New Italian painting represents one of the most important developments on the international art scene in recent years. It has heralded a radical new departure in the practice and conception of contemporary art, the relations of the arist to the sources of his inspiration, and the role of the artist in late twentieth century society. This exhibition will present the work of five of Italy’s most distinguished contemporary artists: Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, Mario Merz, and Mimmo Paladino. Not since the early fifties has a group of painters of one nationality so thoroughly captured the attention and imagination of the art public. The work of these painters represents a radical return of a figurative art to the center of critical attention and reopens an avenue of artistic exploration closed for most of this century.
The accomplishments of these image painters have reestablished the priority of Italian art and culture, consolidating the recognition of the unique perspective and challenge of Italian art first won by its filmmakers two decades ago. The Italian painter today works out of the depth of his artisitic heritage and the challenge of contemporary life. From these twin sources emerge both the painter’s unique vision and the powerful claims to attention his art exerts. In their work, artists and viewers the world over have come to see their own situations and emotions reflected.
The leadership of the new Italian painting should surprise no one. The Italian artist has discovered the challenge of contemporary life but he also lives in daily touch with the rich heritage of his nation’s artistic past. His art is practiced in the presence of those Renaissance and classical images which have given form to the Western imagination. And this heritage poses an equal challenge to his artistic life. His is a world in which past, present, and future intermingle, often in the most startling and prescient of combinations. Thus it is that in Italy today images are being invented which capture both the present and the direction of a larger international culture.
This phenomenon has not been explored in any depth in the Midwest, and this exhibition wil mark its most extensive presentation in this city to date. It is the aim of this exhibition to acquaint Midwestern viewers with the substantial accomplishments of these painters’ powerful images. Each artist is represented by monumental works in oil, fresco, mosaic, bronze and mixed media, many of which are on loan from Chicago’s wealth of private collections. This exhibition is co-curated by Susanne Ghez, Director of The Renaissance Society, and Gregory Knight, Curator of the Chicago Council on Fine Arts, in a collaboration of these two organizations. It is installed at the Chicago Public Library Cultural Center’s fourth floor exhibition hall.