Alfredo Volpi

27.03 – 29.5 / 2014


In April 10944, Alfredo Volpi (Lucca, Italy – 1896, São Paulo, SP – 1988) held his first solo exhibition at the Itá Gallery in São Paulo, presented by Mário Schenberg. The show was a hit with all works sold, an exceptional feat at the time and thus widely reported in the press.

Seventy year on, the Almeida & Dale Gallery is opening, on the 27 March, the exhibition VOLPI - A Emoção da Cor (The Emotion of Color), curated by Denise Mattar. The show exhibits 80 works from different phases, charting the trajectory of Alfredo Volpi, a unique master and one of the greatest artists Brazil has ever produced.

In the selection, the curator has picked original works without neglecting to show some of his emblematic works, while maintaining the educational element that characterizes her displays. Thus, it will be possible to hear accounts by Volpi himself and see images of his long life. The show presents paintings from the 1920s, when the artist was considered an impressionist, revisits works from the 1930s, the Santa Helena Group period, and highlights his output in the 1940s, a transition phase in which he chose new directions. Volpi was already seasoned in the 1950s when painting his “bunting” and evolved to full mastery of color and then shape in the 1960s, reaching his peak in 1970 in terms of the processes of rhythm and color schemes.

Volpi started out a wall decorator and lived practically his whole life in a modest house in Cambuci, married with Judite, his “Ebony Goddess”, alongside many adopted children. This gave rise to the myth of his supposed ingenuousness. He indeed was shy and did not care for social events, yet took in everything around him with insatiable wide open eyes. He savored Giotto, Margueritone, Picasso, Cézanne and Dufy – but his favorite was always Matisse. He knew his technique inside out and used tempera by choice. Making frames, stretching canvases and preparing paints was to him part of the process of painting. He considered painting a tough job and painted daily. His artistic sensitivity was highly tuned and his work has, in all its phases, original and unusual characteristics.

“There is a mistaken belief that Volpi´s work only became important in the 1950s, when discovered by the concretists”, said curator Denise Mattar. “His work had attracted attention long before this. In an article printed in 1935, entitled Volpi - the Wagner of painting, critic Virgílio Maurício wrote: ‘His painting is richly constructed, strangely disciplined, without any concession to gloss, tricks, virtuosity and not even fantasy. Pure art, without artifice (…) Perfect planimetry, judicious use of color, vibratability, are the attributes that occupy his canvas and extend to all his other work.” This critique, written in reference to Volpi´s figurative work, may equally have referred to work produced years earlier, thus demonstrating the artist´s coherence.

Volpi´s work has fired up passions over the decades and the most respected Brazilian critics and artists have written on him, such as:  Paulo Mendes de Almeida, Mario Schenberg, Sérgio Milliet, Theon Spanudis, Mário Pedrosa, Willys de Castro, Murilo Mendes, Maria Eugenia Franco, Clarival do Prado Valladares, Flávio Motta, Décio Pignatari, Waldemar Cordeiro, Haroldo de Campos, Olívio Tavares de Araújo, Lorenzo Mammi, Rodrigo Naves, Paulo Pasta, Vanda Klabin, Sonia Salztein, Alberto Tassinari and Paulo Sérgio Duarte, among others.

The exhibition is supported by the Alfredo Volpi Institute of Modern Art, set up with the aim of mapping the artist´s work, currently compiled into a virtual Catalogue Raisonné.

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