Focusing on the artist’s compositions of landscapes and cities, this show surveys more than 30 years of Salvo’s artistic practice and highlights his early conceptual art and his astounding aptitude for portraying the complexities of light and the passage of time. Organized in collaboration with Archivio Salvo, the works in this show solidify Salvo’s singular and ever explorative approach to artmaking and his lasting impact on Italian modernism.
Salvo, whose given name was Salvatore Mangione, was born in Leonforte, Sicily, in 1947. After permanently relocating to his adoptive city of Turin in 1968, he quickly became involved in the blossoming Arte Povera movement, which was born as a response to the social and political unrest in Italy throughout the 1960s. During this period, Salvo shared a studio with Alighiero Boetti, one of the pioneers of this radical movement. Salvo and Boetti had an ongoing relationship and reciprocally collaborative influence on each other’s practices;
the combination of influences from Boetti and other artists of the time impacted Salvo’s own artmaking and understanding of the world around him.
At this early stage in his career, Salvo employed conceptual strategies to meditate on the nature of artistic practice, and the role of the artist as both a preternaturally talented individual and a conduit to the past and the history of culture. An example of works from this period include a series of self-portraits - altered or staged photographs that depicted him as a baker, bartender, guerilla, saint, and the painter Raphael. By 1973, Salvo pivoted away from conceptual work and began to explore the radical and complex possibilities inherent to figurative painting.
The impulse Salvo felt to transform the nature of his work culminated in a powerful visual shift that preoccupied him for decades and resulted in a series of paintings with incredible depth, consistency, and nuance. Salvo’s rebuttal to the monochrome aesthetic in the hyper-saturated, imagined landscapes and cityscapes he began to depict made him an artistic outlier until the international resurgence of painting in the 1980s. The works in this exhibition, painted between 1980 and 2011, harken back to avant-garde predecessors like Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà in distilling real, imagined, and remembered spaces into a profound meditation on the passage of time. The pastoral scenes and quaint villages Salvo portrays are created with a vibrant palette of oil paints and reference architectural motifs and plant species native to the cities where he lived and worked. Unlike de Chirico and Carrà’s visual response to industrialization and modernism, Salvo’s paintings focus more specifically on complex psychological narratives and abstract concepts like time. This ability to translate the passage of time through his incisive approach to capturing differing lighting situations is further demonstrated by the titles of Salvo’s paintings; many of the works on view are named after seasons, months, or times of day. The multifaceted body of work Salvo left behind solidifies his crucial place in the history of art and lasting influence on modern and contemporary artists alike.
Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Photo: David Regen