Mario Schifano (Homs 1934 – Rome 1998), Untitled (Beach Parasols)
Felt-tip pens, graphite and collage on paper, 70 x 50 cm, signed below (Schifano), datable to 1973–77. Authentic work archived in the General Archive of Mario Schifano’s work with the n. 02413130622 dated 25 November 2013 from the Mario Schifano Archive.
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Mario Schifano is an Italian painter very much appreciated internationally for his tireless artistic experimentation as well as for his interest in forging an Italian path to Pop Art. Moving to Rome with his family at the end of the war, young Schifano embarked on his artistic career as a painter. His early work reflects the influence of Informal Art and he held his first one-man show at the Galleria Appia Antica in Rome in 1959. No later than the following year, however, his painting changed radically. He began to paint monochrome pictures; cards covered by a single, uniform colour on the surface, almost like a screen cancelling out all events and all objects. In the course of a trip to the United States in 1962 Schifano came into contact with Andy Warhol and the Pop Art movement, and was very much drawn by the work of Dine and Kline.
At that time some of his work was being shown in an exhibition entitled The New Realist at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, where Europe’s nouveaux réalistes (Schifano, Arman, Christo, Hains, Klein, Raysse, Rotella, Spoerri and Tinguely) were no longer pitted against the traditional exponents of American Neodada such as Johns, Rauschenberg, Stankiewicz and Chamberlain, but against the younger generation that was to rocket to fame under the banner of Pop Art, in other words Warhol, Jim Dine, Indiana, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Rosenquist, Segal, Thiebaud and Wesselmann. After holding a number of one-man shows in some of Europe’s larger cities such as Rome, Paris and Milan, Schifano returned to the United States in late 1963. On his return he rediscovered the technique of the past, but more specifically, he developed a personal take of his own on that past. In a revisitation of art history, Schifano began to work in thematic cycles. These were the years stretching from the late 1960s to the mid-’70s, in which his landscapes became increasingly succinct and gestural, eventually spawning his celebrated Anemic Landscapes. He showed his work at an exhibition entitled Vitalità del negativo nell’arte italiana 1960-70 curated by Achille Bonito Oliva in 1971, and also at the 10th Rome Quadriennale.
In the 1980s his work was shown at various editions of the Venice Biennale and at Italian Art in the 20th Century, a retrospective hosted by the Royal Academy in London. This work, dating back to the turn of the 1960s, is one of a series of drawings devoted to beach parasols that entailed an almost orderly use of coloured felt-tip pens, surrounding in small sections the rectangle of the waters with collage waves conveyed by strokes of blue felt-tip pen. Lower left, we see another two, smaller rectangles, one empty while the other has a collage of a parasol. We note a fold crossing this part of the sheet of card, which must have existed even before the work was produced because the collage over it shows no sign of having ever been folded, thus testifying to the artist’s creative drive, which went well beyond the mere formal presentation of the work. The drawing also has two indications of direction pencilled in, Alto (Up) and Orizzontale (Horizontal), typical of Schifano’s recherché style in those years.