Published  02/03/2009

Carlo Cardazzo – a new vision for art

Carlo Cardazzo – a new vision for art

1 November 2008 – 1 March 2009
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice


Carlo Cardazzo, is now being honoured, marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. It is a name that should be known throughout the world to every student and teacher of modern art. Sadly, this is not the case. Although, it is inseparable in my mind from the names of great world-renowned 20th century artists such as Lucio Fontana, Jackson Pollock, Asger Jorn, Anthony Caro, and Giorgio Morandi. Carlo Cardazzo was not just a gallery director, he was the friend and patron of these artists. There were innumerable artists who depended on him, on his acute awareness of the significance of modernism in the visual arts related to literature. The name Carlo Cardazzo is therefore also associated with his publishing of the work of key figures under the aegis of Edizioni Cavallino. He was the publisher of works by writers such as James Joyce, Jean Cocteau, Alfred Jarry, de Lautreamont, in the form of books, graphics, multiples, and many of them masterpieces.

His 100th anniversary is celebrated by an exhibition entitled ‘Carlo Cardazzo.  A New Vision for Art’. It puts a much-needed spotlight on what must be considered as a treasure-house of art works and archival material in the form of documents, manuscripts and all sorts of printed matter and photographic material. It suggests there is much still to be published. The Director of this historic exhibition has devoted the past three years of his life in bringing this exhibition into being. His name is Luca Massimo Barbero. He has given himself the task of revealing Carlo Cardazzo as an extra-ordinary art patron and publisher, as well as a collector and dealer and a gallery director of genius. The exhibition reveals Carlo Cardazzo’s unique methods of persuading others to share his love of 20th century modernism through his capacity to involve himself in networking and myriad collaborations. Peggy Guggenheim perceived him to be in a key position to help her in promoting the latest manifestations of the international avant-garde. They had many points of common interest. They both wished to promote American art in Europe. They were both committed to the wide-ranging manifestations of art in the work of such artists as Kurt Schwitters, Joan Miro, Sonia Delauney, Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp, Giacomo Balla, and Vasily Kandinsky. Obviously, Carlo Cardazzo received support from Peggy Guggenheim in his desire to identify himself with these artists. From the very beginning of her life in Venice, Peggy Guggenheim involved herself in a creative dialogue with Carlo Cardazzo. This led to vitally important shared opinions and attitudes, not only about artists, but also about the art movements that they personified. It is of special importance to know that key art works by Victor Bruner and Emilio Vedova were acquired for the Guggenheim Collection directly from Carlo Cardazzo. If you visit the Guggenheim today, you will note that its Collection in Venice represents works by Italian artists for whom Carlo Cardazzo had a special regard: artists such as Tancredi, Parmeggiani, Giuseppe Santomaso, and Vinicio Vianello.

Carlo Cardazzo’s name is linked to the ‘Cavallino’ but it is related to the two other galleries which he which he founded and directed.  He established himself not only in Venice but also in Milan through the Galleria del Navigilo, and in Rome through the Galleria Selecta.  Carlo Cardazzo’s volcanic energy and powers of invention, from the year 1942 to the year of his death in 1963, resulted in one thousand and forty-nine exhibitions being presented by him in Venice, Milan and Rome.  The American world of Peggy Guggenheim intrigued him and he made a point of making trans-Atlantic journeys to New York. This resulted in his collaboration with the Castelli Gallery through his friendship with Leo Castelli and his wife, Ileana Sonnabend, which enabled him to present some Cavallino artists in New York. His meetings with New York-based artists naturally resulted in their being introduced into Europe.  I would dearly love to know what his first reactions were to the works of American artists such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Conrad Marca-Relli, Theodoros Stamos, Sam Francis, Alexander Calder, Cy Twombly, and Jasper Johns. He managed to associate them with their counterparts in Europe, artists of the stature of Jean Dubuffet, Hans Hartung, Ferdnand Leger, Georges Mathieu, Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Serge Poliakoff.

