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Tancredi Parmeggiani: My Weapon Against the Atom Bomb is a Blade of Grass.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection - Venice, Italy

Curated by Luca Massimo Barbero

By Irina Leyva-Pérez

Italian painter Tancredi, who was born Tancredi Parmeggiani in Feltre, Italy, in 1927 and died in Rome in 1964, was a prolific artist whose impressive international career was cut short by his premature death at the age of 37. In addition, the circumstances around his death contributed to a litany of myths about his tormented personality, thus adding to his already formidable legend.

This extensive retrospective proves that his work was indeed impressive by offering an exceptional glimpse into his art and life. The exhibition is also his “return” to his most important patron’s space. Tancredi met Peggy Guggenheim in the1950s and became the only artist she signed after Jackson Pollock. Guggenheim made sure to promote his work and placed it in the most prestigious collections of their time, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. The museographic display conveys that intimate connection between artist and patron, becoming a subtheme in the exhibition. It highlights Guggenheim’s role by including pieces donated by her to important institutions. Among those we can mention are Springtime, from the MoMA collection; Space, Water, Nature, Sight, from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection; and Untitled Composition, from the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn.

The works in the exhibition are presented in chronological order, showing the artist’s evolution from the early 1950s, starting with portraits. Walking through it is easy to see Tancredi’s stylistic progression. In the pieces from the early 1950s, it is easy to see his experimentations with some of Pollock’s methods, such as dripping, and his eventual move to a more personal formal language. He became especially interested in space, as well as color, as important components of his compositions during this period. Through the development of these two main elements, he created a very distinctive and highly personal style defined as “molecular.”

Tancredi Parmeggiani, Space, Water, Nature, Sight, 1958, oil on canvas, 67” x 79.” Brooklyn Museum. Gift of Peggy Guggenheim.

Tancredi Parmeggiani, Space, Water, Nature, Sight, 1958, oil on canvas, 67” x 79.” Brooklyn Museum. Gift of Peggy Guggenheim.

Tancredi brought into his art references to Western art in general, but he also explored aspects known to Venetian traditions, such as bright colors from the palette that Venice’s artists used regularly. Another formal solution from this period he studied was the use of geometric elements such as the point, which in his case had a root in Byzantine mosaics. Harmonious Memory and Yearning for New York, both from 1952, are good examples of that trend.

Like many of his peers, he was interested in theoretical disquisitionsm which is what motivated him to sign the manifesto for the Movimento Spaziale with fellow artist Lucio Fontana. Despite his interest in abstraction and its formal nuances, his work was not completely stripped of political messages, as the show’s title demonstrates. “My Weapon Against the Atom Bomb is a Blade of Grass” is an expression created by the artist that symbolizes his pacifism living in a world punctuated by the Cold War, Vietnam War and other world conflicts.

(November 12, 2016 - March 13, 2017)

Irina Leyva-Pérez is an art historian, art critic and curator based in Miami. She has lectured at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and was assistant curator at the National Gallery of Jamaica. She is currently the curator of Pan American Art Projects, a regular contributor to numerous publications and author of catalogues of such Latin American artists as León Ferrari, Luis Cruz Azaceta and Carlos Estévez.

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