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Mario Mafai, Rinascere
Material and technique
oil on canvas
100 x 100 cm
Fabrizio D'Amico
A lake of colour, nothing more, forms the image of this painting. Varying through hundreds of tonally attuned declinations, yellows, earths, ochres, and more cautious oranges saturate the surface, evenly occupied, stretching towards the viewer, opening no perspective towards an illusion of depth. Spread throughout, brief brushstrokes drenched with white where a heightening of light is wanted race breathlessly across the canvas, imbuing it with the close-packed, anxious movement that dominates it.
Sixty at the time of this paint, Mafai is not yet old; he nonetheless sees himself as irremediably irrelevant, now that he no longer believes in the reality painting he had practiced for a lifetime, and above all in post-war Italy, torn apart in painting as in other fields by vain ideological warfare. In 1958 he had had – for the last time – a room of his own at the Venice Biennale, where he showed a series of works in an uneasy balance between remembrance of reality and a sort of agitated Informalism dedicated to colour. The left-wing critics who had been close to him clearly did not appreciate this change of course; even less did they understand the now integrally abstract painting, open to a suspicion of Americanism, that Mafai presented at a courageous show at the Tartaruga gallery in Rome in December 1959: the legend of the master of the Scuola Romana was now defunct, while a tormented painter was being reborn, belatedly, from his ashes.
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