On the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Vinicio Berti (Florence 1921-1991), the Museo Novecento presents a selection of paintings by the great Florentine master with the Vinicio Berti exhibition, curated by Eva Francioli and Sergio Risaliti
After the conference AVANTI POPOLO! held last summer between Palazzo Vecchio and Museo Novecento, the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vinicio Berti continue under the banner of the tribute with which we intend to pay homage to the famous Florentine master: for the occasion, in fact, an exceptionally ideal triptych, the subject of a restoration completed precisely for the current exhibition until 1 May 2022.
Through the selection of three unreleased paintings from 1951, it is now possible to shed new light on a particularly delicate phase of the artist’s personal and professional life, who in those months begins to face a strictly individual path, leaving behind the militant season of collective struggles, conducted together with the comrades of the Classical Abstraction group.
The works presented here have been identified on the basis of stylistic and material affinities, as well as dating. In them Vinicio Berti seems to rework a completely personal key, the chromatic triad that had characterized the research of the great masters of the Russian avant-garde, one above all Kazimir Malevič, whose compositions were based on the dialogue between whites, reds and blacks.
The paintings, made in mixed media on hardboard, are shown as panels of an ideal triptych, which guides the viewer in a tale of anguish and redemption. The narrative starts from Construction of total reality, an ‘empty scene’ in which the dense visual geometries draw inhospitable and hostile landscapes and our gaze cannot penetrate. We are called to walk the tight succession of linear elements in search of a light and a glimmer, but the ideally built environment appears saturated and our wandering constantly hindered. In contrast to this construction, the emergence of figures in the front panel, entitled Human Presences. As in a short circuit, typified and abstracted reality welcomes, like apparitions, images of a woman with a child rendered with an incisive, almost expressionist stroke. True contemporary piety, these figures insert a narrative element into the composition that almost seems to clash with the unspeakable constructiveness of the red and black signs of an abstract matrix.
Only the communist utopia, which has always guided Vinicio Berti’s research, appears, despite its painful contradictions, a beacon in the complexity of daily life. This is how the great hammer and sickle, at the center of the work Symbol of Truth, can be considered an ideal completion of Berti’s investigation into existence and society.
Born in Florence from a family of humble origins, Vinicio Berti (1921-1991) completed technical-industrial and artistic studies, approaching painting at the beginning of the 1940s with works with a late-expressionist flavor, in which he developed the motifs adopted initially in graphics and typography.
Thus began his participation in the process of renewal of Italian contemporary art, soon articulated around the debate between abstraction and figuration. In 1945, together with Bruno Brunetti, Fernando Farulli, Gualtiero Nativi and the poet Alberto Caverni, he published the periodical “Torrente”, with the aim of updating the city’s cultural landscape.
One of the main animators of the Arte d’Oggi movement, in 1947 he arrived at an abstract-geometric type of painting, after going through a phase of personal reinterpretation of Cubism and Futurism. Close to Giovanni Michelucci and the critics Ermanno Migliorini and Giusta Nicco Fasola, he is one of the founders of Classical Abstractionism, of which he signed the Manifesto in 1950 together with Bruno Brunetti, Alvaro Monnini, Gualtiero Nativi and Mario Nuti. After this short phase, characterized by intense collective work, he prefers to turn to a more strictly individual research, in which he takes his own investigation of the gesture and the pictorial sign to the extreme consequences.
The works of the series Expansion of Classical Abstractionism (1951-1955), Hostile Citadels (1955-1956), Citadels of Resistance (1966-1967), often focused on the theme of the city and on the conflictual relationship established with it, date back to the years of maturity. . During the 1960s he also tried his hand at creating more graphic works that were closer to the informal.
His research, substantiated by a tireless political commitment and characterized by a special attention to the problems of contemporary science and society, continues with equal intensity in the seventies and eighties, during which he systematizes the insertion of written sentences within the pictorial compositions and never ceases to devote himself to other practices, such as graphics and illustration. Passionate cartoonist, during his long career he draws and prints numerous stories for children, narrating the stories of Pinocchio or other fictional characters, including Atomino.
In the last years of his activity, his palette is often reduced to a few pure colors, spread directly, with vehement speed, on the pictorial support. Vinicio Berti thus focuses, with strength and determination, on some recurring motifs, at the center of some of his best-known series, including Antagonist Reality (1970- 1980) and Looking up (1981-1991).