The Center for Italian Modern Art (CIMA) presents a new exhibition exploring the direct ties between two influential Italian artists, born in different centuries but characterized by deep affinities: the founder of Metaphysical painting, Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978), and leading conceptual artist Giulio Paolini (b. 1940). The exhibition brings the artists together in conversation for the first time, with highlights including a new series of works on paper by Paolini created especially for this exhibition and several Metaphysical masterpieces by de Chirico that have not been on view in the U.S. in half a century. By juxtaposing seminal works by both artists, CIMA’s 2016– 17 season offers a new appreciation of de Chirico’s art and its lasting relevance for artistic movements throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.
On view October 14, 2016 through June 24, 2017, Giorgio de Chirico – Giulio Paolini / Giulio Paolini – Giorgio de Chirico is the fourth annual installation mounted by CIMA, which promotes public appreciation for and new scholarship in 20th-century Italian art. In coordination with the exhibition, CIMA has launched an expansion of its international fellowship program and is hosting a full roster of public programs, including lectures, artist talks, study days, and other special events, throughout the year.
“De Chirico is largely understood and studied as the precursor of Surrealism; however, it’s important for scholars, curators, and the public to rethink his role within art history and to re-evaluate his work and influence from our contemporary perspective,” said CIMA Founder and President Laura Mattioli. “This approach is the guiding principal of CIMA’s installation, which considers de Chirico’s impact on the work of conceptual artists and on Paolini in particular.”
The exhibition is organized by three underlying themes that both de Chirico and Paolini considered fundamental to their respective practices: the enigma; the self-portrait and the idea of the “double;” and the manipulation of subjects from classical antiquity. The direct dialogue between these two artists, working in very different circumstances and artistic mediums while examining the same themes, fosters an important understanding of the originality of each and the discourse that has linked them through time.
CIMA’s installation features a major series of de Chirico’s paintings from the 1910s, including several Metaphysical masterpieces that have rarely been presented in the U.S., as well as paintings and drawings from the 1920s to the 1950s, representing the artist’s development across his career. Works by Paolini span from the 1960s to the present and encompass the full range of mediums in which he works, including photography on canvas, plaster, collage, and drawing. Highlighted works include:
L'énigme de l'heure, 1910-1911, Giorgio de Chirico
Painted in Florence in 1910, L'énigme de l'heure is one of the earliest conceptual artworks created in Western art. During the work’s creation, de Chirico aimed to translate a philosophical concept of time, as espoused by German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer, into physical form. The clock in the painting represents the enigma of time, but also embodies time as an instant—a motionless particle in the never-ending progression from the past to the future. The architectural structure that fills the composition symbolizes the present, the unstable moment that is as elusive as the painting’s represented perspective.
Interno metafisico (con piccola officina), 1917, Giorgio de Chirico, and Interno metafisico, 2009– 2016, Giulio Paolini
One of de Chirico’s most influential and historically significant works, Interno metafisico was a key inspiration for the Surrealist artists in their exploration of interior versus exterior space. The painting would later influence Giulio Paolini as well. His 2009 work, also titled Interno metafisico, has been reconceived especially for the exhibition at CIMA. Presenting a collage with fragments of reproductions of works by de Chirico, the work extends on the wall through perspective drawings of the collage’s frame—a trope common in Paolini’s work. CIMA’s exhibition marks the first time de Chirico’s masterpiece and Paolini’s work will be presented together.
Ettore e Andromaca, 1917, Giorgio de Chirico
Created during the height of World War I, this painting echoes the common practice at the time of soldiers taking a picture with their loved one before leaving for the war. Layered into this contemporary reference, de Chirico also drew inspiration from classical Greek mythology, particularly Homer’s tragic subject of the heroic Trojan soldier Hector and his wife Andromache, widowed during the Trojan War. The artwork fuses the contemporary and the classical, and represents one of the greatest examples of Metaphysical art.
Le Muse inquietanti, 1918, Giorgio de Chirico
Le Muse inquietanti is one of de Chirico’s most iconic paintings, inspiring numerous “replicas” made by the artist. Through the 1918 painting and subsequent reproductions, none of which are identical to the first, de Chirico tackled questions of originality, repetition, and replication—art historical concepts that were later formalized by Pop artists, in particular by Andy Warhol. De Chirico grappled with these questions throughout his career, especially in the self-portraits that will be featured in the installation. CIMA will investigate the conceptual underpinnings of the original versus the replica throughout the season’s programming.
Mimesi, 1975, Giulio Paolini
Paolini’s first use of a cast from ancient sculpture, Mimesi consists of two plaster casts of the bust of Hermes by Praxiteles, arranged opposite each other, slightly staggered so their gazes cross. Echoing an absent model and a distant, mythical image, the work reflects Paolini’s interest in materializing mimesis, the aesthetic concept of imitation or reproduction of reality.
Melanconia ermetica, 1983, Giulio Paolini
A multimedia installation work, Melanconia ermetica encompasses a plinth at the center of a wall with a plaster cast of a hand holding a scroll pressing down on a neat stack of drawing paper. On the front of the paper stack, Paolini has created a drawing that is repeated on a larger scale on sheets scattered across the wall. Taking its title from a 1919 de Chirico painting of the same name, Melanconia ermetica embodies a leap in dimension from the potential drawings piled up on the plinth and the sheets on the wall that create a drawing.
A new series of works on paper, 2012–2016, Giulio Paolini
Paolini has developed a new series of works on paper specifically for the exhibition at CIMA as an homage to Giorgio de Chirico. The series draws upon a sampling of figures and other details from de Chirico’s paintings, which are in turn inserted in settings typical of Paolini’s work, including perspective-based spatial drawings and classical landscapes. Paolini inserts the figures and details into these settings according to operational concepts that are distinctive to his collage work, such as enigmatic juxtapositions, doublings, and repetitions.
Noted Executive Director Heather Ewing, “We’re very excited to present a new perspective on these renowned Italian artists for our fourth season. For the first time in an exhibition at CIMA, we are examining the rich field of post-war Italian art in depth alongside modern masterpieces. As with our previous installations of works by Fortunato Depero, Medardo Rosso, and Giorgio Morandi, we look forward to the new discoveries and scholarship the installation will inspire.”