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August 18, 2022

Acquisition: Carla Accardi

Carla Accardi, 'Rossorosa'

Carla Accardi
Rossorosa, 1966
varnish on Sicofoil on cardboard
19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of the Collectors Committee

Born in Trapani, Sicily, Carla Accardi (1924–2014) was a prominent figure of postwar Italian art and the Italian feminist movement. After studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, Accardi moved to Rome in 1946 and became a founding member of the Forma I group (1947–1951). Emerging during the postwar era of intense political and aesthetic debate in Italy, the Forma I artists attempted to reconcile Marxist ideals with abstract form. An exquisite example of Accardi’s experimental practice, Rossorosa (1966) is the first painting by Accardi to enter the collection of the National Gallery of Art.

Accardi is best known for her works in Sicofoil, a transparent plastic used in commercial packaging, which she was introduced to in 1965. Sicofoil inspired her to explore its unique qualities, which she enhanced through such techniques as painting, wrapping, and stretching. In Rossorosa, wavelike forms are painted in red varnish on a sheet of clear Sicofoil suspended in front of pink cardboard. The work exemplifies Accardi’s preference for combinations of maximum-intensity hues and bold patterns to create powerful optical effects.

Rossarosa also speaks to the history of 20th-century Italian art and critical discourse. The wavelike shapes establish a symmetrical pattern reminiscent of the dynamic, repeated forms of Italian futurist artist Giacomo Balla (1871–1958). Like the works of such contemporaries as Lucio Fontana (1899–1968) and Piero Manzoni (1933–1963), Rossorosa disrupts the homogenous surface of oil on canvas of conventional painting, challenging the definition of what a painting is.

Anticipating the use of industrially produced soft materials by the Arte Povera artists during the late 1960s, Accardi’s experiments in Sicofoil would become a central reference in the writings of the art critic Carla Lonzi (1931–1982), with whom Accardi cofounded the Rivolta Femminile (Women’s Revolt) collective in 1970. Well established during her lifetime, Accardi’s renown has continued to grow since her death, as testified by the inclusion of her paintings in the 2022 Venice Biennale curated by Cecilia Alemani.

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