COLD SPRING, New York — In 2020, once I realized that the Italian artist Mario Schifano (1934–1989) had collaborated with the poet Frank O’Hara (1926–1966), I ordered a replica of Phrases & Drawings from Archivio Mario Schifano, which documented the collaborative work. Little did I do know that I’d have the ability to see all the work within the exhibition Dealing with America: Mario Schifano 1960–65, on the Middle for Italian Trendy Artwork (January 14–November 13, 2021), curated by Francesco Guzzetti.
I used to be reminded of Phrases & Drawings once I noticed Mario Schifano: The Rise of the ’60s within the newly opened Robert Olnick Pavilion of the Magazzino Italian Artwork museum and analysis middle, curated by Alberto Salvadori. Comprised of almost 80 works dated between 1960 and the ’70s, the exhibition is the fullest view thus far of this decade in Schifano’s profession. It seemingly will likely be a very long time earlier than we get such a sweeping survey of his work of this era once more.
Along with the collaboration with O’Hara, the sooner exhibition included a dozen work, alongside works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jim Dine — artists Schifano met and whose work he was in dialogue with whereas residing in New York from December 1963 to July 1964, when the US was reeling from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam Conflict and activist actions had been ramping up. Each exhibitions clarify that Schifano was fascinated about American tradition lengthy earlier than he sailed to the US.
The earliest work within the present exhibition is a grey monochromatic enamel on paper, titled “The music of Ornette” (1960). The title is a reference to jazz musician Ornette Coleman, who rejected the concept improvisation needed to be primarily based on set harmonic patterns, changing into one of many founders of free jazz. When Schifano made this portray, Coleman was nonetheless a controversial determine for his model of steady improvisation. Seen as a precursor to his work from the Sixties, the monochrome portray means that Schifano took cues from Coleman’s dedication to improvising with out anchoring it in a harmonic sample. Schifano was a stressed artist who made each summary and figurative work, and included graphic indicators. He moved nimbly amongst totally different modes and by no means settled into a method, which units him other than lots of his contemporaries, in each Europe and the US.
Schifano additionally labored in numerous mediums, together with enamel, gouache, pencil, pastel, wax crayons, collage, and pictures, steadily combining them in a single work. He typically painted in enamel on paper mounted on canvas. By doing so, he divorced his work from the excessive artwork custom of oil on canvas that originated within the Italian Renaissance.
Whereas Pop artwork, notably the work of Andy Warhol, celebrated cheap shopper merchandise, resembling Coca Cola and Campbell’s soup, Schifano was important of American capitalism, notably because it unfold all through Europe after World Conflict II. In 1962, when Warhol made his first portray of empty inexperienced glass Coca Cola bottles, Schifano painted “Particolare di Propaganda” (Element of Propaganda), that includes a part of the emblem. The piece signifies that the model has turn out to be so ubiquitous that we don’t have to see the complete bottle to know what it’s. By labeling it propaganda, Schifano equates American consumerism with indoctrination.
In his portray “En Plein Air after New York” (1964), Schifano explores a motif primarily based on an Italian commercial for German Volkswagens. The unique advert pictured an Italian household having fun with a drive via the countryside within the German automobile’s Italian mannequin. Schifano renders the Italian model of the Volkswagen as an empty form set towards a backdrop of naked and uprooted timber, alluding to the advert’s hollowness.
Whereas it was great to see all these works, and get a fuller sense of Schifano’s totally different paths throughout the ’60s, one work was really surprising. The combined media on cardboard “En Plein Air” (1964), associated to “En Plein Air after New York,” is inscribed with O’Hara’s unmistakable handwriting. I used to be additional satisfied once I learn the textual content: “I really like Federico Fellini greater than grass.” Solely O’Hara might have written that insouciant line. Comparable in measurement to the works on paper in Phrases & Drawings, I initially questioned if it was a part of the collaboration, however after studying that it was made on cardboard, I started to suspect that it wasn’t. The place does this work match into Schifano’s oeuvre? Shouldn’t O’Hara’s contribution to it’s acknowledged?
Contemplating this raised extra questions: When Schifano was in New York, he took many images and made brief movies — did he proceed to do that after he returned to Italy? The actual pleasure of seeing Mario Schifano: The Rise of the ’60s was that it left me each satiated and thirsting for extra.
Mario Schifano: The Rise of the ’60s continues at Magazzino Italian Artwork (2700 Route 9Cold Spring, New York) via January 8. The exhibition was organized by Magazzino Italian Artwork in collaboration with the Archivio Mario Schifano and curated by Alberto Salvadori.