Cecilia Brunson Projects: Alfredo Volpi
11.06 – 29.07 / 2016
Curated by Anglo-Brazilian art critic and historian Michael Asbury, the Cecilia Brunson Projects Gallery will open the first solo exhibition of Alfredo Volpi (1896 - 1988) on British soil in June. The 32 paintings in the show provide an overview of Volpi´s long career with works spanning the 1940s to the 1980s, including the popular series Bandeirinhas (Bunting), his trademark pieces in which he makes extensive use of tempera.
The exhibition is held in partnership with São Paulo´s Alemeida & Dale gallery and is the second by the London gallery in a series introducing the great figures of Brazilian modern and contemporary art to the British public. The first of these events, held in January this year, displayed the artworks of São Paulo artist Claudio Tozzi.
Alfredo Volpi is regarded as one of the most influential figures of the Brazilian art scene in the twentieth century. A painter whose work depicted popular themes through the sophisticated use of colors and geometry, Volpi melds Modernism of the 1920-1930 with the experimental experiential art which emerged in the late 1950s and 60s. Few artists in Brazil have achieved such recognition and regard, with books and retrospectives devoted to his work, besides his legion of fans – he was embraced by the concretist movement and feted by leading critics of the time, including Herbert Read and Mário Pedrosa.
Volpi was a self-taught artist of humble origins born in Lucca Italy in 1896. He emigrated with his parents in 1898 to São Paulo, a place that would remain his home for the rest of his life. He dropped out of school at 12 years of age and this early entry into the workplace as both typesetter and interior decorator provided the first signs of his natural ability as an artist and also served to fund his first set of watercolors. It would be wholly inaccurate to cast Volpi as a naïve artist; he was aware of the visual languages of impressionism, pointillism and modernism, drawing on each to form his acute observations at the heart of his highly original works. His first artworks as a painter were landscapes and every day scenes painted on card and date from 1914.
In 1933, Volpi forged a fruitful working relationship with a group of fellow immigrants with whom he would remain for a long period: the renowned Santa Helena Group, which included painters of the likes of Mario Zanini, Manuel Martins, Humberto Rosa and Fulvio Pennacchi. Volpi transcended all of them and in the late 1930s began working more from memory than pure observation, where this became a virtuous process of reduction to find the essence of his work.
His paintings are exuberant in the use of color and simplified forms. The artist commented: “I always painted what I felt, my painting changed gradually, starting out with nature which then fell to the wayside but sometimes came back, I never think about what I am producing, just the issues of line, shape and color. Nothing else.”
Although Volpi exhibited widely since his first solo in 1944 - participating in a show of Brazilian art that traveled the United Kingdom taking in venues such as the Royal Academy (1944), featuring in the Venice Biennial, often exhibiting at the São Paulo Biennial, besides numerous exhibitions in museums the world over – this will be his first solo show in the United Kingdom.