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from 14 MAY 2016 to 04 SEP 2016
His art deserves a place in the global history of abstraction.’
Roberta Smith, The New York Times

Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art presents the first large-scale museum survey of the paintings and drawings of Giorgio Griffa. It is the Italian artist’s first exhibition in Portugal. The exhibition is the culmination of a series of shows originating at the Centre d’Art Contemporain, Genève (Switzerland), travelling to the Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen (Norway) and the Fondazione Giuliani, Rome (Italy). Curated by Serralves Museum director Suzanne Cotter and Andrea Bellini, Director of the Centre d’Art Contemporain, Genève, the exhibition at Serralves presents an expanded selection of more than thirty paintings and over forty drawings dating from 1969 to 2015. Surveying Griffa’s highly abstract yet eminently pictorial production, this ambitious exhibition reveals the artist’s commitment to the practice of painting as a cumulative process whose continuum is part of a broader physical and metaphysical reality.

Giorgio Griffa (1936, Turin, Italy) is part of the Italian generation of artists who came of age in the 1960s and proposed a radical redefinition of painting. From the late 1960s, Griffa set about reducing painting to its essential components of raw, unstretched canvas, pigment and brushstrokes, stripped of expressive subjectivity, radically redefining the medium and its possibilities within a world in transformation. While his use of simple materials and gestures aligns him with the work of the Italian arte povera artists and the proponents of Support/Surface in France, who were his peers in the 1960s and 1970s, his interest in the immediacy and performative dimension of painting as a time-based process was also inspired by Zen philosophy. 

During the 1980s, a return to neo-expressionism and the Italian transavanguardia marked for Griffa a period of re-engagement with the expressive potential of his elemental use of colour, line and gesture that had sustained his practice in the previous decade. Inspired in part by fellow artist Mario Merz’s use of the Fibonacci sequence, in the 1990s the numbers of the golden ratio entered into Griffa’s pictorial language. His paintings from the past two decades bring together these constitutive elements with renewed vigour and vital urgency. The works in the exhibition at Serralves reflect these key moments in Griffa’s oeuvre, including important paintings from the artist’s cycle of paintings known as ‘Alter Ego’ that constitute a conceptual and intellectual dialogue with painters from Tintoretto to Matisse and Agnes Martin.

The exhibition also highlights the importance of Griffa’s drawings from across the same period as his paintings. The drawings offer insight into Griffa’s continued elaboration of ideas for his paintings and a reflection of an oeuvre in parallel in which the repetitive gesture and the sign point to the origins of painting as primordial and notational. 

A fully illustrated book, edited by Andrea Bellini and published by Mousse Publishing, presents the work of the artist over fifty years. The book includes new essays by Andrea Bellini, Luca Cerizza, Laura Cherubini, Martin Clark, Suzanne Cotter, Chris Dercon and Marianna Vecellio, an interview with the artist conducted by Hans Ulrich Obrist, as well as writings by the artist.

‘Giorgio Griffa: Quasi Tutto’ is organized by the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, in association with Centre d’Art Contemporain, Genève; Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen; and the Fondazione Giuliani, Rome. The exhibition is curated by Serralves Museum director Suzanne Cotter and Andrea Bellini, director of the Centre d’Art Contemporain, Genève.

Image: Giorgio Griffa Obliquo [Oblíquo  Oblique], 1976. Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York. Photo: Giulio Caresio
Related Activities

21 May (Sat), 17h00
By Tomás Cunha Ferreira, artist and professor

18 JUN (Sat), 15h30
By Laredo, Associação Cultural

19 JUN (Sun), 12h00
By Rita Faustino, Museum Educator 

22 Jun (Wed), 19h30
Exclusive meeting for members of Amigos de Serralves, with Isabel Braga, curator of Serralves Museum.

02 JUL (Sat), 18h00
By Laura Cherubini, curator and researcher

10 JUL (Sun), 11h00
By C. Camargo – Oficinas de Artes, Museum Educator

23 JUL (Sat), 17h00
By Joana Nascimento and Sofia Santos, Museum Educators

31 JUL (Sun), 12h00 
By Rita Faustino, Museum Educator

01 SEP (Thu), 18h30 
ByFrancesco Stocchi, curator and researcher

Giorgio Griffa was born in 1936 in Turin where he still lives and works. His work has been shown in numerous exhibitions throughout the world. Griffa exhibited at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York in 1970 and participated in important international exhibitions such as ‘Prospekt’, Düsseldorf (1969 and 1974) and the Venice Biennale (1978 and 1980). Other important early exhibitions include ‘Processes of Visualized Thought: Young Italian Avant-garde’, Kunstmuseum Luzern (1970) and ‘A Painting Exhibition of Painters who Place Painting in Question’, Städtisches Museum Mönchengladbach (1973). Recent solo presentations of Giorgio Griffa's works include ‘Uno and Due’, Galleria Civica d'Art Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin (2002); Neuer Kunstverein, Aschaffenburg (2005), MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome (2011); and ‘Golden Ratio’, Mies van der Rohe Haus, Berlin (2013). In 2016 an exhibition of his recent paintings was presented at the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Arles. The author of numerous writings on his art, he has also produced book works including the 2002 limited edition on Ezra Pound’s Cantos.

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