Tano Festa, Rome 1938 - 1998 Rome
Blind Wardrobe, 1963
LiteratureLuca Massimo Barbero, ed., Imagine New Imagery in Italian Art 1960–1969, exh. cat. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 2016, p. 91.
ExhibitionsVenice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Imagine New Imagery in Italian Art 1960–1969, 23 April–19 September 2016
Born in Rome in 1938, Festa exhibited for the first time in 1959 alongside Franco Angeli, Mario Schifano, and Giuseppe Uncini at the gallery La Salita in his native city, which would present his first solo exhibition in 1961. The works of this period had an unusual force that would be defined by De Chirico as “modernist chaos.” In his early works, Festa painted monochromes crossed with relief-like vertical lines which broadly adhered to the tenets of informal and gestural art. But around 1963, the artist moved on from these paintings, and in works like Armadio cieco reinterpreted objects removed from their everyday setting, looking at them in terms of their essence. Portals and thresholds like the shutters, doors, windows, cupboards, and mirrors, as well as pianos, obelisks, and gravestones, no longer serve as functional objects but rather, insomuch as they are painted, become paintings in and of themselves. As Festa stated: “My piano has wooden keys that cannot move, the mirrors in my wardrobes do not reflect images, the wardrobes themselves do not contain anything and no light comes through my windows.”
In a famous letter Festa wrote to Arturo Schwarz in 1966, the artist explained that in such works he had expressed himself “by means of objects” and had used “painting only to colour them”. He also described how this obsession had taken hold of him when he, while walking through a narrow street in Rome, had caught sight through a bookshop window of a reproduction of Van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Wedding”. It was not the figures that intrigued him, but rather the huge chandelier at the centre of the paining. To Festa, it symbolised inevitability and the transience of human existence: this object would survive the married couple, just as his own art would transcend the objects from which he crafted it, the moment of creation, himself and his viewers.
In 1963, following the suicide of his brother Rosario, Festa started painting with unprecedented rage, dipping his fingers directly in the paint. It was in this period that, together with Schifano, he came up with the idea of reversing American Pop Art by revisiting famous Italian artists of the past, such as Michelangelo and Leonardo, and interpreting their pieces as advertisings. The 1970s marked a difficult period in his life: addicted to drugs and alcohol, he lost his creativity, and lived in poverty and isolation. The 1980s brought him back to the artistic life and saw him painting in a more figurative way. His works arose from an intuition, a historic picture, a movie, a dream, and television images. Weakened since his early age by a bad health, and after a long illness, Festa died in 1988.
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