Aiming to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Ettore Fico Museum (MEF) in Turin, the Bevilacqua La Masa Gallery, home of the homonymous Foundation, presents to the public “Ettore Fico – Contemporary Dialogues. An artist, a museum, a collection” an exhibition that, in collaboration with MEF and Maurizio Nobile Gallery, puts the Italian painter’s works in dialogue with renowned contemporary artists. The path is spread over six rooms, arranged on two floors of the building, which subdivide, for the visitor, the six thematic sections: A Domestic Life, Silent Nature, Bodies, Suburbs, Places and Landscapes, Abstraction. Ettore Fico (1917-2004) had a long life, witnessing great and small historical, social, and artistic changes; his production was concerned with landscapes, still lifes, and portraits, moving from the format of the large canvas to the more intimate one of drawing on small plates. Great artists from the international scene were friends of him, who decided to follow an autonomous path, free from belonging to movements or groups but nevertheless not alien to the influences of each period.
“A Domestic Life” is the section that opens the Venetian exhibition and confronts us with home life images: Il lume (1958) and Girasoli (1960) are two small glimpses painted by Fico, telling of familiarity and intimacy, letting us glimpse a small portion of the collective memory from that time. Surrounding him we find the Serbian artist Nebojša Despotović with Jimmy Barka decak – Jimmy Barka child (2019) and Maïmouna Guerresi with West versus East (2021), which appear to us as family portraits with aesthetic and political forms closer to our own day. The former, trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, in his works layers memories and pictorial exercise with dense brushstrokes; the latter, Italian by origin, through photography aims to combine two geographically different cultures. Ettore Fico’s Still Life (1955-1964) confronts Bertozzi&Casoni‘s Colazione (2016); the two artists reproduce objects and food with a virtuosity bordering on hyperrealism, a warning of an aesthetic of vanitas destined for transience and a symbol of the human condition, which although struggling against the decay of its own body and obsessed with beauty, is a prisoner of a transient life from which it cannot in any way escape. Fico’s evokes a nostalgic memory, depicting a book resting on a bookstand and a sophisticated table looking outward where a window opens to the blue of twilight.
Fico’s various versions of Nude of a Woman are black and white drawings. With their essential and graceful lines, they recreate seductive and harmonious female forms, part of a drawing series and albums made in pencil, charcoal, ink and felt-tip pens (in its storerooms the Ettore Fico Museum keeps a corpus of over 2,000 graphic works by the master). Accompanying Fico’s elegant representations we see a variety of contemporary artists, including the very young American Louis Fratino, with Smelling a Rose, Standing Man, Setaed Man, Untitled. Fratino’s works, with less docile and more decisive strokes than Fico’s, rework aesthetic canons of modern art masters, from Picasso to Matisse, Cocteau to Warhol, in a personal way, with a focus on gay sexuality and the artist’s affections. The “Peripheries” section juxtaposes Ryuji Miyamoto‘s photographs (Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo and Raika Edquarters Building, Osaka) with two drawings by Ettore Fico (Centrale elettrica); both turn their gaze toward modern buildings and place architecture as the protagonist of the scene. Miyamoto, who is also known to the Venetian public for his participation in the Architecture Biennale in 1996, observes “things that are disappearing, things that are being born”, such as urban development, the preservation of architectural heritage, and the complexity of scaffolding, all dictated by an ideology of urban and human progress that no doubt Fico, too, observed in his 1958 power plants.
In “Places and Landscapes,” Fico’s large oils on canvas from the 1980s are reminiscent of the lagoon landscapes by Monet, Manet and other Impressionists; shattered but docile brushstrokes make mirrors of water through shades from azure to dark blue to green. A fairy-tale atmosphere bewitches us and contrasts with neighbor Jocelyne Alloucherie and her photography Occidents (les jardins) (1996-98). The Canadian artist’s shots, as he describes them, are “found” moments of a “nomadic landscape” in transformation: “the encounter of a shadow with a hard surface; of one vegetal mass and another, luminous occultation of any area, a density”. In the sign of “Abstraction,” the exhibition concludes, where Ettore Fico’s painting Per la libertà reflects a period in which the artist confronts a new trend, that of Informalism: harsher themes, more mellow brushstrokes and more pronounced color contrasts emerge in this painting poised between reality and abstraction. In common with progressive abstract research and new modern associations, Nikolaus Moser presents Madonna, a mixed media installation on pallets. The Austrian artist, like Fico in his painting, expresses himself with significant chromaticism and a textural impasto of great consistency, integrating in this work also book pages that blend with the color backgrounds.
The juxtapositions follow one another in this exhibition that highlights the profound modernity of Ettore Fico, an “artist to be rediscovered” in the words of curator Andrea Busto, whose research anticipated the freedom, artistic independence and experimentation of many of today’s contemporaries. All the works in the exhibition belong to the collection of the Ettore Fico Museum in Turin. Ettore Fico’s work is represented in Europe by Maurizio Nobile Gallery (Bologna, Milan, Paris).
Paola Natalia Pepa
Ettore Fico. Dialoghi contemporanei. Un artista, un museo, una collezione
curated by Andrea Busto
16/09 – 12/11/2023
Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa
Piazza San Marco 71c, Venezia
T +39 041 5237819
Independent curator specialized in Argentine art, with studies and publications on the subject (“Argentina at the Venice Biennale of Art” in Storie della Biennale di Venezia, Ed. Ca’ Foscari, 2020), founder in 2014 of arteargentina.it, the first Italian platform dedicated to Argentine art in Italy. She currently collaborates in Venice with galleries and artists.