A tribute exhibition to Armando De Stefano one year after his death at Madre in Naples

Until Sept. 19, MADRE in Naples is hosting a tribute-exhibition to Armando De Stefano, one of the most important Neapolitan artists of the 20th century, one year after his death.

Madre, museum of contemporary art of the Campania Region, presents the exhibition Armando De Stefano Nulla dies sine linea, a tribute to the Neapolitan master Armando De Stefano (Naples, 1926 - 2021) one year after his death, curated by Olga Scotto di Vettimo. More than eighty works in the exhibition - mostly papers - represent a selection of a larger body of work dated between 2012 and 2020 and testify to an ever-present creativity, which reinvents and rethinks drawing and figuration, confirming the ’vital, extreme and unconditional urgency for De Stefano to rely on the uninterrupted exercise of the hand, sign and color, as well as the undisputed centrality of drawing in all his pictorial work.

“We felt it was important to dedicate an exhibition to an artist inextricably linked to our city,” says Angela Tecce, president of the Fondazione Donnaregina per le arti contemporanee. "A sensitive and powerful painter, a teacher at theAcademy of Fine Arts in Naples, where he had trained at the school of Emilio Notte, Armando De Stefano was a point of reference for art in Naples. That is why we have chosen to remember him this way, in the museum where his works had already been exhibited in the past, but this time through his most recent works, evidence of his inexhaustible research."

During the same period in which his recent works will be exhibited at Madre, a number of targeted events will be organized to reconstruct the many public testimonies that De Stefano left in the city: from the Museo del Novecento at Castel Sant’Elmo to the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, from theIstituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici to the Rectorate of the University of Naples "Federico II," from the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella to the Accademia di Belle Arti in Naples. Places to which we should add Vico Equense, of which he was an honorary citizen, with works divided between civic offices and churches in the area, and finally Piano di Sorrento, with the two large works arranged behind the hall of the Town Council.

The exhibition is also accompanied by a catalog published by artem, which includes introductions by Angela Tecce and Kathryn Weir, artistic director of the Madre museum, and texts by Olga Scotto di Vettimo, Giancristiano Desiderio, Mario Franco, Marco Di Capua, Giovanna Cassese, and Stefano de Stefano, also produced with the contribution of Engel&Volkers, Naples office.

The expression Nulla dies sine linea, ascribed to Apelles by Pliny the Elder in the Naturalis historia, refers to the daily and constant exercise of the Greek painter of the 4th century B.C., whose skill in drawing still exemplifies an activity that requires methodical dedication and rigorous commitment. In this sense, to say that Armando De Stefano (Naples 1926-2021) did not spend a single day without drawing a line is not to be understood as a forced transposition of an ancient motto referring to the Neapolitan artist’s intentions, but as an objective recognition of his total and absolute dedication to art, as evidenced by the varied and extensive catalog of works produced in more than 70 years of activity and enriched until shortly before his death. On the other hand, De Stefano himself used to repeat that Plinian expression, which embodies the inextricable intertwining of art and life in certain artistic and biographical experiences, recognizing himself in it and making it his own to describe the meaning of his commitment and passion, so much so that he chose it as the title for an exhibition of recent works that he planned to present at the Madre museum.

This exhibition thus seeks to follow up on those intentions, as a tribute to a seminal figure in art in Naples and Italy since World War II and to an unforgettable master of several generations of artists, who between 1950 and 1992 trained on his teaching of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples.

A vast repertoire of truths inhabits these graphite and tempera works, transmuting into certain recurring themes in the artist’s works: myth(Apollo, Daphne, Medusa, Janus), allegories(Death, the Masks, the Spy, the Scarecrows) and History, here understood not only as a great universal tale, but also as a more intimate and private narrative - thebeloved Massalubrense or the August 22, 2017 earthquake in Casamicciola - are personified in transfigured images, embodying the anxieties, fears, passions of betrayed ideals, life in its pitiless rawness. The faces portrayed by De Stefano seem to belong to a known humanity that has always existed, terribly close, familiar. A cultured synthesis of literature, music, painting and the street, his works are populated by figures who eschew intellectualism and devote themselves to life, recounting an ever-present time, marked by the tensions of History, as well as by the incessant - and for De Stefano unresolved - opposition between nature and culture(Terra infetta).

Ethical instances and social commitment, inescapable constants of his production, are translated through a refined, culturally elevated reading that is certainly porous, but at the same time critical of prevailing fashions or formal models, as exemplified by the orientations of his research. With autonomy of thought, De Stefano traverses Picasso’s and expressionist graphisms; he delves into neorealist poetics, drawing inspiration from the territory and its social themes; he indulges in explosions of gestural freedom, making the pictorial matter tormented and dense, the figure deformed or rarefied, without ever indulging in an authentic informal trespass; he creates large thematic cycles, pictorial and graphic, imbued with civil commitment, whose absolute protagonist is humanity, which rise as a warning of the repeated and obtuse repetition of violence and abuse, of rebellion and redemption that History re-proposes; he explores a fantasy world, as if escaped from the dark places of the unconscious, crowded with human figures, animals and metallic insects; he achieves a growing formal synthesis still unquestionably based on the structural centrality of drawing.

The exhibition closes with Mario Franco ’s video Armando De Stefano (2022), which bears witness to the intervention drawn in 2011 by the artist on a wall of the Madre Museum on the occasion of the solo exhibition L’Urlo del Sud, curated by Franco himself. Images of the work are interspersed, moreover, with an interview with De Stefano, a valuable testimony of his path and research.

For all information, you can visit the Madre’s official website.

Pictured: Armando De Stefano, ELMO N°2 2018. Ph. credit: Francesco Squeglia

A tribute exhibition to Armando De Stefano one year after his death at Madre in Naples
A tribute exhibition to Armando De Stefano one year after his death at Madre in Naples

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