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Titina Maselli: 3 December 2016 – 19 March 2017
La ville II, 1971, olio su tela, 119.5x201 cm
Titina Maselli
La ville II, 1971, olio su tela, 119.5x201 cm
From 03 December 2016 to 19 March 2017

Elegant and cosmopolitan, Titina Maselli (Rome, 1924-2005) is one of the most original Italian artists of the twentieth century. Hers is counter-current art. She rejected easy options and did not pander to the fashion of the day or market diktats: she did not have the backing of one particular gallery.

Her work expresses a personality that is out of the ordinary, to the extent that the ‘character Titina’ overshadowed her sophisticated production, which remained unknown for many years and was all but ignored by the critics. A free spirit, Titina is an artist who defies categorisation. Whenever she was asked what art was, she would reply: “The only justification”.

The Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice is dedicating an exhibition to  Titina Maselli, curated by Chiara Bertola, with the support of Galleria Massimo Minini in Brescia.

The exhibition reconstructs her poetics through around thirty works, which retrace the themes and styles of her extremely personal language. Titina stated: “A painting is not a book: a painting appears in an instant, you see it in a second…I want my paintings to be as clear as those scenes which Chaplin repeated dozens of times to ensure that he was understood…I always try to make things clearer and as hyperbolic as possible…in order to grasp reality, lots of reality in a single thing: in a single moment.

The family home in Rome was a hive of cultural activity. Massimo Bontempelli, Corrado Alvaro, Paolo Monelli, Alberto Savinio, Emilio Cecchi, Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante, Luigi Pirandello and his son Fausto, Renato Guttuso and Renzo Vespignani were regular visitors.

Titina grew up in a stimulating environment, which contributed to accentuating her strong and emancipated personality. When she was eleven she began to paint and was immediately smitten with the modern city: not the monumental one, but the nondescript, unrecognisable, nocturnal suburbs. She had her first exhibition at the age of twenty-four at the Galleria L’Obelisco in Rome in 1948.

Like her footballers and boxers transfigured and distorted by the action and physical effort of their athletic gestures, Titina Maselli’s cities, with their cars, trams, trucks, electric cables, neon lights, bars and stadiums, are immersed in the time of consciousness, not of perception. The buildings’ facades are like skeletons, swallowed up by the halo of headlights, billboards and street lamps. They are structures built to absorb and radiate the flow of energy which runs around them. They are evanescent vertical structures, but also powerful and real presences which the eyes perceive as they sweep across them: they are reflected fragments. The iconographic elements are superimposed and wedged in, contradicting, interfering with and highlighting each other.

This is what the artist wants: to take us into the city, make us experience that tension and walk through that space together. Here’s Titina: “Modernity takes your breath away. It is life, but it is also something that cannot be lived. Everything is energy and everything is consciousness. Everything is substance and everything is essence.

 A selection of works in oil and acrylic from the 1950s and 1960s are on show, in which we can see the artist’s material and textural attention borrowed from Roman expressionism, such as the images of the footballers in action taken from sports papers, or the big nocturnal skies of her city. Titina’s time in New York from 1952 to 1955 was significant for the development of her art, particularly in the evolution of her brushstrokes and palette, which becomes more acidic and vivid, and in the much larger formats.

The period between the 1970s and 1990s is represented by works depicting themes dear to her: stadiums, skyscrapers and footballers, in which a growing tendency is manifested to fragment the sign in an explosion of dynamism and energy which creates canvases that are almost cinematographic, such as in Metro 1975, a huge and powerful ‘cinematic work’: eight canvases placed alongside each other in sequence, each one measuring 1570x250cm. Titina’s style, inspired in some ways by Futurism, and in others by Pop Art and the Italian avant-garde, still looks extremely modern today.

The curator Chiara Bertola says: “ln proposing a Titina Maselli exhibition, the Fondazione Querini Stampalia continues its work on cultural heritage, with the aim of rediscovering artists who have fallen into oblivion or are rarely seen or studied. Focussing on a heritage that has escaped us or is submerged means taking stock of the present and with that part of the past which never actually passes. It means creating new categories and offering new vitality in order to deal with the lack of meaning which seems to have taken over the world. There is also the illusion of resistance, through an exhibition programme which ventures into the contradictions of history, with a slower and more meditated rhythm, in contrast to the rapid logics dictated by the economy of the contemporary system. With this rediscovery of Titina Maselli we hope to continue to plough the furrow and allow things that have been forgotten or never seen to come to light again.”

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