Events & Exhibitions / GAM
RENATO GUTTUSO. Revolutionary art on the 50th anniversary of 1968
curated by Pier Giovanni Castagnoli
The GAM - Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino dedicates an important and focused exhibition to the painting of Renato Guttuso (Bagheria, Palermo 1911 - Rome 1987), a prominent personality in the history of 20th century Italian art and a key figure in the debate on the relationship between art and society, which was to significantly mark much of his life in the years following the Second World War.
Curated by Pier Giovanni Castagnoli and with the collaboration of the Archivi Guttuso (Guttuso Archives), the exhibition brings together and features some 60 works from major museums and public and private European collections. The exhibition highlights some of the most significant canvases of political and civil subjects painted by the artist from the late 1930s to the mid-1970s.
In October 1967, on the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution, Renato Guttuso wrote an article in Rinascita, the political and cultural magazine of the Italian Communist Party, titled Avanguardie e Rivoluzione (Avant-gardes and Revolution), in which the painter acknowledged that the revolution had irrefutably and effectively been the foundation of a new culture, with which he identified deeply, leading him to close his article with an explicit profession of faith: "Art is humanism and socialism is humanism".
Starting from the years of the anti-fascist faction, and even more so after the Second World War, like few others in Italy Guttuso was an artist who engaged, with persevering dedication and firm conviction, in seeking a link between political and social engagement and the creative experience; he believed that art, in his case painting, can and must play a role in civil society and that it carries deep-seated moral significance.
Just over fifty years from the article’s publication, and on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of 1968, the GAM in Torino sets out to reassess the relationship between politics and culture with this exhibition dedicated to the Sicilian artist's experience, bringing together some of his greatest works that address civil and political issues. Notably Fucilazione in campagna (Execution by Gunshot in the Countryside) (1938) that drew its inspiration from the execution of Federico Garcia Lorca and can rightly be taken as the inception of a lengthy and uninterrupted focus on the theme of freedom struggles, leading to the condemnation of Nazi violence in his fierce and shocking drawings of Gott Mit Uns (1944) and later, after the tragic period of the war and dictatorship, to the accents of a reinvented popular narrative marked by the new style and new emotions in works like Marsigliese contadina (Peasant Marseillaise) (1947) or Lotta di minatori francesi (The Plight of French Miners) (1948). A far-reaching, uninterrupted narrative that led to instances of militant participation in the 1960s, as in Vietnam (1965), or of heartfelt proximity, as in the case of the May events in Paris with Giovani Innamorati (Young Lovers) (1969) and later, towards the end of the exhibition, to his nostalgia-imbued, grieving depiction of Funerali di Togliatti (The Funeral of Togliatti) (1972), condensing the story of a people’s struggles and hopes together with the reasons for the militancy of both the man and the artist.
"After the Second World War - states Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Director of GAM - a debate emerged in left-wing cultural circles between the formalist avant-garde and figurative realism. The question was, which was of the two was more revolutionary and which more reactionary? Today, paradoxically, in an age of augmented reality and virtuality, Guttuso's painting may appear to us as real and material as the world we are losing ".
Together with this anthology of paintings, and in dialogue with them, the exhibition also includes an extensive repertoire of works on a variety of themes: portraits and self-portraits, landscapes, still lifes, nudes, interiors, conversation scenes. These paintings all belong to same period in which the political and socially inspired works were produced; they have been selected with the aim of providing clear evidence of the high level of formal quality achieved by Guttuso in his use of painting that, for convenience - as curator Pier Giovanni Castagnoli states - we could call pure, in our attempt to assess the intensity of the results he achieved as a painter in both of his creative domains, by providing a comparison of the different horizons of his imagination, hence endowing the exhibition, albeit maintaining the primacy of the main theme of the exhibition, with an extensive representation of the wealth of expressive registers one finds in the extensive catalogue of his work and in the versatility of his creative genius".
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Silvana Editoriale, with essays by Pier Giovanni Castagnoli, Elena Volpato, Fabio Belloni, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and a selected anthology of writings by Renato Guttuso and critical texts.