Carlo Carrà | Metaphysical spaces | Curated by Ester Coen

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Carlo Carrà | Metaphysical spaces | Curated by Ester Coen

8 July 2016 – 20 August 2016

Blain|Southern presents an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Carlo Carrà, curated by Ester Coen. The Italian avant-garde artist is renowned for his integral role in both Futurist and Metaphysical painting. At the centre of the exhibition are Carrà’s paintings, many from public and private collections and rarely shown publicly.

Shown in the UK for the first time Il Pino Sul Mare (1921) is a work that was considered so important by influential German art historian Wilhelm Worringer that he wrote to Carrà and described it as ‘my spiritual property’. A dozen other works, including Mio Figlio (1916) and Penelope (1917), comprise a group of Carrà’s key paintings that have not been presented together in over fifty years. Each is a significant work in its own right, and together they illuminate Carrà’s intellectual journey and artistic achievements. 

Typified by dream-like views and unexpected juxtapositions of elements, such as mannequins in eerie arcaded piazzas, the Metaphysical style of painting was led by Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico. Although their investigations initially developed independently from one another, their discourse began in 1917 when together they formally established the principles of Pittura Metafisica. The artists strived to connect with the soul by focussing on quotidian objects and the built environment. Where multiple vanishing points and clashing perspectives gave de Chirico’s paintings an unsettling, dream-like quality, Carrà’s environments were more harmonious and rooted in the reality of a single perspective. The stillness he conveyed seemed to go beyond surface appearance in search of a more spiritual, yet natural, dimension.

Carrà’s Metaphysical painting developed from his study of the Italian Renaissance painters Giotto and Uccello. It was in their works, with few focal points and horizontals, that Carrà felt the artist’s soul could be seen. The archetypal compositional techniques Carrà admired in these works led to his break with the dynamism of Futurism and to his creation of paintings with a stillness and form, which he termed a ‘condensation of expression’. Carrà aimed to guide Italian painting to its ‘essential purpose’ and in doing so, redefine Italian painting and challenge the dominant French vanguard of painters.  Although the movement technically spanned only a few months, Carrà and a great many other artists drew from its tenets even after its dissolution.

In addition to Carrà’s paintings, a number of rarely seen works on paper are presented alongside archive documentation and photography from the Carlo Carrà family archive. The exhibition is curated by Ester Coen, an expert on Futurism, Metaphysical art and Italian and International avant-gardes, Coen is the Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of L’ Aquila. Coen was assisted by Elena Bonanno di Linguaglossa, Director, Blain|Southern in close collaboration with Archivio Carlo Carrà.