Mazzoleni is pleased to announce its autumn exhibition ‘Light in Motion: Balla, Dorazio, Zappettini’, which will explore shared themes in the work of three major Italian artists working throughout the 20th century, Giacomo Balla (1871–1958), Piero Dorazio (1927–2005) and Gianfranco Zappettini (b. 1939). The exhibition will bring together key works by each artist to demonstrate their shared mastery of light, colour and perception during three pivotal moments in Post-War Italian art, Futurism, Lyrical Abstraction and Pittura Analitica. The exhibition will include over a dozen works on loan from private collections, never before exhibited in the UK. It is curated by Elena Gigli.
Giacomo Balla, whose work was recently the subject of a major exhibition at the Estorick Collection, was a key proponent of Futurism. An original co-signatory of Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, signed in Milan in 1910, Balla was a pioneering figure of European Modernism. His work influenced many artists between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its characteristic preoccupation with new technology, speed, movement and light. He and his Futurist contemporaries were interested in abstract explorations of the rapidly evolving technological advances of the time. The geometric style Balla developed, often composed of intersecting colourful bands, was championed for its evocation of movement. Both these Futurist works and the earlier Divisionist works that Balla produced at the start of his career were hugely influential on the development of younger artists, including subsequent collaborators and Futurist contemporaries.
Balla’s work would eventually spark the interest of even younger artists such as Piero Dorazio, some 60 years his junior, who would not only develop a personal friendship with Balla but would also explicitly pay homage to the artists of the Futurist movement through the titles of his works. The pair became friends in the 1950s and Dorazio created a revival of interest in Balla’s work in the last years of his life. Specifically, it was Balla’s ‘macro-group’ works, Compenetrazioni Iridescenti, which translates as ‘iridescent interfaces’, that captured Dorazio’s imagination and prompted his own foray into the tangibility of light and perception. A number of these works will be on display including two particularly striking examples from 1912 and 1913 that feature tessellated triangles in varying colour palettes, one in pastel hues and the other in bright electric shades. Following Balla’s lead Dorazio began filling his paintings with coloured grids and intersecting lines that would form rectangular surfaces defined by studied chromatic and tonal transitions. Dorazio created a series of compositions in the 1950s, linked together through the common title Jeu Flamand, which continued to explore the opticality of movement using these linear traits. The exhibition will include an example from 1964, Jeu Flamand Aussi, which combines intersecting lines and waves in multiple colours to create an optically illusory effect.
In the 1970s, Gianfranco Zappettini became a key figure in the emergent Pittura Analitica movement, which sought to redefine painting for the modern era and reclaim the form as a contemporary communicator. Zappettini and his contemporaries were concerned with the materiality of painting, and sought to expose the operative and analytical practices attached to different materials. Zappettini often uses building materials and thread in his paintings, meticulously exposing the medium to create his signature, illusionistic compositions. A number of Zappettini’s series, such as the 1960s Strutture in BX or the more recent polymaterial ‘reticular’ compositions La Trama e l’Ordito, testify to the visual parallels between the works of Balla and Dorazio, despite their autonomous and diversified approaches. All three artists share a similar concern with geometry and colour and, like Balla and Dorazio before him, Zappettini is a master of perception and a purveyor of urban modernity.
The exhibition will encompass 46 works and will be on display in Mazzoleni’s newly refurbished London space. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue in English and Italian, published by Carlo Cambi Editore, with essays by Elena Gigli, Mirta d’Argenzio and Alberto Rigoni, on Balla, Dorazio and Zappetini respectively.