Stefan Hildebrandt Gallery, St. Moritz in Switzerland recently presented a solo exhibition (catalogue booklet available) of the Italian master of Abstract Art, Antonio Calderara (1903 -1978). The works presented, more than twenty watercolors and oil paintings of the Fifties and Sixties of the last century, come from the artist’s estate.
During recent years the art world has shown a renewed interest in the artist, after he was almost forgotten in the last decades. The new cultural center of the City of Lugano, LAC (Lugano Art & Culture) will dedicate an extensive retrospective of the artist in this fall.
Following a series of Italian Avant-garde exhibitions with artists Bonalumi, Castellani, Dadamaino, Griffa, Simeti, Scheggi, Stefan Hildebrandt Gallery is now proposing with Antonio Calderara another complex artist. His abstract works strike the observer for their radiation of harmonious lightness, their subliminal tension and their deep sense of peace. Although his language is rigorous, reduced to geometric forms, to color and to light, Calderara is an extremely poetic artist. His works challenge the viewer, where horizontality and verticality define the structure: notwithstanding their strong character, not easily and immediately disclosed, they require a more careful observation, an almost contemplative meditation, a perception of reality beyond appearances.
His paintings are characterized by constant geometrical references of pastel colors that tend to transparency, almost suspended beyond light. They are the result of a continuous process of reduction. Particularly fascinating is the intense light that his works release: an almost translucent light, similar to the one of Lake Orta in Piedmont. Antonio Calderara himself explained: “my works do not strive to be pure geometry, but they want to represent the human measure of a space of light.” The “space of light”, alongside the “mental space”, defines the spiritual dimension of his works (as Calderara describes his rigorous geometrical approach of reality).
The expressive language of Antonio Calderara evolved from a first figurative period characterized by still nature, portraits and landscapes, to a strictly geometrical style. In 1959, Calderara painted his first entirely abstract work. His landscapes and his figures were transformed into color and light to give birth to an intense dialogue between human experience and infinity. His style was influenced by Piet Mondrian and other artists such as Josef Albers and Max Bill.
The famous Swiss art historian and curator, Jean-Christophe Ammann, who recently passed away, described Calderara’s artistic growth as follows: “Calderara did not belong neither to Constructivism nor to Tachisme. His approach towards monochrome and abstract art had very little in common with the reactions of most contemporary artists at the end of the Fifties”. According to Ammann, the study of light, form and color had reached in 1968 such a level, which necessarily had to bring to a new artistic dimension. “The innovation was not only his form of abstraction, but the light (…). It becomes nature from the moment in which form becomes abstract, his reference to the environment is no longer evident”.
In addition to oil painting, Calderara was very fond of watercolor technique, as his works prove clearly. Antonio Calderara was able to refine further in a very expressive way the transparency of language, to underline the force of the intrinsic light and to bind time and space, but also the static nature and the dynamism of each single work with rigorous geometric forms.
Antonio Calderara was born in 1903 at Abbiategrasso near Milan (Italy). He spent his summers with his family at Lake Orta, near Lake Maggiore, an enchanting place at the foot of the Alps. It is here where he retired later in his life, without renouncing to an intense exchange with other artists. Here, he created his first works, which were exhibited for the first time in 1923 at Vacciago on Lake Orta. He decided to study engineering at the Politecnico Institute of Milan but, in 1925, he left his studies to dedicate himself entirely to his artistic career, in particular to still life, portraits and landscapes in his own individual style. In 1948, he was invited for the first time to the Venice Biennale. After suffering a first heart attack in 1950, he moved permanently to Lake Orta where he became interested in the abstract works of Mondrian. He experimented techniques of two-dimensional art and with precise colors. In 1956, he participated once again in the Venice Biennale. His definite shift from figurative art to abstract art occurred in 1959. Calderara worked incessantly, although his heart problems worsened, making several solo shows in Europe, South America and USA. He participated with 12 works at Documenta IV in Kassel. Right before his death, in 1978, he founded the Antonio e Carmela Calderara Foundation at Vacciago. Here, in the suggestive atmosphere of his home, it is still possible to admire the art collection of his works and those of other artist friends such as Albers, Bill and Lohse, which he himself set up.
An idea of boundlessness
A two-dimensional form
Reduction to surface
Line of movement
Square without limits
A vision of infinity
that corresponds to our hope
to our possibility
to our thought
to our ego
Antonio Calderara, 1970