Art | September 11, 2023 |

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Image courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection | © Matteo Defina

Edmondo Bacci: Energy and Light
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
April 01 – September 18, 2023

From April 01 through September 18, 2023, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection presents Edmondo Bacci: Energy and Light, organized by Chiara Bertola, Curator and Manager of Contemporary Art Projects, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice. The exhibition will feature approximately eighty works – many of which have never been exhibited before – including paintings and unpublished drawings on loan from the Archivio Edmondo Bacci, as well as from private collections and international museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Palm Springs Art Museum. It will be the first and most extensive retrospective dedicated to Venetian artist Edmondo Bacci (1913–1978), which carries on the museum’s tradition of celebrating the main figures of Italian, post-war art alongside exhibitions with an international scope, with artists such as Lucio Fontana, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Tancredi Parmeggiani, and now Bacci.

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Image courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection | © Matteo Defina

Bacci: Energy and Light focuses primarily on the 1950s, the most lyrical and creative period of the artist’s career, and when he achieved international success. Indeed, during this period, as an established exponent of Spazialismo, and among the most innovative artists of the Italian art scene, Bacci captured the attention of Peggy Guggenheim and leading art critics through the novelty of his painting, the generative force of his color, his rupture of spatial planes, and the circular rhythm of his brushstrokes. Bacci was one of the finest representatives of Venetian post-war art, together with, among others, Tancredi Parmeggiani and Emilio Vedova, who also achieved international success and acclaim. Bacci was also one of the few artists in Italy to understand the possibilities of the latest type of abstraction, merging contemporary trends in Europe and the United States with his unique and personal style.

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Image courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection | © Matteo Defina

The exhibition tells this story through works that are crucial to understanding the evolution of the pictorial language of color and light that so impressed Guggenheim, as well as Alfred H. Barr Jr, the director of the Museum of Modern Art of New York, who acquired Avvenimento #13R in 1953. The work, now in the holdings of the New York Museum, makes a special return to Italy, where it will be on public view for the first time. The exhibition opens with a group of black-and-white paintings titled Cantieri and Fabbriche, created between 1945 and 1953, inspired by the blast furnaces of the Marghera industrial area near Venice and influenced by the artists of the Fronte Nuovo delle Arti, particularly Vedova and Armando Pizzinato. Here Bacci excluded color: his subjects are defined through the contrast of black and white, an unpredictable geometry of accidental movements generated by a dynamic alternation of luminous white masses and absolute darkness.

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Image courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection | © Matteo Defina

Between 1952 and 1953 the foregrounded, black-and-white space of the early Fabbriche is flooded with intense color. This is where the characteristics of Bacci‘s pictorial language start to emerge: an abstract style of painting that progressively eliminates signs in favour of the spatial function of color. Next are the Albe of 1954, which features the definitive rupture of chromatic planes. These works give evidence of the delicate and fascinating research that led the artist to create his celebrated Avvenimenti, painted during the 1950s and ‘60s, on view in the following rooms. The Avvenimenti represent Bacci’s most poetic, creative, and happy period of artistic production, and are the beating heart of the exhibition. Space is no longer defined by a geometric grill but is generated by relations of color events.

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Image courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection | © Matteo Defina

Color becomes absolute space, abolishing every boundary between surface and volume, dimension, and trajectory, transforming into the pure light matter as it gradually transcends the heavier matter of Art Informel. This is a chance to admire a series of Avvenimenti that were acquired by various U.S. collectors during the 1950s, thanks to Guggenheim and Barr, who are back in Italy for the first time. Indeed, in around 1956 many of Bacci’s works crossed the Atlantic, giving way to important exhibitions in the United States which culminated in a solo show held at the historic gallery Seventy-Five in New York the same year. The exhibition also covers another interesting, and less-known, aspect of Bacci’s pictorial language: the experimental period during the 1960s and 70s which marked the final years of his career. His Gessi, Sagome, and Teatrini reflect the artist’s constant research, which during those years ventured beyond painting, focusing on matter.

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Image courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection | © Matteo Defina

Alongside these works, an important section of the show is dedicated to drawings and Carte Bruciate – on loan from various private collections and especially from the Archivio Bacci-in which the artist expressed the potential of color and sign on paper, pursuing his research through works that appear different from one another but that share a common creative and evocative force. The final section of the exhibition pays tribute to Bacci’s participation in the 29th Venice Biennale in 1958. Since first taking part in 1948, the artist was regularly invited to take part in this prestigious event. However, on this occasion, he was afforded his own room, which will be recreated in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. It displays the most celebrated Avvenimenti of the time, chief among them Avvenimento #299 (1958), on loan from Palm Springs Art Museum.

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Image courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection | © Matteo Defina

In the preface of the catalogue of the Biennale, Peggy Guggenheim wrote: “There is foresight in his color as it explodes in its joyous intoxication. I might suggest Kandinsky find an equivalent in poetic power.” (Bacci, [Venice: Edizioni del Cavallino, 1958]). The exhibition ends with Giambattista Tiepolo’s impressive oil-on-canvas, The Final Judgment (ca. 1730–35). On loan from Intesa Sanpaolo and the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, it demonstrates how Bacci was influenced, from his early training at Venice’s Accademia di Belle Arti, by the artists of the past, particularly the luminous chromatism of Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione, and especially the spatial qualities of Tiepolo‘s skies and large-scale frescoes. The exhibition is accompanied by a substantial illustrated catalogue, edited by Marsilio Arte, which contains essays by curator Chiara Bertola, Martina Manganello, Barry Schwabsky, Toni Toniato, and Riccardo Venturi.

more. www.guggenheim-venice.it

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Image courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection | © Matteo Defina

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