Seas and still lifes. Works by Ventrone, Guttuso, Guccione and De Conciliis on display in Rome.

Through March 5, 2022, the San Salvatore in Lauro Museums in Rome compare works by Luciano Ventrone, Ettore de Conciliis, Piero Guccione and Renato Guttuso in an exhibition featuring seascapes and still lifes.

Luciano Ventrone: The Victory of Painting with de Conciliis, Guccione and Guttuso is the title of the exhibition, curated by Victoria Noel-Johnson, being held until March 5 at the San Salvatore in Lauro Museums in Rome comparing the works of Luciano Ventrone, Ettore de Conciliis, Piero Guccione and Renato Guttuso.

The exhibition is organized by Il Cigno GG Edizioni. “This is the third stage of a journey that began at the Mart in Rovereto,” explains Lorenzo Zichichi, president of Il Cigno GG Edizioni, "with the exhibition entitled Luciano Ventrone. The Great Illusion, in which Ventrone’s still lifes were compared with Caravaggio and the Master of Hartford, then continued at the Majorana Foundation in Erice with the exhibition de Chirico and Ventrone. The Victory of Painting, a comparison this time with de Chirico and Metaphysics; in the Rome exhibition, the names and works of great artists who kept alive respect and pictorial creativity with the technique of oil on canvas are associated alongside Ventrone. They were losers from the historical circumstances in which they operated, with the raging of artistic currents that even mocked both figuration and painting technique, but today we can celebrate them as heroes who never sold out to the market or to easy fame their creative tenacity and the technique they mastered."

Baskets of flowers, baskets of fruit, grapes and vine leaves, apples, persimmons, lemons, oranges, tangerines, and then again cherries, strawberries, pumpkins, mushrooms, dried fruit, but also individual pomegranates or chopped watermelons: a riot of colors in the twenty “still lifes” by Ventrone, defined by Federico Zeri as the “Caravaggio of the 20th century,” which will be exhibited in the Museums of San Salvatore in Lauro;. “In Rome,” Zichichi further emphasizes, “a comparison will be made with another theme dear to Ventrone and the great painters of the 20th century: the sea. The comparison on still lifes is now with Renato Guttuso and Ettore de Conciliis, while Ventrone’s agitated sea is compared to the always calm waters of Piero Guccione and Ettore de Conciliis.”

Ventrone’s works are mostly done in oil on mixed media on linen canvas. “Luciano Ventrone,” Victoria Noel-Johnson points out, “manages to ’transform’ what he sees in a process that involves the extraordinary transubstantiation of the ordinary. His hyperrealist still lifes, in which fruit, flora, and fauna are usually elected as protagonists, are technically impeccable. Aided by photographic images that simultaneously serve as optical filters of objective reality, the artist’s perfect technical mastery facilitates the metamorphosis of his chosen ’imperfect’ subjects into illusions of mysterious perfection. The almost photographic sharpness and apparent ’naturalness’ of the composition superficially mask Ventrone’s virtuosity and intelligence, strictly at play below and beyond the canvas. Bathed in an intense source of artificial light, the artist’s depictions produce what art critic Edward lucie-Smith aptly described as an ’intense experience of reality [that] projects the viewer not only into a different dimension of physical experience, but into a different world of feeling. In essence, Ventrone’s still lifes are objects for contemplation, and offer the kind of passage into contemplative states that were previously only of a pertinence to religious art.”

Works on view include Luciano Ventrone’s Solleone, Linea di pensiero and Mutamenti, Studio per il muro del mare (Libera), La spiaggia e la luna and the diptych Pale del Battistero di Santa Maria degli Angeli: The Encounter and The Beach and the Moon by Piero Guccione, Mount Pellegrino in Palermo, Evening and the diptych Notturno a Venezia by Ettore de Conciliis, Natura morta of 1962 and Natura morta of 1968 by Renato Guttuso.

“The universe portrayed by de Conciliis is an aquatic universe that presents itself to our eyes not only under the temporal variations of day and night, but also of the seasons: from the melancholy of autumn, to the transparency of winter, to the explosion of summer,” says Umberto Vattani, president of Venice International University . " Delicate is the sign that appears on the canvas, strictly confined to the limits of water, a sign never left to the randomness of gesture. For the painter, the recurring theme is not the river or the lagoon, but the reflection of nature on the mirror of water. The landscape, removed from direct representation, remains unknown, difficult to read because it is cryptic, mysterious. There is a strong tension between what the Master wants to show us and what he subtracts from our view. The goal pursued is to reveal the depth of submerged matter. The final image is the result of digging within one’s own sensitivity, with the intention of giving life to an intimist vision that manifests itself, to the eye of the beholder, with glimpses of light in refined and discreet tones. The artist creates an imagery of soft, muted colors that give off a myriad of emotions. All this can be perceived with the senses if one follows the dotted lines, as when listening to background music. The narrative in Ettore de Conciliis’ paintings is memory. The composition of the images and their sequence exert a force of impact in the astonished and amazed visitor faced with unexpected representations of an aquatic world."

Also on display are canvases by Guccione and his “absolute blue,” the protagonist of sky and sea. “No artist has so tenaciously sought the essence of blue as Piero Guccione,” says Vittorio Sgarbi. “He let himself be permeated by it with voluptuousness. L’eternel azur: this is probably the way to understand Piero Guccione, in his stubborn concentration in a portion of the world between the sky and the sea, between Modica and Scicli. A limitless blue, as one does not feel the limit between the sky and the sea. And, through this process, the distinction between reality and abstraction loses sense. The sky is thought of the sky. Heaven is also synonymous with Paradise in Christian terminology, but it is, for Guccione, the ultimate theme. In his long quest, each subject refers back to another self, to a deep, pure self: the flower is not that flower from which pure visual experience starts, but it is the essence of the flower. Just as the interior of a room evokes the memory of episodes, emotions, situations, feelings, in the seasons of a life, traversed by few external events, but by many inner turmoil. Guccione realized with his eyes the condition dazzled by Ungaretti: ”M’illumino d’immenso.“ But by painting this reality so absolute and pure, Guccione described, with irrepressible aspiration to perfection, states of mind. A mystical process, as much as immanent.”

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Pictured: Luciano Ventrone, Mutamenti (2013-2014), oil on mixed media on linen canvas, 100x100 cm.

Seas and still lifes. Works by Ventrone, Guttuso, Guccione and De Conciliis on display in Rome.
Seas and still lifes. Works by Ventrone, Guttuso, Guccione and De Conciliis on display in Rome.

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