Project Description


From Piedmont toward Europe: Pietro Sassi and Pinot Gallizio’s painting

Opening period: 19th May – 19th June


It is a century of distance to separate them, marked by two world wars, the avant-garde revolution, the radical social, economic, and cultural transformation that has affected their country of origin, Italy, and the whole Europe. Yet the painting by Pietro Sassi ( 1834 – 1905 ) and Pinot Gallizio ( 1902 – 1964 ), both Piedmontese – the first of Alessandria, the second of Alba – seems to be associated with a peculiar characteristic of their artistic practice: the coexistence of visceral attachment to their country of origin, to its traditions and customs, with an experimentation open to the instances of the more advanced European figurative culture of their time.

If, in fact, Sassi, little more than thirty, after a first period of training in his hometown and in Turin, travels to Europe following the training stages of landscape painters of the second half of the nineteenth century, first touching Geneva, where he attends the study of Alexandre Calame, then Savoy and, lastly, Paris, where, in 1865, stays for a month, visiting museums and exhibitions; Gallizio, for his part, will make Alba a creative experimentation laboratory able to connect the small center of Cuneo with some of the protagonists of the European neo-avantgarde.

In Alba, in fact, he founded in 1955 with the Danish artist Asger Jorn and Piero Simondo, the Experimental Laboratory of the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, place of an artistic research and theoretical elaboration, whose activity will be crucial for the creation of the International Situationist which the same Gallizio will establish in 1957, with, among others, Guy Debord, Michèle Bernstein, Ralph Rumney and Constant.

Ottocento Art Gallery celebrates these two important Piedmontese artists with a double exposition, set up on the occasion of the inauguration of a new exhibition venue, next to the historic site in the downtown of Rome, thought as a space for contamination between the 19th century easel painting and the search for new expressive languages deflated in the 20th century, bringing in dialogue the search for artists far away for formation, culture and sensibility but capable of embodying Italic genius with similar talents and creative fury.

The exhibition “A haunting desire of cosmos” From Piedmont toward Europe: Pietro Sassi and Pinot Gallizio’s painting is therefore a path built on two parallel tracks along which two significant artistic experiences are traversed. On one hand, the oil painting, stretched out in search of formal solutions that exalt the formal fittings of the landscape, adopted by Pietro Sassi, is visible in the series of real impressions performed in the eternal city, where in 1875 the painter of Alessandria moves definitely. On the other hand, plastics resins, metallic pigments, greasy shades, seismographs of the swirling pictorial ductus of Gallizio’s works made in the early 1960s, reveal, as great art criticism Carla Lonzi wrote, “A haunting desire of cosmos”. The same search for infinity that animates the views of a “disappeared Rome”, painted by Pietro Sassi from the terrace of his studio, from the heart of the monuments of the imperial age, from the airy and endless views of the city’s periphery and the Lazio countryside.

To enrich the exhibition itinerary, in order to document the artistic milieu attended by the architect Marta Lonzi, from whose collection comes the entire corpus of Gallizio’s works on display, some works by Carla Accardi and Enrico Castellani, among which stands out the AL70 Lamp, a double cylinder of silicone-printed methacrylate produced by Accardi in collaboration with Lonzi in 1970.

Biographies of artists on display

Pietro Sassi ( Alessandria 1834 – Rome 1905 ) supports his studies thanks to an annual subsidy granted by the City Hall of Alessandria between 1862 and 1865, which also offers a study at the municipal male college. In 1862 he was in Turin where he knew Massimo d’Azeglio, remaining influenced by his romantic landscaping. He travels to Europe following the training stages of landscape painters: first in Geneva, where he attended the study of A. Calame ( 1863 ), then in Savoy and finally in Paris in 1865, where he stays for a month visiting museums and exhibitions. The progress made in the direction of a new landscape painting is evident in his works of those years such as Lake Geneva’s Surroundings or Lake Geneva’s View at Vivey of 1864. Back in Italy, he settles in Alessandria and from 1866 teaches Ornate at the Evening School of United Workers’ Society; he painted decorations and tempera landscapes of the Mayor’s Cabinet and of the Municipal Assembly Halls. At the end of the 1960s he moved to Milan and in 1875 he moved to Rome definitively, where he was noted for the intense exhibition activity in the annual reviews of the Society of Amateurs and Cultors, substituting gradually the Northern places for warm visions of Rome and its countryside.

Pinot Gallizio ( Alba 1902 – 1964 ) was one of the protagonists of European artistic research in the 1950s and 1960s. Chemist – pharmacist, herbalist, passionate cultist of archaeological, geological and ethnographic studies, Gallizio meets and practices painting for the last ten years of his life. In 1957, he was one of the founders of the International Situationist, to which he contributed with the theory and practice of industrial painting, an instrument capable of inflicting, as Michael Bernstein writes, “the mercy killing to the little glories of the easel.” His long rolls of industrial paint, destined to be cut and sold by meter, give life, in the Antimatter Cave, set up in Paris in 1959, to an enveloping and polysensory environment, full of scientific and anthropological references. Gallizio’s painting, in the early Sixties, deepens the theme of the sign, now depicted in narrative terms, now explored as matter and gesture, in accord with the opening of informal to Oriental culture. The last season coincides with a new phase of research, fully in line with the changed horizons of international art experiences. Eloquent expressions of this new approach are the black paintings – objects of 1963 – 64, as well as the work -installation Death Anteroom, also dominated by black, which is the summary of the whole arc of Gallizio’s artistic and existential experience. After the 1960 solo-exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the hall that the Venice Biennale in 1964 dedicated to him is a tribute and recognition to the international importance of his work.