Capogrossi: A Retrospective

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Giuseppe Capogrossi, Surface 45 (Superficie 45), 1950–51 (Detail)

This retrospective explores Giuseppe Capogrossi’s (1900–72) unique contribution to 20th-century art, tracing the evolution of his signature glyph in grandiose orchestrations of abstract mark and color. In collaboration with Rome’s Fondazione Archivio Capogrossi and with support from the President of the Italian Republic and the Italian Ministry of Culture, Capogrossi: A Retrospective brings together over seventy paintings and drawings in a long overdue examination of the artist’s career.

The retrospective begins with a selection of the Capogrossi’s early, figurative paintings, which marshal intense tonalities to display figures and locations suspended in ethereal light. Though figurative, these paintings contain subtle suggestions of the later, abstract style for which Capogrossi is celebrated. Works completed in the 1940s document the artist’s transition to abstraction, demonstrating how he subjected forms to synthesis, shaping them into symbols, letters, and numbers, and ultimately fashioned his distinctive glyph. Among these works are the series of his Studies for Windows of 1948–49 and the painting The Two Guitars (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome) of 1948.

Capogrossi first exhibited works in his fully realized abstract idiom at the Galleria del Secolo in Rome in 1950. Two paintings from that show, Surface 021 (1949) and Surface 678 (Carthage, 1950), marked the emergence of the glyph which became essential to his style: a serrated arc, sometimes assembled in sequences and series, sometimes painted with a single dominant color. The originality of this formal syntax earned Capogrossi membership in the brief but impassioned Gruppo Origine, which promoted his glyphs as a primordial language that stood in contrast to the decorative tendency of abstraction. Capogrossi: A Retrospective investigates developments in the artist’s career after 1951 through a series of reliefs and white monochromes that testify to Capogrossi’s constant need to work from a tabula rasa and in the stark idiom of positive-negative. The exhibition culminates with a selection of Capogrossi’s large canvases from the 1960s.

Giuseppe Capogrossi, Surface 45 (Superficie 45), 1950–51 (Detail). Oil on canvas, 74 x 220 cm. T. F. collection, Rome

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