By Roberta Smith, The New York Times, 18 February 2005
18 February 2005
The 1950's and early 60's continue to be full of surprises. One of them, for Americans at least, is the work of the Italian painter Carla Accardi. Ms. Accardi, who is 80, is an art star on the order of Agnes Martin in Italy. But this small 50-year survey of paintings at Sperone Westwater, and an accompanying display of gouaches at Casa Italiana, is only her second solo appearance in New York, and the first to review her early efforts.
Ms. Accardi's work is a precursor to Arte Povera, with its emphasis on nonart materials and simple processes and structures. In 1947 she became a founding member of Forma I, a group of artists from Rome who defined themselves as both Marxist and formalist. She adopted a reductivist, demystifying approach to painting, as did many Europeans and Americans of the period.
The paintings show includes impressive works from the mid-1950s, whose fields of scattered and overlapping circles and signs, rendered in white or yellow on black, suggest a controlled response to the work of Jackson Pollock. By the early 1960's, she had turned to saturated blues or greens on red fields, opting for an orderly if abstract calligraphy that looks especially good in the gouaches at Casa Italiana.
In the late 1960's and throughout much of the 1970's, she shifted her increasingly regularized mark-making to clear plastic, exploiting the transparency in stretched and then woven works, and finally in free-standing pieces. One of the woven works at Sperone, dated 1972 and involved deep green strokes, has a robust scale and its nothing-but-the-fact handsomeness has a perfect period flavor.
Sometime in the late 1970's or early 1980's, Ms. Accardi reached a point where she either had to become a sculptor or turn back, and she turned back. She began to work on canvas again, using a vocabulary of linear symbols whose most recent incarnations evoke splayed versions of Keith Haring's graffiti. The jangling Op Art color combinations, her strong suit, persist.