Luca Massimo Barbero’s exhibition has a distinct sculptural quality. He has managed to make good use of what is essentially a small-scale space by dividing the exhibition into clearly recognised sections, to express the wide-ranging nature of Carlo Cardazzo’s career as it developed through the 1930s and 40s. In the first two rooms, you can sense his personal taste expressed through his personal collections, which he enjoyed in the domestic ambience of his home in Venice. You can see clearly how he lived with masterworks as a young man by Marino Marini, Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi, Mario Sironi, and Massimo Campigli. The third section is devoted entirely to his preparedness to act as a patron to the architecture of Carlo Scarpa. While the Second World War was causing havoc in Italy, he was commissioning Scarpa to design the Galleria del Cavallino in its first and second manifestations in Venice. He envisaged a Scarpa masterpiece in the shape of ‘The Pavilion of the Book’ located in the heart of the Venice Biennale Gardens. This homage to the Cardazzo-Scarpa collaborations leads you to the EDIZIONI DEL CAVALLINO. The publications are beautifully exhibited in specially designed furniture expressing Italian bella figura in the shape of display cases, shelving, and plan chests. I took a personal delight in seeing paintings by Mimmo Rotella and Cy Twombly in a room dedicated to the Cardazzo’s special efforts to support the theories of Lucio Fontana; ‘Ambiente Spaziale’ which were at the heart of the 9th Triennale of Milan in 1951. The room was full of drawings from Fontana’s ‘Manifesto tecnico dello Spazialismo’. Naturally, there are the masterworks, the canvases representing Fontana’s ‘Concetto Spaziale, Attesa’, 1963/4. These slashed canvases more or less sum up Fontana’s preparedness to question the very nature of the role of the artist using traditional materials.

My friendship with Paolo Patelli led me inevitably to meet Carlo Cardazzo’s son, Paolo, and daughter, Gabriella, because it was they who took upon themselves the onerous task of continuing the great work of their father, cut tragically short by his death in 1963 in his fifty-fourth year. Paolo and Gabriella Cardazzo had communicated with Studio International, asking the basic question – is there a gallery or art institution in Britain which would be interested in the world of the Cavallino?  The answer was ‘Yes’, The Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh. This interest was expressed throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties in a number of exhibitions of Italian artists connected with Cavallino being exhibited under the aegis of The Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh. In the first of these were the paintings of Paolo Patelli expressing the true nature of the Italian avant-garde.  He exhibited on more than one occasion, along with artists such as Piccolo Sillani, Guido Sartorelli, Giorgio Teardo, Giancarlo Venuto, Anselmo Anselmi and Remo Bianco.

The work of British artists was introduced into Italy through Gabriella Cardazzo’s preparedness to visit Britain to the extent that she bought a farmhouse in Somerset. Among the artists she exhibited in the Cavallino were Joe Tilson, Patrick Proctor, Ainslie Yule, Fred Stiven, Iain Patterson, and Jack Knox, showing how her British travels took her from the English Home Counties to the north of Scotland, including the Orkneys and Hebrides. Paolo and Gabriella Cardazzo also supported the Demarco Gallery concept of Edinburgh Arts Summer Schools and Expeditions – ‘On the long way round to the Edinburgh Festival’ to countries such as Malta, The Former Yugoslavia, and Poland, and, of course, through Italy into the worlds of those that I regard as successors to Carlo Cardazzo as art patrons. These are the worlds of Count Panza Giuseppe di Biumo in Varese, Giulano Gori in Pistoia and Egidiu Marzona in the Veneto.  In 1990, the collaborative programmes between the Demarco and Cavallino galleries led almost inevitably, through the efforts of Gabriella Cardazzo, to an exhibition of three Scottish artists that formed the Scottish Pavilion in the Gardens of the Venice Biennale. The exhibition was made possible through the heroic efforts of Barbara Grigor, as Director of the Scottish Sculpture Trust.  The three Scottish artists, David Mach, Arthur Watson and Kate Whiteford, made their Scottish presence felt most effectively. 

‘A new vision of art’ is in every way as valid in this 21st century world as an antidote to the prevailing spirit of post-modernism. It was opened last November, in the sixtieth anniversary year of Peggy Guggenheim’s Collection in Venice, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Carlo Cardazzo. The exhibition has proved to be most popular and indeed revelatory, so that, instead of closing on 9th February, it has been extended until the 1st March. A mural at the entry to the exhibition reveals the wide range of catalogues published by Cadazzo, a historic piece in itself. Perhaps the most important room for me is the one in which you can see the work of Carlo Cardazzo as a filmmaker. One short film is entitled ‘Fotogrammi da Riflessi’ and is dated 1936, the subject matter is the stuff and substance of Venetian architecture reflected in the rippled surface of the canals.  It captures the very essence of Venice as a city inhabited by Venetians without a trace of tourism.  Another film entitled ‘Fotogrammi da Scene della Strada’, a masterwork. He documents Venetians at work, in religious processions, in their normal day-to-day existence. A New Vision of Art introduces the public to the man who dared to exhibit the paintings of Jackson Pollock in the Europe of the 1940s and Jasper Johns in 1950s, a true visionary and a defender of the true ways in which artists shape the modern world.

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