Carlo Battaglia: The Abstract Figurative

Nov 08, 2018 72

Valli Art Gallery (507 W 27th Street New York, NY 10001) is pleased to present works by the Italian painter Carlo Battaglia (1933-2005) in an exhibition in our New York location at the High Line Nine Galleries from November 15th to December 14th, 2018, with an opening reception on Thursday, November 15th from 6pm to 8 pm. Born on the Sardinian island of La Maddalena, Battaglia is perhaps best known for his expressive paintings of the sea, a subject that occupied him for his entire life.

This presentation will incorporate works from Battaglia’s four decade-long career, including abstract paintings from the 1960s, rich seascapes from the 1970s and ‘80s, and watercolor sketches of New York City made in late 2001. Carlo Battaglia studied under the renowned Italian poet and painter, Toti Scialoja, at the Academia di Belle Arti in Rome. During his time at the Academy, Battaglia learned extensively about contemporary American art, and eventually wrote his thesis on Jackson Pollock. After completing his compulsory military service and travelling around Europe to see German, French, and British contemporary artists at work, Battaglia made his way to America to see firsthand the art that captivated him.

Battaglia arrived in Manhattan in 1967 and spent six months living and working among key artists of the New York School. He worked closely with a handful of abstract expressionists; Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhart, and Robert Motherwell’s influences can all be seen in Battaglia’s abstract paintings from the late 1960s. In these largescale works, Battaglia uses a dark, muted palate and sharp angles that reflect the shapes and colors of the dense cityscape of New York, while also closely referencing Ad Reinhardt’s striking yet nuanced studies of abstract geometric forms. Battaglia’s paintings from this period in particular show him playing with and beginning to question the distinction between abstraction and figuration. While Battaglia’s first visit to New York was brief, the lessons he learned from his American contemporaries would continue to influence his work upon his return to Europe. At the 1970 Venice Biennale, Battaglia exhibited his Maree (“Tides”) series, formally introducing the theme that would come to dominate his oeuvre: the ocean. These early seascapes are long planes of variegated color that closely reference Rothko’s transcendent color field paintings that Battaglia saw in New York.

In the same year that he showed his first seascapes, Battaglia became associated with the Pittura Analtica movement. In a moment when painting was considered too traditional, Battaglia and his contemporaries worked to find a new place for their medium in the changing art world. Based on an analysis of his artistic process and materials—paint, canvas, and frame—Battaglia focused his attention on the expressive potential of the medium itself. Though his works of the 1970s and ‘80s can more easily be read as seascapes than his early Maree paintings, all of Battaglia’s work comes from a theory wherein abstraction and figuration are decided in the conception of a painting, rather than its execution: “an abstract image,” wrote Battaglia in 1976, “can be represented in exactly the same way as a natural image.” This lack of distinction, coming from his time with the Abstract Expressionists as well as his work within the Pittura Analitica movement, can be seen in his large paintings from the late 1980s, in which he uses color and expressive brushstrokes to manipulate the land and ocean.

Beginning in the 1980s, Battaglia tended to work in isolation and spent most of his time in his hometown, La Maddalena. However, he traveled to New York a number of times, including a stay in late 2001 in which he produced watercolor renditions of the urban landscape. These special works on paper which show Battaglia returning to the shadowy palate that dominated the abstract paintings that he produced in New York in the 1960s. Carlo Battaglia died in La Maddalena in 2005. His work can be found in numerous private and public collections, including the Hirshhorn Museum, the Museo Sassari Arte, the Collezione Intesa Sanpaolo, the VAF Stiftung, the Soto Museum (Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela), the Museo Cirico d’Arte Contemporanea Gibellina, and the Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome.

SOURCE: Zoe Groomes-Klotz

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