Rome

View of “Ian Tweedy,” 2013–14. From left: Fragment Kit III, Fragment Kit I, Fragment Kit II, all 2013. From the series “Fragment Kit (Aftermath of the 20th July Plot),” 2013.

View of “Ian Tweedy,” 2013–14. From left: Fragment Kit III, Fragment Kit I, Fragment Kit II, all 2013. From the series “Fragment Kit (Aftermath of the 20th July Plot),” 2013.

Ian Tweedy

Monitor | Rome

View of “Ian Tweedy,” 2013–14. From left: Fragment Kit III, Fragment Kit I, Fragment Kit II, all 2013. From the series “Fragment Kit (Aftermath of the 20th July Plot),” 2013.

Ian Tweedy’s most recent solo show was called “My Neighbors The Von Stauffenbergs.” The title is not as fanciful as it may sound; the works in the show, all dated 2013, were inspired by the American artist’s childhood, when he lived for a period in Berlin with his family in a building also inhabited by descendants of Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, one of the authors of the failed attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life in July 1944. Tweedy had only rare and fleeting interactions with his neighbors, but apparently these were sufficient to leave an indelible mark on his memory. These recollections have surfaced in the form of visions that hover between reality and fantasy, images in which personal experience constitutes only a point of departure for more universal reflections.

The phantasm of the conspirator’s widow, Countess von Stauffenberg, comes alive through clippings of photographs from magazines from the 1980s reworked with oil paint, resulting in seven works that focus on the face of a woman who, despite all the makeup she used to hide her age, has been transformed by time from a young celebrity into a ruin of her former self, with only traces of her past beauty preserved. One might think of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, an impression underscored by the almost cinematic sequence in which the sheets were displayed on the wall. Each portrait was overlaid on another, somewhat larger sheet, thereby framing the central image of the countess. These underlying sheets are pages from illustrated periodicals, showing scenes of Berlin in the ’80s—demonstrators in the street, passersby at the Wall—whose obscured imagery symbolically alludes to the relentless layering of history. This group of works was supplemented by Casting Sebastian for the Execution of Claus von Stauffenberg, a small painting on the verso side of a canvas framed by its stretcher bars, ostensibly showing the colonel at the moment of his execution, his pose recalling that of Saint Sebastian in old paintings. But the features of this martyr are not Stauffenberg’s but rather those of a friend of Tweedy’s who happens to be named Sebastian. The figure is depicted with the impalpability of a ghost, in vague and confused outlines, as if it were a fantasy materialized in the artist’s mind.

These reworkings of preexisting materials, typical of Tweedy’s oeuvre so far, were displayed alongside pieces in which the artist seems to be setting out on what might be a new creative direction. In three oil paintings from the 2013 series “Fragment Kit (Aftermath of the 20th July Plot),” Tweedy translates a photograph relating to the attempt on Hitler’s life into abstract painterly expression. Fragments of imagery are inflected in pure colored forms that are only occasionally decipherable. This new body of work allows Tweedy to open an ideal dialogue with certain past masters, including Italian abstractionists such as Alberto Magnelli and Enrico Prampolini, and to orient his own research toward greater refinement and concision.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.