Many people have no patient at all with modern abstract painting. Pictures like this one by the Italian artist, Emilio Vedova, don’t meet the sort of expectations they bring to pictures. They’re alarmed or annoyed to find nothing in them that they recognize. No human figures, no familiar objects, not even an attractive repeated pattern they could appreciate as items, this doesn’t prove that they’re meaningless. In fact, they are full of meaning.
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Perhaps the title of the painting is misleading. It encourages us to look for concrete objects of a certain kind – a barricade, a wall, perhaps a barbed wire fence. The feeling that dominates here is one of antagonism. No reconciliation seems possible between the deep black and brilliant white on which the composition is based, or between the equally determined vertical and horizontal lines and contrary diagonals.
The title itself is proof of this social rather than personal context. Vedova shows us the age through his feelings about it and leads us to recognize this version of reality in the world as we already know it. Vedova has often cited Picasso’s Guernica, as a major source of inspiration, and it’s easy to see the connection.
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The Masterworks series is a treasure trove of art. Each ten-minute program focuses on an individual painting, with a rich visual survey accompanied by an authoritative voice-over commentary. The selection of works, from galleries on both sides of the Atlantic, covers a broad spectrum of art from the earliest European masterpieces to contemporary works, introducing the unfamiliar and rediscovering the well-loved.
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