Afro. Dalla meditazione su Piero della Francesca all’Informale
exhibition organized by Fondazione Guido d’Arezzo with the Municipality of Arezzo
in collaboration with Fondazione Archivio Afro and Magonza
curated by Marco Pierini
scientific coordination by Alessandro Sarteanesi
Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Arezzo
2 June – 22 October 2023
Starting from the declaration of Afro himself in front of the works of Piero della Francesca, the exhibition investigates the relationship between Afro, classical-Renaissance painting and the great masters of the past, focusing on mural painting, which occupies a privileged position in the production of Afro and which constitutes a still unpublished research topic.
The spaces of the Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea of Arezzo, adjacent to the Church of San Francesco – which houses the famous cycle Storie della Vera Croce by Piero della Francesca and which constitutes the first stage and the introduction to this exhibition, will host a refined itinerary of works belonging to one of the most interesting seasons of the art of Afro, who considered himself a “classical painter” and who, in overcoming the border between abstraction and figuration, reworked the Venetian tonalism, the luminosity and transparency of the Tiepolo, the volumes of Mantegna, the spatiality and impassive pictorial rationality of Piero della Francesca.
Moving through original nuclei of research, the itinerary opens with the first drawings by Afro, belonging to the early thirties, and inspired by Rubens, El Greco, Velázquez, and with his debut paintings, among these the Cristo morto da Mantegna, one of the works from Casa Cavazzini in Udine (which also preserves an important cycle of frescoes by Afro).
The section that explores Afro’s intervention for the EUR works in Rome is particularly engaging and scenographic, also through videos, documents, photographs and magazines.
Among the loans from the Central State Archives and Eur S.p.A. the large preparatory cartoons (each 6 meters high), representing the Sciences and the Arts, together with the precious preparatory sketch for Le attività umane e sociali, date back to the genesis of the work which had been designed by the artist for the Palazzo dei Ricevimenti e dei Congressi of the E42 architectural complex in Rome. Thanks to the contribution of Magonza, with Galleria dello Scudo, Verona the preparatory cartoons on display have been restored.
Of international importance is also the presence of the paintings, including the Ciclo delle Stagioni, from the Municipality of Rhodes, which will be exhibited for the first time ever, thanks also to the intercession of the Italian Embassy in Athens. Afro went to the island of Rhodes with Cesare Brandi in 1938 and there he created two thematically different but stylistically similar decorative cycles, at the Villa del Profeta and the Grande Albergo delle Rose.
An in-depth archival research and the close international collaboration between the Municipality of Arezzo, the organizers and the Municipality of Rhodes, the Museum of Modern Greek Art of Athens and the Embassy have made it possible to trace Afro’s works and to exhibit them in this occasion.
The transition to the abstract and informal language of Afro is witnessed by Fondazione Archivio Afro which, through the loan of works, sketches and documents from Paris, will also allow to reconstruct in the final part of the exhibition the story linked to the creation of the large mural painted for the UNESCO headquarters in the French capital in 1958, which establishes, in relation to the other works on display, a new season in the painter’s artistic research, which will develop between the 1950s and 1970s, and which is represented in the largest museums around the world (MoMA, Guggenheim in New York, Pompidou in Paris, just to name a few), recently the subject of a specific study in the exhibition Afro 1950-70. From Italy to America and back, curated by Elisabetta Barisoni and Edith Devaney, in Venice at Ca’ Pesaro – Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, in collaboration with Magonza.