Critics’ Picks

View of “Günter Umberg,” 2019. From left: Untitled, 1996; Untitled, 1999.

View of “Günter Umberg,” 2019. From left: Untitled, 1996; Untitled, 1999.


Günter Umberg

A arte Invernizzi
Via D. Scarlatti 12
September 19–November 13, 2019

The German artist Günter Umberg here proposes a path through an expansive conceptual environment by establishing a direct relationship—both cerebral and phenomenological—between his monochrome objects, made up of complex, stratified pigments, and works by Italian artists engaged in a dialogue around spaces, surfaces, and tactility. Umberg, who has a profound knowledge of the country’s art from the 1970s to the present, chose to include protagonists from different generations in the exhibition: Lucio Fontana, Mario Nigro, Piero Dorazio, and Emilio Vedova from the immediate postwar years; Rodolfo Aricò, Carlo Ciussi, Gianni Colombo, Dadamaino, Angelo Savelli, and Salvatore Scarpitta from the following decades and Nelio Sonego and Riccardo De Marchi from the contemporary period. It is not his audience’s recognition of this art-historical chronology, however, that Umberg seeks. In fact, he chose the works, this “colloquium,” on the basis of the formal and conceptual affinities they share with his own production. The show is thus configured as an empathetic interpretation of the coordinates fundamental to Italian art: on the one hand, a vision of the surface that is simultaneously radical and emotional, and on the other, the expressive use of materials.

Umberg makes his works by laying out monochrome pigments in successive, layered coats, a long process wherein the color is gradually given substance until it comes alive as vibrant surface. The pieces’ lateral, inward-curving contouring accentuates the dialectical movement between expansion and depth, corporeality and idea, empathy and construction. Umberg’s practice has always been nurtured through dialogue with viewer, location, and architecture. On this occasion, the works of other artists provide another surface off of which his paintings ping, reverberating loud and clear.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.