artist / participant
Tancredi. A Retrospective My Weapon Against the Atom Bomb is a Blade of Grass. Curated by Luca Massimo Barbero
Tancredi, with his painting, creates a new poetic philosophy for those have neither telescopes nor rockets: how lucky we are to have such crystallizations that transport us safe and sound toward other worlds. (Peggy Guggenheim)
With over ninety works, this much-awaited retrospective marks the return to Venice of Tancredi Parmeggiani (Feltre 1927–Rome 1964), among the most original and prolific Italian painters of the second half of the twentieth century. Tancredi was the only artist, after Jackson Pollock, whom Peggy Guggenheim placed under contract, promoting his work, making it known to museums and collectors in the USA, and organizing shows, including one in her own home, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, in 1954. More than sixty years later Tancredi returns to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, his reputation now beyond question, with remarkable paintings that re-create, step by step in intimate galleries, between creative fury and lyrical expressionism, the brief but meteoric trajectory of this great postwar painter.
Beginning with rare youthful portraits and self-portraits, and with Tancredi's first experiments with paintings on paper in 1950-51, the exhibition narrative moves on to document Tancredi in the early 50s, a period marked by the crucial encounter with Peggy Guggenheim, to whom he became a protégé, and who gave him studio space in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. The bond between them is documented by a number of works still today in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The exhibition brings back to Venice paintings donated by Peggy to major museums in the United States, masterpieces such as Springtime (Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Space, Water, Nature, Sight (The Brooklyn Museum). The exhibition proceeds with a section dedicated to Tancredi’s works dating from the 60s. This was a period of crisis, and of a complete revision of his approach to painting, into which he now injected existential meaning. This is the vein of polemic tension that gave rise to the phrase of the title of this exhibition, 'My weapon against the atom bomb is a blade of grass'—Tancredi's response to the world conflicts of the time, from Vietnam, to the war in Algeria, to the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union. Belonging to this key moment in the artist’s career is the triptych of the Hiroshima series (1962). A further phase of experiment, in the final part of the exhibition, consists of the collage-paintings, made between 1962 and 1963, known as the Hometown Diaries (Diari paesani) and the Flowers 101% Painted by Me and by Others (Fiori dipinti da me e da altri al 101%), which can be counted the major revelation of this retrospective and which are the product of exceptional creative verve and dramatic euphoria. These works mark the end of his extraordinary, brilliant and unruly career, dedicated to nature and to man. They are paintings which prelude the last year of the life of a painter who was among the most original and singular personalities in Italian art of the twentieth century. Tancredi died in 1964 aged only 37, young but ready, as Dino Buzzati wrote, to evolve into the 'myth of Tancredi.'
The illustrated exhibition catalogue is published Marsilio Editori, Venice, in English and Italian editions. It includes essays by Luca Massimo Barbero and Luca Nicoletti, a biography by Elena Forin, and, for the first time, an inventory of paintings donated by Peggy Guggenheim to American museums, researched by Gražina Subelytė.