Critics’ Picks

Pier Paolo Calzolari, Scritture, 2019, salt, pastels à l'écu, tempera on paper, 30 3/8 x 22 5/8''.

Pier Paolo Calzolari, Scritture, 2019, salt, pastels à l'écu, tempera on paper, 30 3/8 x 22 5/8''.


Pier Paolo Calzolari

Via Baccio Pontelli 16
December 16, 2020–January 31, 2021

In the midst of the pandemic, with museums closed and private spaces operating with reduced hours or by appointment, gallerist Sara Zanin has transformed an apartment in the San Saba neighborhood into an intimately domestic exhibition space and artist’s residence. The house, our constant visual, territorial, and mental horizon during this difficult year, becomes a place for experiencing and talking about art. The inaugural exhibition is devoted to Pier Paolo Calzolari, a key Italian artist who—while linked for many above all to his sculptural installations that arose in conjunction with arte povera—in fact works across multiple media (including painting, text, sound recording, video, and performance), deriving imaginative constructions from ancient visions.

The exhibition presents a series of diaphanous and luminous paintings (all works 2019), which seem to float inside their frames. These are made on pieces of paper stabilized with salt, on which the artist, using pastels à l’écu (the very same materials used by Cézanne and Degas,) and tempera, traces fragments of language in glossy, pasty colors. The texts, sometimes illegible, are composed in free verse. Like haiku, Calzolari's “scritture” evoke—through onomatopoeia, synesthesia, and metaphor—elements drawn from nature: air that “vibrates with the buzz of insects”; “the murmur of the water.” A book published by Magonza assembles the images along with a poetic homage by Bruno Corà and verses by Karine Marcelle Arneodo, the artist’s life partner.

The alchemy of material, about which Calzolari has always reflected, returns here in the roughness of painterly surfaces that, through salt, reflect an incredibly intense, ethereal light, like the never-forgotten white marble of the Venice of his adolescence—an obsession always reiterated in the “brines” of his archaic technologies of vision.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.