Events & Exhibitions / GAM
CARLO LEVI. Journey in Italy: places and faces
curated by Elena Loewenthal and Luca Beatrice
in collaboration with the Fondazione Circolo dei lettori
On the occasion of the 120th anniversary of Carlo Levi’s birthday, GAM of Turin, in collaboration with the Fondazione Circolo dei lettori, dedicates to the artist an exhibition that is part of a complex program of encounters, reflections, and analyses aimed at rereading the figure of the poet, writer, intellectual, journalist, and protagonist of cultural and social life for most of this past century in Italy. Carlo Levi’s complexity re-emerges with All Life Is Distant, the event curated by the Fondazione Circolo dei lettori with GAM – Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia, and Museo Nazionale del Cinema through painting, literature, fiction, photography, and cinema.
With 30 paintings made by Carlo Levi between 1923 and 1973, the exhibition installed at GAM’s Wunderkammer focuses on the overall geography of the artist’s existence, between Northern and Southern Italy. These are works that also bear witness to the artist’s different stylistic developments, which began early in his career from a very “objective” form of painting to then head toward a more expressionistic style of portrayal and finally align itself with post-World War II modern realism.
The choice of both curators, Elena Lowenthal and Luca Beatrice, highlights two aspects that best distinguish Levi’s figurative art, portraits and landscapes, organizing the itinerary with 11 paintings from the Fondazione Carlo Levi in Rome, 8 works from GAM’s collections and from the Pinacoteca Carlo Levi in Aliano (MT), as well as from private collections.
In Carlo Levi’s broad painting practice, portraiture is one of the most frequent themes, and the theoretical meaning was analyzed by the artist in a considerable series of writings. They were mostly set in a family setting, but often his models were also illustrious figures from Italian and foreign culture and politics.
Among the 25 works by Carlo Levi held at GAM, executed between 1923 and 1953, which reached the Museum through institutionally important acquisitions—also thanks to the Fondazione Guido ed Ettore De Fornaris, which contributed 16 works to expand the artist’s presence in the collections—it was decided to incorporate into the exhibition 8 paintings, including important portraits, like Edoardo Persico Reading, 1928, which portrays the Neapolitan art critic dressed in a trench coat, with a pale white face under a black bowler hat: a testament to the long-lasting friendship between Levi and this intellectual and cultural figure, sympathetic to the aspirations of the "Sei di Torino" collective. Quite intense are the enigmatic Portrait of Carlo Mollino and the small and familiar self-portrait Bed (In Bed), chosen at the Venice Biennale in 1930 and which stands out for its compositional precision of contrasting levels. Brothers (from the cycle Christ Stopped at Eboli) is not part of the portraits but is of great importance and was also purchased at the Venice Biennale in 1954.
The Fondazione Carlo Levi in Rome, which the artist established through his will and whose mission is to enhance, safeguard, and promote the maestro’s literature and painting, has lent a series of precious nature landscapes and cityscapes, the other recurrent theme in the figurative practice of Levi who, from 1926 to 1974, painted a considerable series of works dedicated to cities or contexts with whom he had the most intense emotional and cultural relationships: Turin, Alassio, Paris, Lucania, and Rome. These are views that represent a biographical and existential path, which the exhibition bears witness to through, for example, The Bombed House, 1942, or Roofs of Rome, 1951, but also a particular vision of the bond between man and landscape, from Seafront executed in Alassio in 1928 up to Lovers of the Earth, 1973, where background and figures can no longer be distinguished from one another.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Silvana editoriale that presents all the reproductions of the works on display and essays by critics and curators, with an introduction by the GAM’s director.
The fame of Carlo Levi (29 November 1902 – 4 January 1975)—writer, doctor, painter, intellectual through and through—has had a strange destiny: if in the South, and particularly in his Lucania, he became a sort of anthropological canon for that land and for the humanity inhabiting it, on the opposite end of the country he has been left out of the cultural discourse for too long. The project by the Fondazione Circolo dei lettori aims, therefore, “to restore” to the present day this multifaceted figure, so outside the box and attentive to the world surrounding him in all its aspects. Precisely for this reason, All Life Is Distant is an integrated and multidisciplinary project, reflecting the extraordinary versatility of Levi: debates and encounters devoted to his work and his political and social activism, painting, cinema, photography, music, to give life to an eclectic program held at the Circolo dei lettori, at GAM, and at Cinema Massimo, starting Wednesday, 9 February.