On Saturday 4th July 2015 the Vistamare gallery inaugurates an exhibition of works by Enrico Castellani, Tano Festa and Ettore Spalletti, continuing the gallery’s tradition of exhibitions that bring together the work of major Italian artists. This particular exhibition is one that the gallery’s director, Benedetta Spalletti, has long dreamed of organizing and it features both recent and historically important works by three very different but equally renowned Italian artists who have all played major roles on the international art scene.

Enrico Castellani (Castelmassa, 1930)
Castellani is rightfully considered one of the most important artists of the second half of the twentieth century. Having studied in Belgium, in 1957 he returned to Italy and immediately became part of the new Italian art scene. Together with Piero Manzoni, whose character was the complementary opposite of his own, he founded the journal Azimuth, establishing a personal and professional relationship that would last many years. Both men believed that art and tradition should be taken back to zero, employing the very means that had always characterized pictorial expression: canvas, brushes and paint, reduced to the barest of essentials. Castellani uses monochrome canvas, most often white, stretched over protruding nails that model it from behind so that, rendered three-dimensional, the surface itself becomes perceptible: “I wanted what I was doing to be indisputable, not subject to interpretation but something that just is as it is. So I began to intervene on the canvas, creating a relief, rendering the surface perceptible”. Over the course of a career characterized by formal severity and rigorous analysis, Castellani has contributed infinite variations to the theme of the shaped canvas, with an incessant alternation of depressions and reliefs that has often been defined as “differing repetition”. The three large works on show at Vistamare were all created between 2011 and 2012 and form part of the “Doppi Angolari” series. In their circular movement they recall some of Castellani’s works of the early 1970s, and the unusual silver of the surfaces creates novel effects of light and motion.

International exhibitions in which he has participated include the Venice Biennale (1964, 1966 and 1984 with a solo show, and 2003) and Documenta, Kassel (1968). Recent exhibitions have included an important retrospective curated by Germano Celant and shown at the Fondazione Prada in Milan (2001) and at Kettles’ Yard in Cambridge (2002). 2004 saw a show at the Galerie di Meo in Paris and 2005 an exhibition curated by Bruno Corà at the Puskin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. In 2009 Haunch of Venison in New York held a show, curated by Adachiara Zevi, featuring recent works alongside a large number of pieces from earlier decades, whilst the gallery’s London branch exhibited works the Venice Biennale (1982, 1993, 1995 and 1997). by Castellani, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Gunter Uecker. On 13th October 2010 Prince Hitachi, honorary patron of the Japan Art Association, presented Enrico Castellani with the Praemium Imperiale award for painting, the world’s most prestigious arts prize.

Tano Festa (Rome, 1938-1988)
Festa occupies a major place in the history of Italian painting. A man of great culture, he graduated as a student of photography in 1957 and went on to become a leading figure in what would become known as the “School of Piazza del Popolo” alongside Schifano and Angeli. Following early experiments with art informel and gestural painting, he quickly developed a very personal style, sometimes defined as new dada or alternatively as Italian pop art. In reality Festa himself declared that his work was not pop art but “popular art”: “What we were doing was “popular”, not pop. The Americans were pop artists because they

represented objects that were quite literally consumer goods and used these as artistic symbols from which to draw inspiration. Vice versa we Italians were “popular” because we did the opposite, consuming art itself via quotations and extrapolations, such as my own use of fragments from Michelangelo’s Last Judgement”. In this way the Italian artists inverted the underlying premise of American pop art, and in many of his works Festa’s starting point is a detail from Michelangelo, frequently taken from the Sistine Chapel or the Medici chapels. In reality his works are always the fruit of an intuition and of images that are very simply the dreams and phantasms of his own culture, images that often escape the confines of reality. All of the works on show in the exhibition belong to the “Coriandoli” series from the mid 1980s – years that followed a difficult period for the artist. These are works dense with figurative references – and much more besides – in which the artist’s gestures transform themselves into poetry and an imagined and long- hypothesized liberty finally takes solid form in a sublime representation of purity. Like exploding fireworks, the confetti thrown onto the colour-soaked canvas remain impressed on the field of colour, becoming the object that shapes and informs the work as a whole.

Festa participated in various editions of the Venice Biennale, first in 1964 and then in 1980 and 1984. In the 1980s his work featured in several major exhibitions focusing on pop art and 1988 saw a retrospective of his work in Rome. Following his death he was among the artists whose work was shown at the Scuderie del Quirinale and Trajan’s market as part of the Roman exhibition “Novecento”, curated by Maurizio Calvesi.

Ettore Spalletti (Cappelle sul Tavo, 1940)
From the mid 1960s onwards Spalletti began to develop a language that is the very incarnation of artistic synaesthesia and which incorporates all the major forms of visual art: painting, sculpture and architecture. His research, of which colour is a fundamental element, has taken an intimate and very personal direction and cannot easily be compared with that of any other artist. His colours seductively envelop pure geometrical forms, dominating the surrounding light and space. Wooden and marble panels are coated with multiple layers of coloured impasto which only in the final phase of abrasion reveal the density of the pigments and of the white gesso, giving his surfaces an unexpectedly tactile quality. Spalletti’s works possess a meditative stillness that generates great calm, and an appeal that is both aesthetic and intellectual. His colours – pale blues, pinks and greys – often seem more natural than nature itself: the sky will never be as sky-blue as his sky blue, the flesh of a face will never be this pink. Superficially abstract, in reality Spalletti’s work is classical, alluding to the figurative world. He has never considered himself an avant- garde artist, preferring instead to see himself as part of a long tradition: he is fond of repeating that “all art is contemporary”. The works on show in the exhibition include several large panels, painted on both sides, the thickness of which is minimal but their depth of colour such that the viewer’s gaze loses itself therein: “these are panels that stretch out across the wall, freely responding to the temperature of the room that houses them, an idea previously explored in the 1974 work Carte”.

Solo exhibitions have been dedicated to his work by many prestigious institutions including the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples (1999), the Fundaciòn La Caixa in Madrid (2000), the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds (2005), the Accademia di Francia – Villa Medici in Rome (2006), the Museum Kurhaus in Kleve (2009), the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome (2010), the MAXXI in Rome, the Museo MADRE in Naples, GAM in Turin (2014) and the Fondazione Cini in Venice (2015). International exhibitions in which he has participated include Documenta VII and IX in Kassel (1982 and 1992) and the 40th, 44th, 46th and 47th editions of the Venice Biennale (1982, 1993, 1995 and 1997).