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Angelo Savelli – Basically White
January 22, 2016
Basically… yes. A gem surrounded by other treasures such as Alexander McQueen and Tiffany’s on Old Bond Street, M&L Fine Art has succeeded in curating an exhibition that not only encapsulates the most visually relevant work of an artist, but contextualises it with that of others in his era. To gain an overview of an artist’s life works in such a small space is quite an achievement – one that you can see simply by looking at the success of large scale one-name exhibitions. How much space does a temporary exhibition at the Tate need? A lot more than two rooms on the first floor of a regency house, that’s for sure.
Angelo Savelli was born in 1911 in a fishing village called Pizzo Calabro in the South of Italy. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, graduating in 1936 and by the age of 44, Savelli had also worked in Paris, exhibited at two Venice biennales, and was enjoying strong recognition in his home country. By the time he moved to New York in 1954, he was well on the way to developing a visual language that would be reflected in the work of his contemporaries and successors in decades to come.
Basically White gives a wonderfully light visitor experience to its audience. This is partly due to the exclusively white artworks on display, which would excuse you almost missing them when enough visitors are present in the space. This understated presentation is not, however, to be confused with a weakness. The work is quietly curated, following the architecture of the space. The subtlety of the works and their blending in with the background only serves as an echo of Savelli’s quiet resolution in his found visual language. A language that according to the artist was not only an echo if himself: “I see with white eyes”, but an echo of eternity. Supposedly as a result of divine revelation, the artist slowly stripped his palette down to white. This white monopoly is however broken up by visible virgin canvas and board, as well as stitching and painted white rope – something that reflected Savelli’s birthplace.
Visitors are taken on a journey in the space by firstly being introduced to the work of other artists who produced similar work in the same period, or who were influenced by him. This room is adorned with the work of Enrico Castellani, Robert Ryan, Salvatore Scarpitta, and Jan Schoonhoven. This is a good passageway to the world that is unveiled in the second room in the space, which only displays Castellani’s work. Reflecting the first room, visitors can see a number of pieces that aptly echo various stages and periods within this white body of work that is being explored. Some feature stitches, some rope, and while some pieces are in the “traditional” square canvas format, others see the material being cut exactly to the shape desired by the artist. Titles display interesting contrast also, with no chronological order apparent: whilst a piece from 1972 is entitled Rope, an artwork from 1963 reads I feel fine as the title.
Soul N.Y (1989), is a highlight. A small rectangle with a white rope in the middle placed above the fireplace in the space seems to almost be at the epicentre of the exhibition, encapsulating the essence of Savelli’s work. The exhibition is a quietly beautiful one that unassumingly displays the work of an artist many visitors will only just have had the pleasure of learning about.
By Alexandra Constantine
The exhibition runs from 22 January to 25 March 2016, at M&L Fine Art, 15 Old Bond Street.