Carla Accardi: an abstract revolution.
“We have just talked about the coexistence between abstract and anthropological world; the idea is similar about the canvas: some paintings are not entirely painted, you can see the rough canvas, while others are entirely filled with colors. Sometimes the sign is free and less controlled, sometimes it is clear and well-defined. Therefore my work cannot just be stuck on an issue, presenting it, and defining it for good. I like to look at different possible solutions, being consistent and able to change at the same time.” From a long conversation (1989) between Carla Accardi and Walter Guadagnini.
Widely known for her radical and individual style, Carla Accardi was one of the most original artists of post war art and contributed significantly to the development of abstractism in Italy.
Her iconic visual lexicon of calligraphic marks manages to strike a balance between writing and drawing, between the painting and the sign, and made her one of the key member of Italian avant-garde which claimed to experiment new artistic codes.
Carla Accardi’s style departed from provincialism and post cubism: in 1947 she was one of the founding member of Forma 1, an influential group of artists that includes Piero Dorazio, Antonio Sanfilippo and Giulio Turcato, which were to develop and propagate a more analytical approach to art and called for reconciling Marxist politics with abstractism.
Her early works, in the 1950s, evolved from “art concrete” and consisted of circles and signs, focused on the use of colours and shapes: one year later she would be involved in a wider attempts to revolutionise abstract and gestural painting, both in Italy (Abstract and concrete art in Italy, 1951) and France.
Abstract and Concrete Art in Italy, opening of the exhibition, 1951
One year later she introduced pseudo-calligraphic signs into abstract images, reducing her palette to white-on-black compositions to explore the relationship between figure and ground. Gradually colour get an even greater importance, expanding on the whole surface and emphasising the function of light.
From 1954 Carla Accardi faced the international art scene thanks to the art critic Michel Taipiè who took interest in her works and made her a protagonist of Art autre: she had exhibitions in France and in Italy with international artists such as Alberto Burri, Giuseppe Capogrossi and Lucio Fontana (Individualités d’aujourd’hui, 1955, Structures en devenir, 1956), confirming her prominent role in the wide panorama of abstractism.
Cerchio due rossi, 1959
Primary and complementary colours became protagonists of dynamic compositions, in a poetic communion with calligraphic shapes; during the 1960s abstract marks spread on the canvas and sometimes brake out of the frame format to overrun transparent surfaces or tents made of Sicofoil, a non-art material. She showcased these new strategies at the 1964 Venice Biennale in works such as Tenda (1965), Triplice tenda (1969-71) where sheets of plastic are assembled into a tent and covered with brightly coloured brushstroke patterns.
Viola rosso, 1963, at Museo del Novecento, Milan
Triplice tenda, 1969-71
Carla Accardi in her studio in Rome, 1976. Image: M. Grazia Chinese
Accardi experimented with Sicofoil until the 1980s when she returned to canvas and shifted her focus to the use of signs and delicate chromatic juxtapositions. The relationship between shapes and colours in her works influences the perception of space and movement.
The following years she held numerous personal exhibitions in Italy and abroad, at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York, the Rivoli Museum in Turin, Italy and among other important institutions.
Pieno giorno (veduta), 1987
The complexity of Carla Accardi’s work is the result of a brave career which had always looked at the most innovative pictorial languages. For this reason her research is contemporary and she is beloved by the younger generations.
Riquadro rosso, 1996