Gallerynote 3/2003

October 3 to November 15, 2003

ANTONIO CALDERARA (1903-1978), On the 100th anniversary of his birth
The many memories associated with this wise, witty and spirited maestro remain unforgettable. In 1969, the first visit to the artist's studio residence in Milan for preparations of the first exhibition in the gallery. (Further exhibitions were to follow while he was still alive as well as posthumously.). Later, the many visits in the village of Ameno di Vacciago above Lake Orta. A beautiful expansive residence in the historic center, closed off from the outside, with open courtyards and loggias on three stories in the interior. It was from this venerable palazzo – in which he set up the Museo Calderara in the last years of his life – that the painter maintained his Europe-wide contacts with many personal friends and with friends of his art. Together with his wife Carmela and Anna-Maria Azzoni, the friend who looked after all the activities, bringing art business matters to the maestro.

Antonio Calderara was a respected artist (ironically almost exclusively outside his native Italy), with solo exhibitions and group exhibitions in galleries and museums across Europe and America (1969 Kunstmuseum Luzern, 1971 Kunsthaus Aarau, 1973 Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, 1977 Bottrop, Josef Abers Museum, 1977 Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam etc.) At the Documenta 4 in 1968, he was represented with twelve paintings.

His first solo show with representational paintings was held in 1923. Through 1959, his painting remained indebted to a Mediterranean tradition. In the 1920s and 1930s, he also produced some large-format works, for the most part severely composed figural paintings, revealing the moderate influence of a contemporary Moderne. Next came wonderfully fine and highly personal small-format panels of a more delicate color and painterly quality: still lifes, flower paintings, landscapes, figurative compositions and portraits. Calderara henceforth remained a master of the small format, leading us in our exhibition to occasionally pose connections with other artists who have rendered important work in this area. His panel paintings are reminiscent of the miniature panels of early Italian painting and throughout his life small wood and later plastic panels would remain the preferred image carrier.

In the art metropolis of Milan, Calderara established friendships with other artists who managed to combine tradition and modernity in a radical way and were also not averse to a destructive iconoclasm, above all Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni. In his own painting – always exclusively dealing with the landscape of Lake Orta – a geometry was gradually formulated from the view, understood as an ordering of things, parallelizing a mental ordering, as it were.

The year 1959 saw the change to non-representationalism, which was seen by his circle of colleagues and collectors as a switch to the enemy camp. It should not be forgotten, of course, that the history of art of the last century is deeply shaped by this conflict. From then on, Calderara made this history his own narrative, formulating it not as a break but as a path. Within this signified developmental history, each of his works is an indispensable building block within the overall body of work. The non-representational works likewise remain saturated with reality. The panel paintings are a self-regulating cosmos: color as light, shading, transparency, form as the ordering of proportions and volumes according to human perception.

«La morte, fine e principio, dà significato al principio.» «Death, end and beginning, gives the beginning its significance.» (Antonio Calderara: Pagine, 1973)