952, though remaining independent, Tancredi signed the manifesto of the Movimento Spaziale together with Lucio Fontana; he exhibited in these years in Carlo Cardazzo’s galleries in Venice, Milan, and Rome, and his paintings entered important American collections. In 1954 Guggenheim gave him an exhibition in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, consolidating the celebrity of the very young artist. She recalled in her autobiography, Out of This Century: “Gradually, he evoked a Pollock style and then finally his own. He was what is called in Italy a spazialista, a spatial artist. His gouaches soon filled my house. They were so delicate and airy.”
My Weapon Against the Atom Bomb is a Blade of Grass. Tancredi. A Retrospective
12 November 2016 – 13 March 2017
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni Dorsoduro 701 30123 Venezia
Tel. +39 041 2405 415 guggenheim-venice.it
Photo: Tancredi Parmeggiani a Venezia, 1955-1956 Venezia, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Istituto di Storia dell’Arte, Fondo Cardazzo